Considering my deep and abiding love for spice, it’s amazing that it took me so long to make it to Han Dynasty, colloquially known as “handynasty.” I think it’s Old City location (versus Chinatown) threw me off, but when I went out of my way to make it in the door, bottle of crisp white wine in hand, I was not disappointed.
Many people are scared of the hot hot heat that is Schezuan, but don’t be afraid – Han has coded each menu item with a spice number. I have a pretty solid spice tolerance, but really, the “10″ here didn’t kill me at all – just made me want more. This sultry dish was a “dry pot,” a metal bowl of vegetables and meat (sadly, the cooks refuse to substitute tofu) in hot chili oil with plenty of fresh chilis over a flame. In theory, the flame “dries out” the dish before it reaches your table. We didn’t find that to be the case, but it didn’t affect the deliciousness of the dish.
I had the pickled tofu which, coming in at a 5, made me concerned that it would be too tame. I asked our waiter to kick-up the spice quotient, and it came just perfect. On a side note, if you avoid pools delicious oil in your food, this is not the dish, or even the place for you. The oil helps to bring out the heat and flavor of the dried chilies, and is entirely necessary. That doesn’t mean that you need to drink the leftover pool at the bottom of your bowl.
After hearing so much praise about the Dan Dan noodles, I gave them a go and they were good – a spicy sort of cold sesame noodle, and definitely enough to share between two. The angels did not sing, but these noodles are certainly a step-up from a sesame noodles appetizer. With the addition of my companion’s chicken dumpling soup (which he deemed fantastic) we ended up taking piles of food home. It’s only fair to mention, at this point, that the prices are more than reasonable, and BYOB sweetens the deal.
I must, in good faith, warn you that the service was totally bizarre service. Different people were constantly arriving at the table to take our order (which one was our server? I don’t know) deliver or take things away, and check on our meal. Like, every 5 minutes. I was seated by an employee and then told by a different employees that my previous conversation didn’t count because employee #1 “doesn’t speak any English.” The food came out blazing fast – they’re just trying to get people in and out of the door. So YOU have to carefully pace your meal. Order one appetizer, then another, then wait away, then order your dinner. And try to ignore the distracted waitstaff and chefs fighting (and throwing dishes) in the kitchen.