I seem to be writing about Chinese restaurants with frequency lately. And, that's a good thing, because it means the list of Chinese restaurants in our culinary community is expanding beyond Little World, J. Wong's and Red Maple—the dependable "go-tos"—worthy of your time and money. Most recently, I sang the praises in City Weekly of two under-the-radar Asian eateries: Red House Sichuan [June 10, 2015] and Mom's Kitchen [Oct. 1, 2015]. Now I can add another one to my list of faves: Hot Dynasty.
In case you don't know, Salt Lake City has a Chinatown. It's not a Chinese community that grew organically, like Salt Lake City's Plum Alley neighborhood—which housed much of the Chinese population that worked the mines and on the Transcontinental Railroad—but rather a developer's iteration, called Salt Lake Chinatown. This one is shiny, new and modern.
Salt Lake Chinatown is home to a number of Asian eateries, including Ho Mei BBQ, Sen Sushi, China Town Eatery, Tea Factory, Chinatown Buffet and Cy Noodles House. It also has a Costco-size Chinatown Supermarket, which can be nearly paralyzing with so much to offer. You'll find an amazing array of fresh and frozen seafood, pork belly, mooncakes, an enormous noodle selection (fresh and dried), cooked whole ducks and virtually every spice or ingredient you could ever need to make your own Asian meal. There are more types of clams sold at Chinatown Supermarket than I even knew existed, and it's one of the few places I know of to get live crabs, lobsters and head-on shrimp.
Hot Dynasty is hidden away in the Chinatown Supermarket building, which might explain why it's never as busy as Ho Mei and some of its neighbors. But once you find it, you'll discover a restaurant that's very upscale in appearance, though not in price. White linen tablecloths cover each table, and the airy, modern décor is given a festive Asian touch with dozens of white rice paper lamps that beckon customers. The place is spotless, and the servers are exceptionally helpful and friendly.
At many Chinese restaurants, the menu can be daunting. It is at this one. There are nearly 250 different dishes to choose from, plus a menu of lunch specials. There are cold appetizers, dim sum choices, soups, noodle and rice dishes, hot pots, dry pots, casseroles, chef's specials, desserts and a wide variety of pork, chicken, beef, lamb, seafood, egg, tofu and vegetable options. It's hard to know where to begin.
So start with pan-fried dumplings ($5.95), steamed dim sum-style mini pork buns (7 pieces/$4.95), green onion or red bean pancake ($4.95), or perhaps a noodle dish. I was thrilled to spy dan dan noodles on the menu; it's one of my favorite Sichuan dishes. Here, a large serving (enough for four people to share) of thin linguine-shape noodles are served warm, topped with a spicy sauce of minced pork and scallions with preserved vegetables and chili oil ($7.95). The dan dan was outstanding, but we were disappointed that the noodles were overcooked and a tad mushy.
More to our liking, on another visit, were the Sichuan Cold Noodles ($7.95), an equally large portion but this time of thicker, lo mein-type egg noodles served cold with a deliciously spicy peanut-sesame sauce. These noodles were cooked perfectly. Indeed, the slightly flawed dandan's flavor noodles constituted the only flaw we'd find at Hot Dynasty during multiple visits.
I should warn you: Some ingredients might be off-putting to the Western palate—pork bung, for example (yes, that part of the pig's anatomy). If not, then you might try the Hot Pot with Pork Blood, Bungs & Vegetables ($17.95). We didn't order any of the hot pots, but we did enjoy a unique "Famous Dry Pot" featuring boneless chicken (other dry-pot options include beef, lamb, fish fillet, smoked pork, pork spare ribs, cauliflower and shrimp).
The dry-pot dish comes to the table in a mini-wok, placed upon a heated wood-and-cast iron box. The chicken dry-pot ($10.95) could easily feed six people, and is a spicy mélange of boneless dark meat chicken pieces stir-fried with cabbage, cauliflower, lotus root, potato slices, green onions, cilantro, white sesame seeds and red chili peppers, served with steamed rice. The flavor was complex: spicy from the chilies, but with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. And, although it's called a "dry" pot, the dish is anything but dry. Rather, it is beautifully sauced.
Another special menu category at Hot Dynasty is called "Famous Boiled in Chili Sauce." Options here include beef, fish, lamb, pork bungs or a choice of two of the aforementioned. We ordered the fish fillet in chili sauce ($12.95) and were floored when it arrived. It came in a gargantuan bowl that took up half of our table surface, equipped with a ladle for dishing out individual portions. I'd expected a single fish fillet, but there were a dozen or more pieces of oh-so tender boneless fish, cooked perfectly in an über-spicy broth with veggies and cilantro, topped with a handful of dried red chili flakes. One order could literally feed eight people; it was pretty impressive.
Just as impressive is the wine list. I don't normally expect much in the way of a wine selection, if any at all, in Chinese restaurants. But this list blew my mind. Hot Dynasty choices range from Kendall-Jackson, La Crema and Stags' Leap Chardonnays to Sauvion Sancerre from France, Freemark Abbey Napa Cabernet and even M. Chapoutier "La Ciboise" Rouge. A very good choice to augment Hot Dynasty's robust flavors is d'Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé, from Provençe. Or, you could celebrate your good luck in discovering this wonderful Chinese eatery with a bottle of Dom Pérignon Vintage Champagne. Seriously.