Recap: Reactions to Han Dynasty NYT Review

By Danya Henninger  |  January 23, 2014
Credit: Danya Henninger

On Tuesday, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells dropped a no-star review of the East Village outpost of Han Dynasty, deeming it only “satisfactory.” Wells had two major issues with Han Chiang’s first NYC venture: the overly-sweet food and the long wait (which he deemed “mystifying”).

As can be expected for one of Philly's most-loved mini-chains, the unflattering review (sample dish description: an “anemic interpretation of cumin lamb” with “floppy bands of meat, drenched in a syrupy sauce”) caused a bit of indignation among Philadelphians.

Questlove himself weighed in, tweeting that the the review “gets the gas face,” and that Han Dynasty is “one of [his] favorite restaurants in NYC.”

Our own critic of note, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Craig LaBan, tweeted that while he trusts Pete Wells’ opinion, “his descriptions don’t reflect any meal I’ve ever had at [Han Dynasty].” He also suggested the possibility that multi-city expansion was weighing on the brand, and that the restaurant was less impressive to New Yorkers since that city has so many genuine Sichuan options.

However, the NYC Han Dynasty has been lauded by New York magazine’s Adam Platt, who originally gave it three stars and this month included it in on list of the 10 best new restaurants (albeit with a condescending nod to its origins 90 miles south, to wit: “Sure, Han Chiang comes from Philly, but this clean, Sichuan-accented cooking is some of the best Chinese food New Yorkers have seen in years.”).

Though he is known for his unpredictable temper (Wells: “I had hoped that somebody would curse at me when I ordered.”), Han himself didn’t seem too fazed by the dig. Michael Klein spoke with Chiang and quotes him as saying, “It wasn’t that bad of a review.”

“It's okay, I'll have my revenge,” he tweeted jokingly in reply to Questlove’s defense of his restaurant. Craig LaBan demurred when some suggested he make the trip north to check out the NYC joint for himself, but if he does, he won’t have to wait 45 minutes. “I'll talk to my aunt,” Chiang promised his hometown critic, “She'll get you a table within 35 minutes.” What a guy.