New Yorkers rejoiced upon hearing Han Dynasty would be coming to NYC. Everyone in Philly goes nuts for the Sichuan Chinese chainlet and New Yorkers just won’t stand for Phily having something they don’t. However there’s one thing that always comes with a much awaited restaurant opening and that’s lines. Even a year later the wait is still at least an hour. That the food comes nice and cheap is certainly not a deterrent.
The wait was enough to keep me away for a while, but when Matt, Karina, and I wanted Chinese on a Friday night we decided we had waited long enough. We weren’t too hungry and in a relaxed “whatever” mood so the wait didn’t seem like a big deal. The hostess took our number and said she would text when our table was ready so it was no problem to go right across the street for a drink.
By the time we actually sat down we had built up an appetite so we attacked the menu. We started with the dan dan noodles because they’ve popped up in enough blogs as a house specialty. If you like cold peanut/sesame noodles, you’ll love these. They are served warm and have the same slightly sweet taste from the sesame paste, but they’ve also got a nice kick from the chiles oil that’s been added to the dish. All three of us were loudly slurping, exactly like our mothers told us we shouldn’t. Our next dish was easy to overlook. The spicy crispy cucumbers look like the least exciting item on the menu, but they were by far my favorite item of the night. There’s garlic and sugar and other stuff that just make me pop them one after the other into my mouth slowed only by my lack of chopstick prowess. Our third and final appetizer, the scallion pancake, was the only thing I forgot to photograph which is an indication that it was less thrilling than the other items we tried. I liked that it was thin and used a phyllo type dough making it crispier than a typical pancake, but it was a little lacking in scallion flavor and a bit oily.
Onto the main courses. I love the way the menu is divided. I am used to seeing Chinese menus organized by protein (here’s a list of all the chicken dishes, then the pork, beef, seafood, and veggie dishes). It gets repetitive. Here, the dishes are organized by sauce style, each with a number to indicate spice level. We ordered the lo mein with Taiwanese sausage, the chicken crispy rice style (basically a sweet and sour sauce), and the beef hot sauce style. Overall, Han Dynasty is very similar to the place where you likely order takeout. Most of the dishes are similar, they’re just prepared better here. The vegetables are fresher and the beef is nice and tender (just one reason why the hot sauce style was my favorite of the entrees). And they have those freakin cucumbers and dan dan noodles. That alone makes this place better than your average take out spot even though the prices really aren’t much different.
One note of warning: they seem to be liberal with the MSG. My tummy was less than ecstatic at 2:30 in the morning…but it was worth it.