Han Chiang, who has taken his Han Dynasty from a Sichuan BYOB in a strip mall in the western burbs to a six-location mini-chain, has vowed to make his boldest move yet.
He says he will take over the massive (and long-vacant) restaurant space in the old Corn Exchange Building at 123 Chestnut St. as a new location for his Old City restaurant, now located down the street at 108 Chestnut. The pending deal was first reported on Eater.
Chiang told me that he gets the keys to the new place - which opened in 1996 as Rococo and later housed a series of ill-fated clubs and a steakhouse - in July. His lease at 108 Chestnut is up in November, but he says he hopes to shift the operation sooner.
The larger space includes a large private dining room, a balcony lounge, and one of the largest bars in Old City. Chiang said he is designing a small-plates bar menu.
Chiang also says he's working on an New York City Han Dynasty that will open in July at 90 Third Ave. in the East Village. Records show that he is due to go before Manhattan's Community Board #3 on May 20 with his request for a liquor license.
His next stop: San Francisco.
Now that's a gutsy move. Is Chiang worried about opening in what might be the best U.S. city for Chinese food?
"I haven't failed yet," he deadpanned.
Meanwhile, his attention is focused on Philly, where he said he is getting tired of other kitchens - namely Spice 28 and Jane G's - poaching his staff.
Also of note in Old City: Right now, two large restaurant spaces are vacant on that 100 block of Chestnut - the Corn Exchange Building where Han Dynasty is supposedly going, and the former Mad River/Craft & Claw at 126 Chestnut. I hear that a deal is in the works for 126 Chestnut, but I also hear that the enormous Triumph Brewing, next door to the Corn Exchange at 117 Chestnut, is mightily trying to hang on. It's been for sale since last fall.