Restaurant Review: Hangawi

12 East 32nd Street
(between 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue)
Midtown, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (3/4)

Restaurateurs Ryoon and Terri Choi design their venues exquisitely. Whereas Franchia rises in three steep stories to create a tiered mountain of table spaces, sister restaurant Hangawi takes the opposite approach, with a grand entrance portal leading into the sweeping horizontal length of the dining room. A raised floor allows all of the tables to sit in a partially sunken state, with beautiful plank and beam woodwork from the tables to the ceilings.

This beauty extends from the décor to the servingware. Nicely flavored ginger and fruit iced teas arrived at our table in roughly hewn stone cups, and the assortment of stone, wood, and ceramic platters were perfectly fitted to the artistically crafted culinary creations they carried.

Both Brian and I chose the four-course Emperor’s Tasting Menu for our meal, which proved overwhelmingly more extensive than four courses might suggest. We began with a delicious amuse bouche of tofu and stewed vegetables, followed by an equally delicious salad, neither of which counted towards our list of courses.

Our first official course consisted of a seasonal selection, with a savory stuffed apple, crispy rolls, and a bowl of stir-fried vegetables; all visually appealing and delicious. This was followed by an appetizer of lightly fried pancakes with a sweet sauce.

The main entrée began with grilled todok strips in ginger soy sauce atop a bed of rice. An assortment of bitter, pickled sides accompanied the strips, and a stone bowl of crispy rice and vegetables rounded the course out into a feast by itself.

Our meal closed with an assortment of sorbets that acted well to cleanse the palate.

Much like Franchia, Hangawi’s value (we paid $60 each) can largely be derived from the perfection of the atmosphere and service, though we also found Hangawi’s kitchen to offer more playful and tastier dishes (without crossing the line into becoming too experimental for appeal to the full range of diners’ palates).

Reservations are highly recommended (we were very lucky to be accepted as walk-ins for a table with a 40 minute window before the next reservation, but were politely rushed out by the hostess upon the arrival of the table’s scheduled guests). Also note that footwear is collected in cubbies at the door, so wear good socks.

Food (3/4)

Atmosphere & Service

Value (3/4)

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