Hanjan, Hooni Kim’s second restaurant, has a menu centered around the idea of an old-school Korean tavern (called a joomak), with food and a setting meant to nourish and comfort and replenish, dishes to be eaten while drinking. Which is great, even though I don’t really drink, because there are some great flavors in Korean pub food. And the space is cozy and warm, with long stretches of wood, including a communal table in the middle of the dining floor, and surprisingly comfortable high-backed chairs along the walls.
The menu is split in a few sections, including a ‘Traditional’ and ‘Modern’ part, as well as a list of skewers and side dishes. We started with a simple kimchi duo of bok choy and cucumbers. A basket of ggen-yip jeon (crispy perilla leaves with minced pork and shrimp), which was pleasantly light, almost like a well-done tempura, with a pop of savory. The batter, which would reappear later with the scallion pancake, wasn’t overly greasy and had an excellent crunch. Then, a plate of fried chicken with pickles, all dark meat. Pickled daikons and chili peppers made for nice bursts of sweetness and spice when desired.Next up, two orders of skewers – the BBQ galbi short ribs and the spicy pork belly, served with a bit of funkier-than-usual ssamjang and garlic. The spicy-sweet marinade on the pork belly was especially delicious. Carefully cut and skewered and grilled to a relatively minimal but precise and uniform level of char, these high-quality pieces are no slapdash Korean BBQ. Two of my favorite dishes were the last two: kimchi and beef brisket fried rice, with a fried egg up top, and a phenomenal scallion pancake with fresh squid. The rice, brought on a hot skillet plate, was supercharged, from the fatty cubes of brisket as well as the perfectly multitudinous flavors of the pickled radish.The pancake was a wonderful departure from the thin, doughy seafood pancakes of other Korean places – this one was almost a full-on tempura (or a savory round of funnel cake), airy and aromatic, and while the large cuts of scallion and squid were still held together by the batter, it was still these fresh stalks of green on visual display. Hanjan (menu, NYTimes)
36 W. 26th St., New York, NY 10010