On my first night during my 4-day trip, three coworkers and I ventured out to Korea Town. My friend Amit tells me that Korea town is more like Korean Block. Ha! Nevertheless, the area is filled with various Korean shops and restaurants. We stopped at HanGawi, a Korean Vegetarian place that was recommended by the concierge of our hotel.
When you enter the restaurant, you are instructed to take off your shoes which are stored in cubby holes by the traditionally-dressed hostess. You are then escorted to your table which is sunken into the floor. It wasn't terribly comfortable and it was difficult to get in and out of, but it was novel enough to add to the ambiance of the restaurant and to the experience as a whole.
We weren't quite sure what to order so we decided to share 3 appetizers and 3 main courses between us so that we could all taste the various types of dishes and no one would get stuck with something they didn't like. This was a superb idea because I got to try many more things than I normally would during a first visit at a new restaurant. This is what we had:
Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms
Crispy Mushrooms in a Sweet and Sour Sauce
Kabocha Pumpkin Stone Bowl with Rice
First thing, I started off with a glass of citron juice which was simply divine. Citron is a citrus fruit that's a bit of a cross between a lemon and an orange. The juice was fresh and not too sweet. There were pieces of citron on the bottom of the glass which you could fish out with your spoon. It was delicious to eat, rind and all. It tasted like candied lemon!
First off where the Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms. Now these didn't blow me away, but they were good enough. There was a delicious sauce drizzled over the top which made them taste better than if they were plain. Then came the leek cakes. Oh my. Those were divine. They came with a soy sauce for dipping. Mmm... Once everyone else was done, I devoured the rest. The last appetizer, Herbed Salad, was a cold noodle salad with lettuce and carrots. It was a bit spicy and simply delicious.
If the appetizers were that good, I was excited to dive in to the main courses! With the courses came cool cabbage and kimchi cabbage. I wasn't crazy about the kimchi cabbage but I gave it a try anyways. The ssam bab (one of my suggestions for a pick) was simply divine! It was a lay out of lettuce leaves with various fillings. You had your choice of three rices: white rice, brown rice and a black bean rice. Then you filled your wrap with various vegetables including carrots, cucumber, diakon, radish and mushrooms. To top it off was this amazing bean paste which I would love to eat just as a dip. The crispy mushrooms were divine and the sauce was perfect. The stone bowl with roasted pumpkin slices on top was a hit. The bowl was super hot and kept cooking the rice as we ate. The rice was filled with delicious pieces of mango and vegetables. I didn't think I would like it but I was scraping the bowl.
In the end, this restaurant was a hit. It's always a good sign if I'm devouring everything on my plate. I kept telling everyone who would listen that the cuisine was so wonderful I wanted to bury my face in every dish.
If you are ever in New York City, make sure that you stop by HanGawi for some excellent Korean Vegetarian cuisine!