Do not go to a Chinese restaurant not located in Chinatown.
Why, you ask? Qingxin and I had a not-so-happy experience at Han Dynasty.
We hadn’t initially planned on going there, actually. Our true quest was to try a shake at Stephen Starr’s Squareburger at Franklin Square. This burger-and-shake shack is only open during the spring and summer months, so we wanted to give it a try before classes ended for the year. However, by the time we set out that Saturday, the rain was starting to pour. Unfortunately, inclement weather means that everything at Franklin Square shuts down. When we arrived at the park, the place is a ghost town. Disappointed, we promised ourselves to check the weather forecast next time and plan our shake adventure accordingly. Don’t fret– we will try that shake before finals are over!
We did have a chance to pick up our favorite buns at KC’s, though! Taro and pineapple buns for Qingxin, pineapple coconut and pineapple custard cream buns for me. KC’s is quite honestly the best Chinese bakery in Philadelphia, IMHO.
Not sure of what to eat for lunch now that Squareburger was closed that day, we recalled a recommendation we had heard from a variety of credible people: Han Dynasty. As a Chinese restaurant, I thought it would have been located in Chinatown (which was convenient to where we were). However, it was located near Penn’s Landing, so we braved the wind and rain and walked over.
On the way there, I took Qingxin to Tartes, a bakery in Olde City, since she had never been there before. As for me, this was my third time giving the place a go; this time, I ordered the sweet potato pecan tart. I really enjoy the crusts on all of Tartes’ tarts; they’re flaky and have an incredible buttery flavor, complementing whatever filling is inside. Regarding the crust on the pecan tart, it was just as delicious as what I had in the past. However, the tart as a whole was pretty average and gets a ★★★ rating from me. Nothing wowed me. I want to like this place so much, but it’s hard to do with their prices, which are rather high at $5.75 for one tart about 6 inches in diameter. If you absolutely MUST try something from Tartes, I’d suggest having one of their fruit tarts; I did enjoy their pear almond tart, the first dessert I ever tried from Tartes.
Qingxin got the key lime tart, rating it ★★★1/2. She found it “very good,” but did not think it warranted the steep price either. “The tart itself is extremely sour, but it balances well with the whipped cream on top. The crust was the best part, as the texture was perfect. The outside was just as flavorful as the filling inside.”
We eventually made it over to Han Dynasty. Just in time too, since the rain was becoming increasingly heavier. After perusing the menu and listening to our server’s suggestions (Qingxin was considering ordering the Braised Beef Noodle Soup, but the waiter straight up said, “It’s not that good”), I went with their famous Dan Dan Noodles and Qingxin got the Spicy Beef Noodle Soup.
If based off my Dan Dan Noodles alone, I would have rated Han Dynasty ★★★1/2. The bowl of noodles came out rather soon after we ordered and was mixed table side. The taste of the dish was good; the spiciness was just right and the juicy bits of pork added depth to the flavor. The noodles were a touch overcooked (soggy), but they had a nice thickness and absorbed the flavor of the dish well. The portion was pretty large too, as I had leftovers to bring home.
However, that’s where all happy thoughts end.
Qingxin best sums up her dish and our dining experience:
While my bowl of Spicy Beef Noodle Soup was just plain bad, the service was even worse. Even though I normally don’t factor in service into my rating, I feel that this situation calls for it. First, I will discuss the actual dish. I originally planned on ordering the mild version of this noodle soup, but the waiter suggested the spicy version since the mild one supposedly had no taste. I should have known right then not to order it, but I went ahead with the spicy version, as this dish was the only warm, noodle soup option they had, which was much needed from the rainy, cold weather. The chewiness of the noodles was pretty good, but everything else was bad. The broth and noodles only tasted spicy–there was no savory, beef taste whatsoever! Honestly, Shin Ramen is better than this dish. Now, for the service aspect. Nicole ordered the Dan Dan Noodles, which was listed as $6.95 on the menu. When the check came, though, she was charged $7.95. We told a waitress about this error, and she told us that the menu was old and that the portions changed, so she was right to charge the extra dollar. Nicole and I went through three or four different waiters/waitresses who all repeated this sentence, and all the while, I’m just thinking to myself, “These people have to be kidding me. Do they seriously think that it’s okay to cheat people right in front of their faces?” After three supposed “managers,” we finally came upon a waiter who agreed to take off the dollar, but he remarked, “We don’t get very many complaints about this, but okay, we’ll change it,” which makes it seem as though he thinks we were robbing him or something. I would not have gone back even without this ordeal, so now, I am definitely never going back. ★1/2
I also tried a spoon of Qingxin’s noodles and broth and wholeheartedly agree with her. The only thing that differentiated it from the spicy Nong Shim instant noodles that everyone knows and loves were the same thick noodles that were used in my Dan Dan Noodles. Obviously, that type of noodle would be difficult to replicate in an instant noodle meal, but it was definitely not worth the $8.95 she paid. Needless to say, I was very taken aback by the service here. What put the service over the edge was when our server came to pick up our check. He had the nerve to ask me, “Would you buy the noodles for $7.95 next time?” I could only chuckle to myself when Qingxin muttered, “We’re not coming back here.”
So, an unsuccessful Chinese meal. We certainly learned our lesson that day– we are sticking to Chinatown when it comes to Chinese food!