Cult-Favorite Han Dynasty Brings The Heat To The UWS
It started in Philadelphia, where Chef Han Chiang first unleashed his fiery Sichuan creations, refusing to pull back on the traditional heat and sometimes overwhelming flavors of his culinary homeland in China's interior. People loved it, and Chiang apparently become something of a bad boy in that City of Brotherly Love, even while creating a Han Dynasty mini-empire, with at least a half dozen hugely-popular restaurants now in the area. In the fall of 2013, Chiang came north to the big town, opening a Han Dynasty in the East Village and which, a year and a half later, is a total success. Long waits on the weekends are still commonplace there, and the food still explodes in your mouth. And now Chiang brings a Han Dynasty uptown, to a cavernous space on the Upper West Side and, based on a supremely satisfying visit last weekend, it seems he has another hit on his hands.
Han Dynasty Arrives In The Upper West Side
The UWS Han Dynasty takes over the old Dean's pizza-and-pasta family Italian spot, which, with its ancient, soaring-hotel-lobby dining room in the back, is a tough space in which to create much fun or any intimacy. Unlike the raucous vibe of the East Village Han Dynasty, an air of outdated proper-ness pervades, even as you're wolfing down a bowl of insanely spicy tripe. Thankfully, though, the less-than-welcoming room isn't discouraging the locals, as there was a large crowd milling about in the comfortable terrace area up front waiting to seated. And it shouldn't discourage you! Because although Han Dynasty isn't necessarily the best Chinese food in NYC, I personally am a total sucker for this pull-no-punches type of cooking, and gleefully submit to whatever party Chiang pulls together on the plate.
What To Eat At Han Dynasty
One of Chiang's signature dishes at Han Dynasty is his take on the Dan Dan Noodle, and if you're a first-timer here, it should definitely be on your table. Slightly sweet, way more than slightly spicy, meaty and rich, just gloppy enough but still with plenty of bite, these are terrific. Also terrific, as I discovered at the UWS Han Dynasty, are the Cold Noodles with Chili Oil, which are even spicier than the Dan Dan, with a simultaneously lighter (even refreshing?) feel as well. I also tried the Cumin Style Lamb, which I love at Xi'an where they serve it over noodles, and very much enjoyed it here at Han Dynasty as well, the bold and aromatic meat wonderfully complemented by the sweet, barely-grilled-and-crunchy onions and peppers, all liberally sprinkled with Sichuan pepper flakes for added addictiveness. If you like to eat things that you notice, you will be as happy as I was at the new Upper West Side Han Dynasty.
For Menu and More Information on Han Dynasty
The UWS Han Dynasty is located on 85th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, and is open daily from 12:00 noon until 10:00 p.m., "a little later" on weekends. No delivery yet, but take-out is a viable option. For more information, take a look at the complete Han Dynasty menu.