It was one of those wildly premature excitements we experienced when we pulled over at 8 pm Saturday in front of 2 week old Nishi. No line, on the worst time possible to visit the hottest restaurant on the east coast right now. “Its gonna be about 10 or so” he says, “Oh, 10 minutes? thats great” “No, I mean we can sit you at 10! But its most likely gonna be 10:30”. They just began a texting service… well whoop dee freakin doo. Thats about 90 minutes more than I’m willing to wait with a kid. Strong plan B it is.
Something tells me the great Hooni Kim doesnt mind the plan B tag here considering plan A was the latest David Chang (Momofuku) venture that is taking the city by the Chaloopas. To give you an idea, the buzz on Nishi started before there was even any sign of a Nishi or anything else really. No one knew what its gonna be. The buzz started when Momofuku took on a lease on the space in Chelsea. Z-List winner Jun-Men Ramen was another plan B contender since Mrs Ziggy still hasnt been (I’ve been 4 times). But after flirting with Danji about a dozen times, I figured it was time to check out its younger sister, who coincidentally also keeps her goodies in her drawers!
Hanjan, albeit newer, is more rustic and casual than Danji. Communal table in the middle flanked by rows of individual tables with semi comfortable couches (chairs are more comfy), with dim lighting (I think its about time restaurants create blogger/vision impaired spots with ample lighting) contribute to the fun vibe. As with Danji, the focus is on locally sourced, sustainable seasonal ingredients from local farms. As I’ve been saying for a while, Farm-to-Table is a funny concept considering there are so many places doing the same thing but not billing themselves as such. Any good ingredient driven establishment like Danji, Hanjan, and many all over town are essentially Farm-to-Table. But I have zero issues with those places like The Marshal that call themselves as such to separate from the competitors nearby
Started this one with a bang. Kim’s take on Ddukbokki, Spicy Rice cake w. Pork Fat and fishcakes. I thought I’ve had all the various shapes and textures of Korean/Chinese rice cakes but I guess I was wrong. This one was “meatier”, chewier texture smothered with that classic intense Korean hot, sour, sweet chili sauce. Very good and Mrs Z, and youngest favorite of the night, though I still prefer the Gnocchi like porkiness of Ssam Bar which is in a league of its own (yet another disagreement with these guys). Pork and shrimp fried dumplings tasted much better than they looked. Spicy Chicken Thigh Skewers were good if not slightly overcooked (slightly). Hanjan gets its chicken from a top Brooklyn purveyor, freshly killed over the last 24 hours, so never frozen.
BBQ Wagyu Short Rib comes as part of a Ssam set of goodies was a high quality, nicely marbled piece of meat. Good, but not particularly as memorable as the next dish. Long time EWZ historians know how fond I am of a nicely constructed fried rice dish, and this was one of the best I’ve had in NYC. Kimchi & Beef Brisket Fried Rice with a fried egg delivered big time flavors with nice socarrat action. The key here was little crunchy cubes of Kimchi pickled Daikon (Korean radish) that tied all the flavors together.
36 W 26th St
Reccommended Dishes: Rice Cakes, Dumplings, Short Rib, Fried Rice