Beyond an ordinary facade lies this serene, shoes-off retreat with traditional low tables, Korean artifacts, and meditative music. Said footwear is stored in cubbies, seating is the color of bamboo, and clay teapots adorn the back wall.
The setting is soothing, but the atmosphere is surprisingly convivial, with groups gabbing over stuffed shiitake mushrooms and green tea.
The ssam bap offers a fun DIY experience with a long platter of fillings. Dark leafy lettuce and thin, herbaceous sesame leaves are topped with creamy slices of avocado, crunchy bean sprouts, pickled daikon, carrot, cucumber, radish, and three rice options-white, brown, and a nutty, purple-tinged multigrain. Topped with miso ssam sauce, each bite is a fresh burst of uplifting textures.
"... A meal at HanGawi is an experience of all the senses, a chance to escape, if only for a little while, the stress and bustle of New York City. If you like to travel to exotic places, consider a trip to 32nd Street ... The oversize door is an entrance to another world, an invitation to a place where nothing is familiar... We live in a time when each encounter with food can be a global experience. But HanGawi reminds you of the exotic nature of each bite as you take it. In the process, time seems to vanish. It is rare to be able to travel so far so fast, so inexpensively..."
"Leaving HanGawi, I felt cleansed and refreshed, as if I had come from a spa instead of a new vegetarian Korean restaurant. This is partly because the experience of eating in that calm, elegant space with its smooth wooden bowls and heavy ceramic cups is so utterly peaceful. And partly because even after a two-hour meal of many courses my body still felt buoyant..."
"...The food is amazing: elegantly presented and olfactorily expansive, these root, mushroom and squash confections are a rare combination of exotic and delicious that amply rewards a tiny bit of adventurousness..."
"Can a restaurant be a spiritual place? Of course it can, especially if its owners are people like Ryoon and Terri Choi, whose native Korean mountains and villages inspire the restaurant. The interior is reminiscent of a Korean temple with traditional pillars, natural wood, stone and copper. HanGawi calls itself "A vegetarian shrine in another space and time." When you grasp the iron ring on its mahogany door, be prepared to enter not just a gourmet Korean vegetarian restaurant, but a sanctuary as well..."