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philadining

Han Dynasty Center City

111 posts in this topic

Hands down, my current favorite things to eat in the city are the wontons in chili oil and any hot pot from Han Dynasty. Also, he told me that he started doing a tasting on the 1st Monday of the month. I think he said it was like $25, and he just sits people down at one big table and he does all the ordering. Definitely gonna try and make it to the next one.


I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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Next time you go, ask if he has soft shell crabs. The kitchen had run out of them when we were there last, but Han made us some regular hard shell crabs in the same style, and those were great - my dining partners tell me the softshell version is even better.

HanCC-crabsR.jpg

We also had the excellent Dan Dan Noodles, and some snow pea greens. Then we asked Han for something with pork, anything. It's not on the menu, but it's worth asking him if he'll make it for you:

Shredded Pork with Garlic Chives

HanCC-PorkGarlicChivesR.jpg

It's not especially spicy, actually quite subtle, but absolutely delicious, with the gentle garlic/onion flavors of the chives, a just-right hit of salt, just a touch of chili spice, some cooling cucumber... really good.

Nice to see that the food is only getting better, and I noticed Han actually has some staff on the floor, so maybe he won't collapse from running around trying to serve ALL the tables... But it's still worth asking for him, to get some advice when ordering. I know the menu pretty well, but I still want to know from him what to get on any given day.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I have always enjoyed the Tea-Smoked duck at the Han Dynasty in Exton, and even more at Royersford. I'd been a little disappointed that it wasn't on the menu in the center city location, but - good things come to those who wait!

Han-TeaDuck.jpg

It's deeply smoky, almost tasting like southern barbecue, yet still moist and meaty. I especially like the crunchy bits... It's a complex preparation involving steaming, smoking, drying, braising and deep-frying, over the course of a few days, so if they run out, they run out, they can't whip-up another one to order.

The Royersford location also has a version in beer sauce that is also good, but there's something very appealing about the plain duck.

It's not at all spicy, so it's a good choice for folks that have a low threshold for chili heat.

On the other hand, if you have a high threshold for chili heat, try the Lamb in Hot Sauce.

Han-LambHotSauce.jpg

You can order any of several things in this sauce, but I think lamb is one of the best versions.

Nice to see Han Dynasty Center City just getting better and better...


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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We'd heard some rumors about Craig Laban being spotted at Han Dynasty recently, but we figured he might just be addicted, like we are... Turns out he's reviewing it this sunday - July 18. I predict a game-changing 6 bells.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Awesome review. And totally deserved. I'm happy for them. Gonna have to stop by tonight to beat the crowds!


I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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Hell yeah!! That's awesome!! Go Han...Go Han...Go Han!

gallery_7409_6069_17925.gif

Dancing the happy dance for you Han! Way cool. Mr. Laban is definitely not so easy to please, so 3 Bells is seriously high praise. He was practically waxing poetic. Well deserved for both you and the staff.

Does this mean we all won't be able to get seats anymore? :unsure:


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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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Being a suburbanite, I've eaten at both the Exton and Royersford locations. With the exception of the default place setting being silverware instead of chopsticks (perhaps a pet peeve, but it somehow takes away from the authenticity - odd to me, given Han's vocal opinion about americanized cuisine, but I digress) and have found it to be a treat. However, it seems like a key point of the overall experience, if not food itself, is Han and his personality - this carries over to the print reviews as well. Given the ever expanding empire, has the dining experience at Exton and Royersford gone down any? At least, I'll assume that most of his attention would be focused on the city location now...

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Han is on a roll: in addition to getting three bells from Laban, Han Dynasty just got awarded Best Chinese in Philly Mag's Best of Philly 2010 edition. Congrats!

We dropped by late-ish on a wednesday and the place was jammed, so beware, there may be a line... And the first-monday $25 tasting menus are apparently selling-out WAY in advance, despite the fact that he's added another one on the third mondays. Still, it's worth calling and checking, but don't be surprised if you have to book a table for a few weeks down the line!

and bsims: it's true that Han himself is a big part of the experience, but I've eaten at the Exton and Royersford branches since he's been devoting most of his time to center city, and they're still good. Are they as good as they used to be? It's always so hard to say, there's actually a bit of variation depending on the strengths of the chefs working at each place, so the trick is learning which dishes are best at which place. Before, Han would just tell you. Overall I'd say that the suburban spots are still quite good, but take a little more effort to learn on one's own because you don't have Han there to guide you. The staff at those places is perfectly nice, but nobody's very likely to tell you that one of their dishes sucks, like Han used to!


