My third visit to HanGawi was better than a charm, it was delightful. I absolutely love this place. It's like comfort food for those who eat vegetarian, vegan or very clean and "boring" diets (me, at times). HanGawi is a Korean vegetarian restaurant in Midtown East that is based on the philosophy of um and yang, or what is more popularly known as yin and yang. A balance of green vegetables and fruits on one side with roots, radishes, carrots and potatoes on the other.
My first trip was a few years ago and it was with my then personal trainer and her boyfriend. It was somewhat of a wasted trip. At the time, I hadn't embraced many of the important principals of nutrition (and I had no clue that you could make milk, cream or cheese from an almond). Still, it was an adventure to enter this hidden gem, take off my shoes and sit at their low height, candlelit tables.
Last winter I visited HanGawi once again, this time with my cousin Jill, the blog host of Vegetariabean. We had sulfite free, organic wine, vegetarian dumplings and I had my first organic, avocado brown rice stone bowl. This is a mix of brown rice, vegetables, avocado and miso dressing 'cooked' in a traditional Korean stone bowl that sizzles upon arrival to the table and adds a crunchiness to the rice that is mind-blowing good.
Last night was even better than trip two as I was once again joined by Jill and a now mutual friend. We sat and discussed fitness, health and our overall well being (with a few funny stories mixed in) over three appetizers. We shared stuffed shitake mushrooms that were drizzled with a honey/maple type syrup and 'cream' from cashews most likely. Having had a glass of their house red wine half gone, I forgot to take a picture and just dove in. These were so amazing that I am determined to try to recreate them at home next week. I might not have snapped a pciture, but another blogger did...(check their pics and review out!).
Though the picture is blurry, this is as close to the interior as I could get without a second flash. It's very dark inside, romantic in a way, but more so peaceful. The surroundings set a pace for the evening as does the way each appetizer is brought out one at a time. We had the sesame leaf tofu pancakes next, which tasted like overly fried, yet not greasy eggplant in a way. They were accompanied by a dipping sauce that I so gently smashed the plate and had all of these pancakes fall into. Go me.
The best part of the appetizer trio was the HanGawi salad. Oh man. Again, wish I had a picture, but there are plenty of them on Yelp. It was just a simple salad dressed in a 'cream' dressing. I wanted to lick the bowl, but I refrained.
This was my main event. Another avocado stone bowl, this time gluten-free. Mushrooms, vegetables, rice and miso dressing. Sizzling and hot every minute and second of my time with it. I didn't even attempt chopsticks with this. This was getting scooped up! Still, having done a good job with the appetizers, I managed to not eat everything in the bowl (but it was hard not to pick out and eat all of the avocado).
Jill had a kimchee bowl, which she'll be posting about soon, so be sure to visit her site for a download of the dinner from her perspective.
This is a "must-visit" for foodies, health-nuts, vegetarians, vegans and well, anyone who appreciated eating outside of the conventional box. And hey, if I was eating comfort food at home, enjoying a glass of wine poured tall as the one below, I'd have my shoes off and legs crossed there too. So why not make an event of eating well?
If you're in NYC over the next two days and you haven't hit up any Restaurant Week deals, now is your opportunity to try HanGawi for a lot less than usual ($60/pp with two drinks no dessert on average).
If you don't make it in time for the $24.07 lunch special through the 10th, they are also featuring a Valentine's Price Fixe Menu. Call them or visit their website for details. Now, I have to go shopping for two stone bowls because you know damn well I have to try to make this at home!