Sunday, May 20, 2007

HanGawi

HanGawi is a restaurant we’ve always wanted to try and many of you have left comments recommending it to us, so we finally went for it. HanGawi serves 100% vegan Korean food and can be found at 12 E 32nd st in Manhattan. We went all out and ordered the Emperor’s Meal for two. The dishes included in the Emperors Meal vary from day to day, but apparently it always includes 3 appetizers, an entrée and a bunch of other extra stuff.

Pumpkin Porridge and Sweet Corn Spinach Porridge
These were a nice start to the meal. Both had a thick, creamy texture. The Pumpkin Porridge was quite sweet. The Sweet Corn and Spinach Porridge was also sweet but had a more complex flavor that I appreciated more. These warm, mild porridges set the stage for the calm but delicious meal that followed. -Jim

Vermicelli Delight
You know how I love my noodles! These were great. They had a nice chewy texture and were a comforting temperature. The seasoning was perfect- not too subtle, not overpowering. There was a wonderful balance of texture and flavor in this dish. It seemed that with each bite I was falling more and more in love with HanGawi. -Ev

Assorted Pancakes: leek, kimchi mushroom, and mung bean
These were basically fancy versions of the scallion pancakes you can order at most Chinese restaurants. Fancy in the sense that they were fried to the perfect flakey texture and loaded with neat, exotic ingredients. My favorite was definitely the Kimchi Mushroom. The spicy sharpness of the kimchi matched with the earthy goodness of the mushroom matched with the flakey fried goodness of the pancake all added up to something that I really enjoyed. But they were all very tasty.-Jim

Stuffed Lemon Tofu
This dish was presented beautifully and I was surprised to see that the lemon was separate from the tofu, rather than a seasoning. The tofu pocket was deep fried but not heavily so and stuffed with vegetables. It was drizzled with a sweet thin sauce that had great body and full flavor. Very YUM. The lemon was carved-out and stuffed with tiny pieces of bean curd, grains, and veggies that picked up the flavor of the lemon nicely.-Ev

Fried Mushrooms
At this point I was shocked by the amount of food we were getting--all of it delicious. These mushrooms were no exception. They were fantastic. They were crisply fried but not greasy. The texture was still nice and firm and chewy inside. This is how I would’ve loved the mushrooms to taste at Veggie Heaven in Austin. It’s hard to tell how large these portions were, but you have to remember- we EACH got a huge plate (pictured) for each appetizer.-Ev

Steamboat Rice, Eggplant and Mushroom Stir Fry, and a bunch of other stuff
So we finished the porridges and copious amounts of appetizers and thought, ‘That was a lot of food but all we need to do now is finish off our entrees and we're done’. But then they brought out the entrees, which were sizeable, along with two bowls of Miso Soup, multigrain rice and some pickled cabbage. It was so much food! So let's start with the Soup. Best Miso Soup ever. Seriously. I love plain Miso Soup with just miso broth, tofu, scallions and seaweed. And I have found that, when a restaurant tries to add more to their Miso Soup, it's too much and it kills the yummy miso flavor. But Hangawi managed to add veggies to their Miso Soup while still remaining the miso flavor, and it tasted better than any other Miso Soup I've ever had. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I’m a big pickle fan, and the Pickled Cabbage was just great. Not too strong but not too mild. The multigrain rice was earthy and delicious. The two entrees were Steamboat Rice and Eggplant and Mushroom Stir Fry. The Stir Fry was very savory and delicious and the mushrooms in it were so good. But the Steamboat Rice was really one of the best parts of the meal. It was so simple, just rice and vegetables, but it was rich and hearty and great. After the meal was over I told Ev that if the only things I could eat for the rest of my life were Hangawi’s Steamboat Rice and Miso Soup, I think I’d be a very healthy, happy person.-Jim

The Bottom Line
I knew going in to this experience that it was going to be a fancy meal, and a pricey meal. I wasn’t prepared for how amazingly beautiful this restaurant is. I also wasn’t prepared for just how delicious and HUUUUUGE the meal was going to be. I felt like I was dining in a half-Temple-half-Elven-Forest. Even the tea we drank- a surprisingly bitter-sweet red ginseng-seemed a perfect balance of the purely natural and the otherworldly. I should mention that by the time we were done with our main entrees I was both intrigued and horrified by the prospect of eating a dessert. Luckily, they served tiny apple chunks in a cinnamon broth. This provided a calming and refreshing close to our experience. (For future reference, I saw on the menu that they have chocolate tofu pudding.) I would highly recommend going here for a special occasion and dressing up for it. I would also highly recommend that you get the emperor’s meal, like we did. It had such a variety of dishes and you certainly got a lot of bang for your buck. Definitely on my list of Top 5 restaurants in NYC.-Ev
I agree with Ev. I could easily imagine being served this exotic yet earthy food by monks at a Korean Buddhist temple or by Elves in Laurelindórenan. It was a very interesting and unique experience, and the food was tasty and seemed very healthy. I’ve heard people complain that HanGawi isn’t as strong and spicy as Korean food should be. But if you go in expecting something a little more zen, you’ll be satisfied.-Jim

7 Comments:

Blogger Avery said...

Man! That looks fantastic!!!

I am putting this on the list of places to hit next time we come up from Jersey!

12:16 AM, May 21, 2007

 
Blogger the *ubiquitous spectator* said...

love this place...will you guys should hit up Counter. Its my new fav vegan splurge place. its gourmet and some of the most amazing food I have ever had in my life!

love the blog btw, keep it up!
~L

3:30 AM, May 24, 2007

 
Anonymous Isa said...

I still haven't been there - I think it's the "dressing up" part. I always feel to shlubby to enter. Is shlubby a word?

1:26 AM, May 25, 2007

 
Anonymous dangerousmathematician said...

hey! I love this place. Their porridge is the best thing ever.

I tried so many times to recreate that cinnamon/ginger/apple(/persimmon?) broth and I never could! It had a perfect amount of tartness from cinnamon, freshness from the apple, deliciousness from the pine nuts...

p.s. Love your blog! I've been reading for the past few months and have been dying to get to all the great Indian places you recommend. Summer should be grand. =)
p.p.s. shlubby is most certainly a word.

1:33 AM, May 29, 2007

 
Anonymous dangerousmathematician said...

Oh, and thanks for reminding me of this place! My mom wanted to take me out to dinner, but she started making faces when I described Pukk (which is probably my mostfavoriterestaurantever) to her. Maybe she'll wanna get some Korean porridge instead...

1:35 AM, May 29, 2007

 
Blogger Vanessa said...

I was so impressed with this place, thanks for doing a glowing review - so well deserved! The tofu cheesecake was the best EVER and even though I live for spicy I didn't even miss it. Zen is the right word. I just wish someone had prepared me about taking off my shoes - my feet were not in any condition to be seen.

Also, I'd love to see you guys at the NYC Foodbloggers meetup on June 12. (not sure if you subscribe to this list or not.)

2:02 PM, May 31, 2007

 
Blogger pinkberry said...

Have been dreaming of this place...will be in the city soon...perhaps my dream can come true...

off to count pennies and nickels!

9:49 AM, August 19, 2007

 

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