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Aw crud. We wanted to go today. No chance without reservations?

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...and I called. Reserved until *November 15th*. As usual the article was fatal.

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...and I called. Reserved until *November 15th*. As usual the article was fatal.

You mean for the First Monday dinners, I hope? If it's any consolation, I went to the last one, and I've been there for the regular menu, and I'd rather order off the regular menu any day of the week. The spice levels on all the dishes at the Monday dinner were toned down, and one dish in particular (the spicy cucumbers) I had both off the menu and at the Monday dinner, and they were better off the regular menu. The variety of dishes at the Monday meal obviously can't be beat for the money, but at least the time I went, only about half of the dishes were things I'd want to eat again. I don't know if it was just lucky ordering, but when I went and just ordered off the menu, we ordered five dishes and they were all great. At the Monday dinner, we didn't have five great dishes all night. It was definitely an interesting experience but I have no desire to repeat it, I'd rather go back and order off the menu.

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We had the same experience this past weekend. We've been to Royersford when Han was there, and we have become big big fans of his restaurants/amazing chefs!

Peeking in the door Saturday around 6 pm revealed a dining room about a third full with no food on the tables, a number of people waiting to be seated and no one at the front of the house. A waitress was seen, but she appeared oblivious/overwhelmed/unable to help. That was our cue to come back another time rather that risk a painful experience. We called Sunday evening around 6pm, and Han answered the phone. I asked about tonight and about the Monday festive meals. he said they were crazy busy, not to come in and that the festive meals were sold out through November. He said it's been crazy crazy crazy! I told him we are so glad he is busy, and that we'll see him some other night.

While I am bummed he is too busy, I do hope he is able to handle the crowds. My wife insists this mania will blow over, and we will be able to enjoy the company of Han and his cuisine.

BTW, we walked up to DSGarden, which was as good as ever, and we scored some free Durian with the kitchen staff there! Weird stuff.

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Yes, just to be clear, it's the Monday dinners that are booked up, one can certainly get a table on other nights, although he's more crowded than usual. There might be a wait, Han might be running around rather than sitting with you, but you can get a table. Of course friday and saturday nights are the busiest times, but that was true before the review.

And I have to say that I agree with Buckethead - I enjoyed the Monday tasting menu thing, the variety is interesting, but all in all, I think I'd rather just order off the menu. Those monday dinners are a bargain, and you might discover a new dish, and maybe you'll meet somebody interesting sitting next to you, but it also feels a little frantic, I was losing track of what was what, which things I liked, etc.

It's definitely more fun with a few friends, so one can eat a few different things, but 70 people might be too many...

He's doing those monday dinners twice a month now, and it's always worth checking to see if he's had cancellations, if you've interested.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I'd say the Monday dinners are a great introduction to Han Dinasty, and Sichuan food in general: you get to try a boatload of stuff, find out what you like really fast, and don't need a second mortgage to do it. But I'll agree that I'd rather go with a smaller group (even if I did eat for two weeks on $25, last time I did the Monday dinner...), and find new things on Han's say-so.

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Doing some research for work I came across this deal for Han Dynasty:

Pay just $10 for $20 worth of food and drinks at any of Han Dynasty's three greater Philadelphia restaurants.

http://www.eversave.com/philadelphia?sourceid=59300

It expires today, so if you can get to a Han near you, enjoy!


<a href='http://retroroadmap.com' target='_blank'>Retro Roadmap - All the Retro, Vintage and Cool Old places worth visiting!</a>

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We had a surprising experience at Han Dynasty this past Saturday: no Han! Jeeze, he wins a Best of Philly and gets three Bells from Laban and now Han thinks he can take a few hours off?!? Slacker...

The good news is that the food was as good as ever, and things ran just fine in his absence. Of course it's always fun to chat with Han, and if you're new to the place, it's very helpful to have his guidance, but it's reassuring to know that things don't go all to hell if he's checking in on one of the other locations, or maybe even getting some sleep for a change.

