Restaurant: Han Dynasty
Address: 4356 Main Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127 (215)-508-2066
Rating: ★★★★★ (5) out of 5 stars
Style: Casual attire
Food: Traditional Sichuan cuisine
Atmosphere: Chinese décor
Parking: Yes, Street parking (meters)
Service: Polite and accommodating
Price Range: $$
Unique Feature: BYOB, delivery, take-out
Many of us have made our impressions regarding Chinese food by the greasy strip mall joints that deliver your order with a smile and a bag drenched in MSG. Only recently though have my perceptions been shifted to something levels above what I had considered to be authentic and truly satisfying Chinese cuisine. Han Dynasty has been making its name known across the Philadelphia area, and its newest location can be found smack dab in the middle of Manayunk’s Main Street, serving unforgettable meals to all.
My girlfriend and I arrived on a Sunday afternoon to a relatively empty restaurant. The host immediately sat us and brought over silverware and water as we made ourselves comfortable. I had done a bit of research beforehand and learned that Han Dynasty is a BYOB, so our waiter uncorked our wine as we perused the menu. Though there was a slight language barrier between the waiter and me, he was patient and understanding when taking our orders.
As we awaited our appetizer, I admired the intimate and warm décor, emblazoned with authentic Chinese woodwork and art designs. Also, as a nice touch, we were served a complimentary teapot of piping hot Green Tea. Brought out promptly within five minutes of placing the order, our appetizer, Dan Dan Noodles was served. Dripping with chili oil and covered in scallions and minced pork, the noodles were juicy and delicious, and demanded that we both go back for a second serving. Though I have never had the traditional food before, my girlfriend lived in the Sichuan province of China for three months (Cheng Du), dining on nothing but their delicacy and she confirmed that the restaurant nailed the cuisine perfectly.
As a nice touch by Han Dynasty, its menu offers a ‘Spice Level’ from 1-10, providing the customer with a heads up as to what type of spice intensity they should expect. Given the fieriness of the appetizer, we were thrilled that the waiter was perceptive when it came to needing water refills (he made three separate rounds of refills throughout the meal).
Han Dynasty offers 13 different ‘Styles’ of entrées, given your appetite and spice level. After waiting about 15 minutes, our entrées were served with complimentary white rice. I ordered the Garlic Sauce Style with Shrimp. Stir fried to perfection with bamboo, ginger, bell peppers, and wood ear mushrooms, the colossal shrimp (no oxy-moron intended) was coated with a tangy, delectable garlic sauce. My girlfriend decided on the Crispy Rice Style with Chicken, a meal that she wouldn’t stop raving about. Served on squares of sweet crispy rice, the entrée mixed thick hunks of chicken with snow peas, black mushrooms, baby corns, and more.
As our plates were cleared and the check was dropped off, I noticed that a corkage fee hadn’t been charged, which was a welcomed gesture (or mistake) on the waiter’s behalf. We sat for an additional 15 minutes and chatted, not feeling any pressure from the staff that we should hit the road once the bill had been paid.
Walking back out to Main Street, I realized what I had been missing from all of those generic strip mall Chinese restaurants all this time: the pure authenticity of Sichuan cuisine. I will be visiting Han Dynasty again in the near future, and I strongly suggest you do the same.