underwhelmed at Hangawi
- suzanne camhi
First visit this past Tuesday. All in our party had the Chef Special Emperor's meal with Steamboat. First we were seated in the front of the restaurant close to a large computer screen and a ringing phone...not very Zen-like.
All courses were presented in rapid procession.
The porridges, spinach/corn and pumpkin were the highlight of the meal. Smooth and slightly glutenous.
All other courses were all comsumed the flavors were very subtle and nothing really stood out. The main courses...mountain yam, a fried starch served over shredded daikon and carrot with a sweet ginger sauce or portabella mushroom stuffed and also fried were served along with the "Steamboat". This was a modified hot pot of weak vegetable stock with little bits of walnut, green vegetable,mushroom, a sweet kind of fruit nut that looked like a cranberry. The wooden spoon didn't quite fit into the hot pot with the flame burning in the center which made it difficult to eat...once accomplished it wasn't really anything
special. Dessert on the prix fixe menu was a very nice mango sorbet. No tea was offered.
Was there something special that we missed?????
I second that emotion. I went there years ago when they first opened and got one of those 9 course thingies. Everything was beautiful to look at but pretty bland. My most lasting memory of that dinner was that I was so entirely sick of daikon by the end of the meal I could have screamed. It put me off daikon for a good while after that. Ugh!
I think Hangawi has gone downhill. I went there for the first time five or six years ago and it was great. The dishes were subtle, but everything, esp. the pinenut porridge was extremely flavorful. And I had the nongju, which I fell in love with. But I took a friend there a few weeks ago and it was pretty bad. We were served some dark gray porridge (I wish I could remember what it was...) that tasted literally like dirt. And the pumpkin porridge this time was indistinguishable from baby food. The only thing that stood out was the portabello mushroom, and the hot pot wasn't too bad. The nongju was still great. But all in all I was underwhelmed and kept apologizing to my friend. Luckily she was from Paris and had never eaten this sort of thing, so it was a bit of an adventure for her. I eat a lot of Korean food, and from now on I'll stick to Han Bat and my other staples.