Ryan and I love a good feast, so for his birthday treat, we decided to try out Hangawi in Midtown. As well as serving one of his favorite cuisines – Korean – Hangawi is also entirely vegetarian, so it seemed perfect for us.
I’ve not actually been to a Korean restaurant since living in New York. And tonight’s experience convinced me that I will be going many, many more times in the near future.
When we entered, we were told to slip off our shoes, which were popped in racks until the end of the meal. We were then led to our low-lying table, where we sat on cushions on the floor and put our feet in a small well beneath us. I’d feared we might have to sit crossed legged (not very helpful for optimum feasting), but this was very comfortable and snuggly.We started with cocktails – ginger for Ryan and grapefruit for me. The cocktails used soju, an alcohol made from rice mixed with wheat, barely and sweet potato. I couldn’t taste any in mine, which meant that it had the potential to be very dangerous…
Then to the glorious food menu. Being vegetarian usually means that we only ever get a few choices, so this was amazing – I wanted everythinggg. Thankfully they provided an ‘Emperor’s Tasting Menu’, which we agreed would give us little tastes of a selection of dishes.
As it turned out, there was nothing little about it.
But these two were only the ‘starters’. Next came the appetizers. First up, a platter of delicious bites. Taro croquettes, kale pancake sticks, avocado seaweed rolls and a parsimmon stuffed with a nutty pate. As well as being visually stunning, every bite was so interesting – and we agreed that it was the thick, sweet sauces that really made the plate.
Next – more appetizers. This time, three (unnecessarily large) pan-fried dumplings filled with tofu and greens, accompanied with rice disks. While I loved the crispiness of the outside of the dumplings, the fillings weren’t quite as exciting. But the chewy, sweet rice disks were definitely one of the best things of the meal.
Finally! The entree! A rice bowl with spinach, mushrooms and other vegetables that continued to cook as you ate. It came with a side of picked condiments and a pot of red hot sauce.
This was delicious comfort food but I was full before it even got to me! I would have much preferred just the plates of appetizers, which were so creative and came in very generous portions. Still, there was no doubting how tasty the rice bowl was, especially considering it was vegan, so there was no cracked egg propped on the top.
Then came dessert – vegan chocolate pudding (pudding in the U.S. sense, that is) with rich vanilla ice cream. Thankfully it wasn’t too heavy after all that food – and thankfully Ryan mentioned to the server that it was his birthday…
I cannot recommend this place enough. It had a relaxed atmosphere and although I eavesdropped on pretty much every word of the mis-matched couple next to us (who were enduring a large age gap and an ever larger intellectual one), the dividers between the tables allowed for enough privacy. The food was creative and beautifully presented, and the service was prompt and helpful. The perfect place for a special night out.
As a result, I am now obsessed with Korean food.