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Philadelphia has been enamored of the burgeoning Han Dynasty chain since it first exploded onto the scene five years ago. Perhaps that’s because owner Han Chiang has made a name for himself via an attitude as fiery as his food; more likely it’s because the food–mostly Szechuan with a healthy dose of dishes in a Cantonese and Taiwanese vein (unsurprising when you learn Han hails from Taiwan)–has garnered a loyal following from not just that city’s gastro-obsessed community but also from the national food cognoscenti, who’ve been bestowing the place with praise since the beginning.
Han announced earlier this year that he wants to grow his concept by 100 locations in the near future. And for his first venture outside of Philly, he planted an outlet at 90 Third Avenue in the East Village, which made its debut a week ago.
A chalkboard sign out front suggests the restaurant is still in soft opening mode, but other than that and the current lack of liquor license, you’d never know the spot isn’t yet running at full tilt. Diners, some as high-profile as former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy–who dropped in with a group when we stopped by–are unashamedly packing tables that sigh under shareable feasts while Han and his staff run crowd control in a manner that suggests they know what they’re doing (and after dealing with the hordes in the City of Brotherly Love, they probably do).
Han walked us through the menu the night we stopped by, a collection of cold appetizers, noodles, soups, vegetables, and entrees; the latter items are listed as a collection of styles (dry pot style, cumin style, or kung pao style, for instance) with heat indicators that range from one to 10 and come with your choice of protein. And lest you worry that you’re about to choose the wrong meat to go with your sauce, know that Han has a strong opinion on what you should order what way.
Following his lead, we jumped on the dan dan noodles, and then let him put together the rest of our feast; he picked double cooked fish and three cup chicken (explaining that this Taiwanese dish is so named for the sauce, which combines one cup of soy sauce, one cup of rice wine, and one cup of sesame oil). We tossed in eggplant with garlic sauce for good, heart-healthy measure.
The dan dan noodles were the stand-out–pooled with chili oil and buzzing with the sting of Szechuan peppercorns, we can’t imagine grabbing a table here and not ordering them. Other than that, though, we’ll be eager to sample some different dishes next time–like the cold noodles in chili oil, the cumin style lamb, and the sausage we spied at the next table.
And while we weren’t chastised or kicked out, we did glimpse a flash of Han’s famous offbeat personality when he showed the party to our left the porn he watches on his phone.
Hit the next page for a few photos.