An Unexpected Delight

Many of the great restaurants in Philadelphia are the ones hidden on small streets or behind unassuming facades that most people simply pass by but never enter. These restaurants don’t need any gimmicks or over-the-top attractions. Their food speaks for itself and foodies alike gravitate towards these types of restaurants for that reason. Han Dynasty is not one of these restaurants. It was, in fact, because of it’s grandiose exterior that I have walked past it on numerous occasions, tossing it aside as just another chain serving poor quality food at an unwarranted price.
Two Fridays ago, with no reservation and a two to three hour wait at most Center City restaurants, two of my friends and I decided to try Han Dynasty at 3711 Market Street. When they suggested this I wasn’t even sure where or what Han Dynasty was. I soon realized that it was the large restaurant just down the street from where I live and go to school. I was skeptical at first but quickly reassured by hearing of their numerous acclamations, including Best of Philly: Best Chinese Restaurant not in Chinatown, 3 Bells by Philadelphia Inquirer critic Craig Laban, as well as a feature on Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover on the Travel Channel.
Interior of Han Dynasty, 3711 Market Street
During our thirty-minute wait we each enjoyed an item from their Asian-inspired cocktail, wine, and beer menu. I would suggest the Chengdu Mule made with Lemongrass infused vodka, lime juice, and homemade ginger beer if you’re in the mood for something tart and refreshing. Our stomachs were growling but we knew thirty minutes was a very reasonable wait for 7:30 on a Friday evening. The restaurant was packed with college students and young professionals enjoying a fun night out. My friends were surprised that this was not a regular stop for me, let alone that I had never been there.
When we finally sat down at our table we did not waste time before ordering our meal. Dishes are served family style at Han Dynasty so we ordered a variety of items from each section of the menu to share, including Spicy Crispy Cucumbers, Pork Belly in Garlic Sauce, Dan Dan Noodles, String Beans with Minced Pork, Garlic Sauce Style Chicken, and Scallion Style Pork. We knew that this was a lot of food for three girls, but there were just too many delicious options to choose from. One important thing to note about the menu at Han Dynasty is that every item has a red number next to it to indicate its spice level on a scale from one to ten. Most of the items that we ordered were between a five and a ten, however we had heard that the spice levels were extremely high so we asked our waiter what he would suggest for a more spice-sensitive palette. He was very helpful and allowed us to lower the spice level of each dish down to a two or three. Our food came out in a matter of minutes and our mouths were on fire almost as soon as it hit our tongues. This did not slow us down. We ate until we were full and still had enough food for each of us to take something home for the next day. One of the best things about our meal was that the prices were so reasonable for the amount of food served. We left happy and satisfied with doggie bags in hand. I am looking forward to my next meal at Han Dynasty and would recommend it to any student looking for a great meal in a fun environment.
Dan Dan Noodles, $7.95


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