I had some friends visiting from NYC, who are very knowledgeable (and picky) about Sichuan food, and I'm happy to say that they were very pleased with the meal. I ordered mostly my favorite stuff, along with a few things they specifically wanted to compare to their favorite places. We had:

Dan Dan Noodles

Wontons in Chili Oil

Cold Chicken in Chili Oil

Pork Belly in Garlic Sauce

Green Bean Noodles

then

Fish in Dry Pot

Deep-Fried Shredded Beef

Tea-Smoked Duck

Sichuan Green Beans

It was all really tasty. If I had any small complaints, it would br that the beef was a little tame. I think this chef makes it relatively mild compared to the chef in Royersford, and I forgot to ask for it extra spicy, but it was still very good as it came out. With the inevitable spice-level creep, leftovers became just about perfect! The Dan Dan noodles might have been just a touch overcooked, but that slightly soft texture didn't really detract much from the great flavors. The Tea Smoked Duck was outrageously good. Even the one member of our party that doesn't usually like that dish ended up raving about it. And the Fish in Dry Pot is simply one of the best things to eat in the city right now.

Of course we would have enjoyed chatting with Han, his advice, jokes, or verbal abuse can definitely add to the overall experience, but if you already know what you want to order, you can do just fine if he's otherwise occupied. If you DO need advice and Han doesn't happen to be there, ask if Eric is around, he can take good care of you too.

The chefs are back there doing what they do, so you can be pretty confident of getting good food in any case.

In other news: in an attempt to keep up with demand, they added another night for the tasting menu - it's now on the first AND third mondays of the month. But I'm not sure the tactic has worked, both of the nights are apparently booked-up into November or December... Still, it's worth a call to see if space has opened up, if you're interested.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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We tried the Han Dynasty in Exton and have been back multiple times.

Thanks goodness some one has opened an authentic Chinese place.

We'll keep going back for this menu.

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I frequent the Royersford location about once a week and am happy to say that the quality of the food is still high. Granted that banter with Han or the occasional dish he would have the chef create on the fly are added perks to the dining experience, but it should not keep you from visiting the suburb locations.

Royersford is going to be holding a feast orchestrated by Han (in person) every 2nd Tues, so if you need you "Han fix", make a reservation for that dinner (approx 20 courses for $25 if I recall).

BTW, they used to offer chopsticks by default and recently changed that.

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I've actually been to the Rofo Han twice in the past 2 weeks and had the usual high standard of tasty food there both times. RetroRoadhusband was not able to make it to either of those visits so when we were in Exton tonight we decided to stop in at that location so he could get his fix.

Alas, the food was not up to par with what we had had there before, and also not as good as the Royersford location. It was still tasty, mind you, but not on the same bursting with flavor level as the food I had on Monday near home. I also noticed that the menu seemed to have been scaled down from what it was last time we were there.

One thing that does somewhat irk me now that there are 3 Han Dynasty locations in the "chain" that all 3 of them do not serve the same dishes, or the dishes are kind of the same, but different.

Case in point - we tried to order the dumplings in hot chili oil that we're addicted to up in RF, but Exton said they did not have them, just wontons in chili oil. We got those and the wontons/dumplings appeared to be the same thing, but the chili oil sauce was not up to par with the delicious sauce we were used to.

Also I ordered the Spicy Noodles with Minced Pork (as it is called on the menu) and the waiter said "oh you want the dan dan noodles". I had just had the dan dan noodles in Royersford a few weeks ago and knew I didn't want them, and actually knew that the Noodles with Pork were a different preparation that I prefer to the dan dan noodles. What arrived at our table was in fact what I had hoped to get, the Spicy Noodles with Minced Pork.

Anyone know why the menus are different and why they all wouldn't just offer the same things? I'd love to be able to get the noodles with pork without having to drive to Exton :-)


<a href='http://retroroadmap.com' target='_blank'>Retro Roadmap - All the Retro, Vintage and Cool Old places worth visiting!</a>

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The three menus are a little bit different, mostly because they have different chefs, who have some of their own specialties. I've definitely noticed that certain dishes, even with the same names, are done differently at each restaurant, and I actually kind of like that. Sure, it can be frustrating if you prefer how it's done at one place, but it's more convenient to go to another one, but I like the variation, that it's not just a chain pumping out food by a formula.

