Some places to eat are so flawless that it feels like they ought to be a top secret, as while an experience so expertly curated must be kept harmless and shut and away from hungry eyes. Nonetheless appropriate in the heart of Koreatown, nestled unsuspectingly in between a great deal gaudier institutions, is an oasis by the identify of Hangawi.
Reflecting its all-vegetarian menu, the entrance is humble and natural, lined with wooden and warmly lit. Aimed at giving an immersive and regular experience, guests take away their sneakers in the foyer, which are placed in modest wood cubicles according to desk range by attentive staff members. Immediately the environment is serene and crackling with gentle discussion. It feels like a significantly cry from the raucous streets and honking taxis just exterior the door.
Company are shown to their tables, cautioned to be very careful as they get seated, as the tables are set into the ground. Waiters kneel to meet up with friends at eye level as they just take drink orders, and as entrees are ordered, waitstaff remove picket utensils from the embroidered silk pouch at every customer’s setting.
The waitstaff’s fashion is moderate and comforting and could make any initial time diner feel like they are returning to a preferred location. Decoration is small but tasteful, with little candle-lit lamps on just about every desk and easy oil paintings of compact fish on the partitions.
Drinks arrive immediately, nevertheless perhaps marginally smaller than envisioned, and appetizers are only minutes behind. A lychee mojito made with lychee juice and soju — a colorless Korean spirit built from mostly rice — is exquisitely tart and not way too sweet. It undoubtedly won’t very last prolonged.
As if riding in on a palanquin, rice flour kale pancakes arrive from previously mentioned on a excellent slab of stone, their crispy tiny bodies resting on banana leaf sheets. Delicately pan fried and slice into quarters, they have a pleasant slight chew from the mochi (sweet rice) flour and are swiftly ushered into their accompanying sauce, some thing bitter, sweet, and sinfully delicious.
Following a second lychee mojito, the stone slab is replaced with a rectangular white dish. On the dish lay small patties of savory tofu wrapped in steamed sesame leaves and garnished with “spicy” sauce mild ample for even a true spice-o-phobe. The warmth is held in examine, but the taste is boundless.
Hardly seconds following the last patty is carried away by a improperly operated pair of chopsticks, the plate is retrieved by an eagle-eyed waitress, who asks already nodding heads regardless of whether they would like an additional drink.
A light-weight stream of site visitors through the entryway remains as a result of meal support: satisfied faces and full bellies biking in and out, trying to keep the contented hum steady. Quickly there is a scorching overhead, as entrees of DolSot Bibimbap get there: two very hot stone bowls, popping like rice krispies in their searing minimal cauldrons.
A waitress asks for spice preferences and mixes in portions of a smooth, purple chili paste appropriately. She sets down the bowls, every in their own picket stand, inserting two containers of kimchi down among them a single is spicy and the other moderate.
The stone bowls are loaded with rice, an assortment of veggies, and an addition of steamed tofu — including a slice of the chilled, acidic kimchi can make for a divine bite. A hearty portion is provided only about 50 % is concluded whilst the rest is swiftly packed up to just take household, destined to be the most scrumptious leftover lunch of all leftover lunches.
Two positively stuffed diners spare their pocketbooks and stomachs the strain of on the lookout at a dessert menu, far more than contented by the food and unparalleled cocktails. A food at Hangawi is an experience as much as a likelihood to refuel — a curated escape from the chaos and disarray of Manhattan. An onsight wizard conjures up the suitable sneakers in advance of jackets are even mounted, and stepping back again out into the town circus feels like waking up from a sweet desire.