The Korean-born Chef Hooni Kim was at some point of his life destined to be Dr. Hooni Kim! He indeed went to medical school when he realized that the title “Chef” was a better fit for him. He came back to New York City where he had grown up and studied at the French Culinary Institute, now called the International Culinary Center.
Hanjan is Chef Kim’s second restaurant in NYC; the first one, Danji, he opened in 2011. I tried both; both offer contemporary Korean-based cuisine set in a modern decor. Although quite similar, I have a little preference for Hanjan, The decor is warm and welcoming; the floor, the tables, the benches, the bar, and the shelves are all made of dark brown wood. The use of raw materials such as thick rope, metal beams, concrete walls, and old-fashioned light bulbs give an industrial style to the restaurant. The light is felted, which gives a cozy feeling to the restaurant and makes a few elements stick out, such as the white leather chairs, the white napkins, and the white ceramics on the grey walls.
Chef Hooni Kim is proud to cook with healthy products: meat without antibiotics and hormones, wild caught fish, and Amish chicken butchered every morning in Brooklyn described in the menu as “fresh killed chicken”!
The layout of the menu is well thought out, it’s divided into five categories: small cold to share, small hot to share, large to share, and rice & noodles to finish. A separate page is dedicated to the “fresh killed” chicken. It is a smart way to invite the patrons to order at least one dish from each category. Believe me, you will really want to because everything looks so delicious.
We ordered the grilled half mackerel; it came with half a head indeed. The meat was tender and very juicy. The spicy & crispy Montauk squid was quite spicy and very tasty. The squid was not chewy at all, a sign of freshness. We also ordered the oyster meat (chicken) skewers and the seafood & scallions pancake.
The 150-day aged kimchi & Pork stew Kimchi-jjigae was excellent. Kimchi-jjigae is a Korean stew made with kimchi, scallions, onions, diced tofu, and pork or seafood. It is one of the most common jjigae (stew) in Korea.
Be aware that the dish is quite hot at Hanjan, especially if you are not used to eating spicy.
We had dry sake – Hakkaisan – with black Edamame at the bar while waiting for our guests to arrive and a Spanish red wine -Toro – to pair with our dinner.
Hmm, writing about all this great food makes me want to make right away a reservation at Hanjan!
36 W 26th St, New York
Small to share: $14
Large to share: $26
Fresh killed chicken: $13
Lunch : Monday – Friday, noon until 2:30pm
Dinner : Open everyday
Bar : 5pm until 1am