Nouveau Korean: Hanjan

 

Do you need another reason to love NYC? Any cuisine you’re craving, you can find it in this cosmopolitan metropolis. For me, I get bored of most things in life and subscribe to a logic of why revisit a restaurant in NYC when there are so many others to try. Also having zeal to experience new cuisines and cultures, I love that something exotic is often just a block-a-way… in every direction.

On that note, I’m all about the Nouveau Korean trend, brought to life by Chef Hooni Kim. Now I’ve had Korean food in Koreatown before, but Kim’s take on Korean is truly inspired. I first tried Danji with Korean socialite herself, Faye, and the excellent dining experience brought me to its sister restaurant, Hanjan. To send-off the always-illustrious Eva before she flew to Ecuador (before coming back shortly after… this betch), we decided to frequent flat-iron for a out of character, low-key night for Eva, Naisha and I.

Hanjan was named one of the best new restaurants of 2013, and I must say I agree with the praise. Both Danji and Hanjan serve Korean food transformed in a modern way, offered tapas style. I’ve asserted I’m a fan of small plates and the Korean twist just adds to the flair. I enjoyed the ambiance of Hanjan more than the smaller Danji. Although both are rather intimate restaurants, there’s slightly more breathing room in Hanjan. Plus you can make reservations, which is always a plus in my books. The setting is laid-back and perfect for a late dinner or first date.

For dinner we started with the Scallion Pancake with Local Squid served with a soy dipping sauce. Fried, unique and rather delicious. Next up was the Fluke Sashimi Salad, simple and fresh as Fluke seems to be all the rage in restaurants these days. I always like to try the most interesting thing on the menu so logically so we ordered the Braised Pig Trotters with Squid Fermented Kimchi. The theory is correct: Anything braised is delicious… even when eating Pig feet. The Kimchi & Beef Brisket Fried Rice with Egg were just as those list of ingredients suggest: decadent, rich and oh so satisfying.

But let me stop and mention the Soji. Ummmm I’ve been missing out but I am a Soji virgin no more! We had the “50” SeJu, a house special blend of strong Jinro “24” and sweeter Bek SeJu’. I can describe it as a heightened sake, more floral and rather lovely. And at a bargain price! $20 for a relatively large bottle? Ok Korea, I see you.

For the record its Michelin-star rated sister restaurant Danji edges Hanjan out. I think Danji’s menu has a bit more intrigue and variety. I must say Danji’s Poached Sablefish with Spicy Daikon was one of the best-prepared fish I’ve had in New York and you can’t go wrong with those famous Pork Belly Sliders.

Alas with either restaurant you’re really in for a unique dining experience. From the interesting ingredients to the tapas style menu, if you’ve never tried Korean and are feeling adventurous, new fare try Kim’s NYC gems.

Hanjan – 36 W 26th Street –  212-206-7226

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