Han Dynasty BYOB

2016-10-01_14-17-07The Han Dynasty in China lasted for four centuries. The Han Dynasty restaurant chain (named for its founder, Han Chiang) may not last that long, but with eight locations in 10 years and another in the works, it may keep going for some time.

The Manayunk outpost, in an historic building on Main Street, isn’t the first restaurant at this spot, or even the first Asian restaurant. It looks like familiar old-fashioned Philly storefront, with tin ceilings and antique ceiling fans. Chinese scrolls decorate mustard-colored walls with an apron of brown wainscoting.

The menu has a heat index that gives each dish a number from zero (or no number), meaning tame enough for a toddler, to 10 indicating a fire extinguisher should be at the ready. though the food here seems less scorching than the Old City Han, I’d keep away from anything over seven, unless you’re feeling dangerous. In that case, the cold sesame noodles, a substantial appetizer, will provide soothing comfort. The sesame coating on the earthy wheat noodles has a mild vinegary accent that prevents the dish from being too unctuous. The garlic and scallion flavors build as you eat. The crescendo doesn’t overpower, but it does give you a nice buzz.han-dynasty-pic-interior

Spicy crispy cucumbers (7) are somewhat confusing. Cukes, by their nature are crispy, unless something awful has been done to them. But when a menu says crispy, somehow you think they were, well, crisped. But no, these are just shards of the vegetable in an orangey, chili oil based sauce. (Chili oil is ubiquitous throughout the menu.) Though an appetizer, this is really more of a side dish or condiment that would go well for the table, especially with meaty dishes.

Entrees come on billowy white, square plates that make the colors really pop. Many dishes are divided into styles of preparation, to which meat, poultry, and seafood can be added. For example, cumin style (6) features cumin-crusted and stir-fried protein with red and green bell peppers, chili peppers, & onions. The lamb I chose was tender and flavorful with just the right level of heat for me.

han-dynasty-pic-interior-2The generously portioned double-cooked style pork belly (4) contained wide, thin slices of uncooked bacon that were stir-fried with leeks, hot peppers, fermented black beans, & chili oil. A lovely example of spicy food that isn’t especially hot.

You should get at least one side vegetable for the table, especially the verdant, garlicky pea leaves (more commonly known as pea shoots). They look like spinach but taste more like cooking greens, especially turnip greens. Cabbage with dry peppers (2) is a another good choice.

Service was generally fine except for the waiter who decided we should bag our own leftovers.


Han Dynasty

4356 Main St, Manayunk. 215-508-2066; http://handynasty.net/manayunk

Daily, 11:30am-10:00pm. Reservations for parties of five or more only. Major credit cards accepted.


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