Still Good but Pricey
Posted on 12 / 28 / 2013
I first visited Hangawi in Seoul. I lived there teaching English and as a vegetarian in Korea (who doesn't eat onion and garlic), this place was heaven. They also had the option of preparing everything without onion and garlic, as per the dietary restrictions of some Buddhists. Unfortunately, Hangawi in NYC does not offer this so our choices were limited, which seriously irked me. I had a huge craving for Kimchi Jjigae and I didn't want to make kimchi from scratch to make my own because then I would have to wait even longer. That was my major complaint, but I suppose opening in a Western city does involve some sacrifices to appeal to the locals. I had called ahead to make a reservation and I told the girl that we didn't eat onion or garlic. Her response was that we tell our waiter once we got there.
I originally wanted to come on Christmas, but they only offered the special Prix Fixe menu at $65 per person. I paid almost that much for a 15 course meal in Hangawi Korea... I wasn't going to pay that amount for only 7 courses. Plus, kimchi jjigae wasn't on the set course menu. I ended up going the day after for lunch. We arrived there right when it opened but it quickly filled up. We got the two lunch set menus and it was still delicious. They managed to make everything without onion and garlic and switched out the gochujang for the dolsot bibimbap with soy sauce and gochugaru instead. The thing was that they offered a smaller amount of side dishes (only 4) with the entree, of which we could only eat one (the spinach and mushroom). Fortunately, they gave us another small side of the S&M, but it would have been nice to just give us 4 sides of that, since we couldn't eat the others. However, the porridge was good and so was the ginseng salad (light, different, and refreshing). The dessert was a little disappointing - soy ice cream. I wanted something more Korean, but I suppose. It was still good - just not all that authentic. Not like ginseng salad is authentically Korean, but at least it was Korean themed.
All in all, still delicious and visually pleasing, though the options are less. The staff is helpful to an extent and still as expensive (more so) as always. A good place for a special occasion, but note that the portions are on the smaller side. I felt "just right" but I definitely could have eaten more (it may be because it was for lunch, but I remember being incredibly STUFFED in Seoul).
delicious & beautiful food, great decor/atmosphere
portions on the slightly smaller side, not as "authentic", no 100% onion/garlic free menu option