Thursday, August 2, 2012

Han Dynasty Date Night

Entrance and Outdoor Seating

As everyone knows, August 1 is Jerry Garcia's birthday (he would have been 70 this year). And this year two events combined to make Wednesday the perfect date night. First, Fathom Events put on a theatrical presentation of "The Grateful Dead" (movie) and second, Han Chiang opened another of his eponymous restaurants a couple blocks from that very theater. So we bought tickets online and braved the unsettled Philadelphia weather for an all too rare night out.

So, what's the deal with Han Dynasty? As many (most? all?) Philadelphia area foodies are aware, the restaurants of Han Chiang (and particularly the Old City incarnation) are temples to uncompromising Sichuan style cuisine. Han Chiang himself is apparently quite a character as well.

Now, it's been a while since we've had a satisfactory experience with this style of Chinese food. It's fairly common in the Chicago area and at one time was the dominant style in the western suburbs where large numbers of Chinese engineers once worked at places like Motorola. And there were a couple good spots in Minneapolis back in the day. But until now Philadelphia seemed strangely lacking in Ma-La.
The restaurant itself is in the modern open style with the bar area separated from the restaurant seating and open kitchen by a large communal table. Although it's currently in a "soft opening" phase, service was efficient, friendly and very attentive without being intrusive. But it's the food right?

Twice Cooked Pork Belly

We're not big fans of appetizers so we went immediately to our main dishes. The first was Twice Cooked Pork Belly, one of the mildest dishes on the menu, but also one that can test an inexperienced kitchen. In this case instead of the traditional large slab of pork, wide thin slices of pork belly were uniformly seared to a slightly crisp exterior, then quickly simmered with leeks, fresh hot green pepper, black beans and chili oil.

Ma Po Tofu

Those of you who know me could have predicted this one and I will say up front I was not dissapointed. Naturally on the hotter side (7 of 10 by Han's scale) this rendition was almost perfect, the only tiny flaw being perhaps a few too many black beans. That one quibble aside, it was otherwise perfect. The rustic style of the dish was highlighted by the sweet chopped leeks and chewy ground pork. The thick sauce, deep red with chili oil and flakes and fragrant with Sichuan pepper and smoky black beans balanced the Ma La flavors wonderfully.

As far as we're concerned there's no reason to go to any other Chinese restaurant unless it's for Dim Sum. Han Chiang has hinted on Twitter he may bring Taiwan street food to the city so there could well be some even more interesting Chinese food coming soon.

And the Grateful Dead? Well, the last time we saw it in a theater sometime around 1980, it was a damaged 35mm print in an "art house" (read old) theater with a weak sound system. Seeing it onscreen in all it's remastered digital glory was quite a revelation. Although we have a fairly ridiculous home theater system it can't even begin to compete with the power of a full blown theater's lamps and sound. Of course nearly every song is a sing-along these days and not surprisingly the "real Deadhead" scene ("you're gonna pay 4 or 5 dollars to see this...") got a hearty laugh. It was a good time, even though these old folks were up past their bed-time.

A fun night out, and now we know where to eat on future movie nights!

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...