As for the spicy noodles with pork vs. Dan Dan noodles: it's always a little confusing when there are similar dishes, especially if a server might have misunderstood and brought something else. But I'm pretty confident that on all the menus, those two names are used for the same dish, listed on the menu in Chinese as:

成都旦旦麵

(which is actually Chengu Dan Dan Noodles.)

There are a couple of possibilities: maybe someone brought you the (not spicy) Noodles with Meat Sauce: 四川炸醬麵 and that's the one you like. Or maybe there's just some variation in how the different places make their Dan Dan noodles. But generally, at Han Dynasty, noodles with spicy meat sauce = Dan Dan Noodles.

I don't speak or read Mandarin, but I have found it really helpful to recognize some of the names, or at least some of the characters. The Dan Dan noodles is pretty easy to spot, because of the repeated character: 旦旦 (And 麵 is noodles.)

炸醬麵 is zhà​jiàng ​miàn​, the not-so-spicy version of noodles with meat sauce, although it might still have a little chili kick. Again, that last character is noodles, and if you're curious, the 炸 means fried, and 醬 is sauce.

So it's often worth memorizing, or making a note of, the Chinese characters for dishes you like, that way you can at least point at the dish on the menu, especially if there's some ambiguity between similar preparations.

The names of dishes are not always so straightforward - sometimes they are - basically the name of the primary ingredient, a cooking style and often the size/shape of the cut of the main ingredient (fried-sauce-noodle, or sliced-stirfried-chicken, etc.) But just as often, they have more poetic names, so you might just need to memorize what the name looks like.

---

On another note, I got some takeout from Exton recently, and noticed that they had a sign up for a tasting menu there on Wednesdays. I meant to make a note about which Wednesdays, but I forgot... I'll try to update here, but it appears that one can do tasting menus at all three locations: every other monday in Center City, every other Tuesday in Royersford, and perhaps every other Wednesday in Exton (or at least one Wednesday per month.) The website doesn't say anything, but it's worth calling and asking about if you're interested.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I have stopped going to the royersford and exton locations all together. Since Han moved himself to philly both have had over a half a dozen meals there and there are not the same when Han is in residence. Service at the royersford location has been consistently poor 45-1 wait for entree items. I double cooked pork and got pig intestines. I went with it a GAAH I like offal, just not offal that tastes like Sh#$@. I have had pig intestine before, this was a cleaning issue and put me off the location for 4 months. The food with the noted exception is good but the service challenges again and again caused me to give up. I used to go 3-4 times a month. I would say something to Han but he is not there. I don't about you all but I don't think Sichuan travels well and don't like what happens to it in a take out container so if I don't eat in I don't buy it at all. I miss my favorite spicy restaurant. :(


**************************************************

Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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I've been going to all three sporadically for the last year: it just so happens that the Exton location is relatively close to work, Royersford is not too far from home, and Center City is close to most of my friends.

I'll certainly say that I prefer the Center City location, but I'm not even sure it's all about Han, I've been there a few times when he wasn't there. I think I might just like the style of the chefs there. But I've still gotten very good food at the other two, even very recently, I even slightly prefer a couple of dishes at Royersford...

I've had no big complaints about service at any of them. Obviously, Han knows me, and so does his mom, so if they're around I get treated nicely, but I've definitely been to both suburban places when I didn't know any of the servers and they didn't recognize me, not even just as a repeat customer, and it's been fine.

Yes, it's definitely better to have Han wait on you, and yes, many of the other staff at the suburban places aren't going to win any awards for outstanding service, but at least in my experience, they haven't been a problem. So I'm not writing-off the Exton or Royersford places yet. But it's true, I do tend to drive into the city when I can.

Speaking of which, Han mentioned something about this a while back, and I just finally saw some concrete details: He's doing a fusion-y dinner in collaboration with David Ansill and Sam Jacobson (from the very good restaurant called Sycamore out in Landsdale). Sounds fascinating.

Details:

http://foobooz.com/2010/11/chinese-izing-american-food/


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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