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Jan 24, 2009 11:14 AM

For my vegetarian aunt, Hangawi or Franchia or others?

Hi my chowhound friends,

My Asian aunt who is a vegetarian just came to visit, and I want to bring her to a vegetarian restaurant (so that she can order anything she wants rather than just having a few vegetarian options). Her taste is quite traditional so the fusion places probably isn't going to work. She also doesn't like places that serve too much fake meat or seitan, but rather have real vegetables or tofu or such. I have been disappointed by the quality of the vegetarian restaurants in Chinatown, and so I am thinking of bringing her to either Hangawi or Franchia.

I have never been to either of them, but I found mostly positive reviews for Hangawi (not much mentioning at all for Franchia). I know they are sister restaurants but is the food better at one than the other? Is it considered authentic Korean (or at least not too fusion / americanized)? What dishes will you recommend at either place?

If you have other suggestions outside of Hangawi or Franchia, please feel free to post! Your help will be much appreciated!

Thank you in advance!

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  1. I have only been to Franchia and love it. And if this means anything to you, a Korean friend of mine prefers Franchia to Hangawi (this is why I tried and stuck to Franchia in the first place).
    Happy dining.

    3 Replies
    1. re: abud

      Hi abud,

      Thanks for your reply! Is Franchia crowded on weekdays for dinner? Could you kindly recommend some dishes that you like?

      Thanks again!

      1. re: kobetobiko

        I have never found the place packed and I have never found it empty. Usually a group of us will order a bunch of dishes. The one I remember not loving (it was fine, just not wonderful) was the bibimbop. My faves there are the Tofu and roasted kabocha pumpkin in sesame soy sauce and the cheese cake.
        I recommend not getting the prix fix. I usually enjoy my meals there more when ordering straight from the menu.

        1. re: abud

          Hi abud,

          Thanks again! My aunt loves pumpkin so the tofu dish sounds perfect. When we decide to eat there I will report back. Thanks!

    2. I've not eaten at Franchia yet, but must throw in a positive vote for Hangawi. This is a restaurant that has been around for many years and is consistently a wonderful experience. For about a 10 year stretch my mom and I celebrated my birthday here every year, and each year it's an oasis of serenity and amazing food. We most often get the tasting menu.

      1. Another vote for Hangawi. It's elegant, tasty, and devoid of fake meat and all of that nonsense.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ExFlexitarian

          Thank you both ljeanne and ExFlexitarian. Elegant is actually good for my aunt as she seems to enjoy the environment as much as the food when dining out.

          ExF, would you recommend any dishes from Hangawi?

          Thanks again for your advice!

        2. just ate at dirt candy which is real deal contemp. american veg. check out the menu and see if she may like. from a carniverore's perspective it was superb....

          1 Reply
          1. re: jsmitty

            Hi jsmitty,

            Thanks for your suggestion. I actually have been to Dirt Candy once and liked it a lot. However, my aunt is the kind of people who need to have rice in every meal. She is quite conservative when it comes to dining. I am a carnivore like you and will go back to Dirt Candy to try out more dishes!

          2. Maybe my taste is changing more and more towards simple and even peasant over the years, as I find that I would rather eat at the Veggie Dim Sum on Pell street than places like Hangawi or Franchia. To me, Hangawi and Franchia are more about concept than actual tastiness. I haven't been to Hangawi in a few years, but just went to Franchia a couple of nights ago.
            I had high hopes for the Tofu with Roast kabocha pumpkin, but the pumpkin either wasn't really kabocha or was undercooked. It was crispy instead of the usual earthy richness. (*Edit: I like my kabocha like the steamed version that Ozu serves - plain but so natually wholesome! sauce was a cleaner version of the not so original "sweet & sour" type that many of the vegetarian restaurants use on too many of their dish. (if i recall correctly, Hangawi less so than Franchia). The spicy meatballs had that same sweet taste in its sauce. It's the equivalent of the "brown gloppy sauce" in the Americanized Chinese restaurants.

            Franchia IS a nice space. I like the way the nice and effective hot water thermos that they give you with the tea. I tasted good potential in the Korean green tea that I ordered (one of the ones from the mountains) and think that I might be able to bring out the nice finish if I got some leaves to make at home. I liked the sushi and how the rice was cooked perfectly. It is rare to get such good quality rice in general. and especially to get such variety of vegetarian sushi and rolls at that! So that would be what I'd go for. The pancakes sampler were all good, too- kimchi, scallion, and ....I forget the 3rd. The dumpling sampler wasn't as impressive and kind of represent the non-taste trend of most vegetarian/health-food restaurants to me. Maybe if we had them deep fried instead of steamed it would have been better. Though, thinking about it now, I think if the skins weren't so thin and sterile tasting they could have offered us a pan-frying option; if the skins were freshly made it might even make the whole dumpling taste better.

            The coconut and blueberry cake was a winner - moist, rich, good toasty coconut flavor, and sweetened just right. I'd go back for that.

            Anyhow, for what it's worth, this is just the impression of someone who used to be a vegatarian for 12 years, but now a carnivore.

            1 Reply
            1. re: HLing

              For what it's worth, I cast my vote for Hangawi over Franchia. It makes a great first impression. Out of all the traditional veggie places in NYC I think it's the best.