Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bare Feet and Spectacular Eats

Last night began my odyssey of four restaurant meals over the next five days. It was an experience to say the least! We were dining with two of the husband's clients and they had chosen the venue: Hangawi, a Korean Vegetarian restaurant located in "Korea Town" on 32nd Street. Diva that I am, I never miss an opportunity to voice my displeasure - kind of goes hand and hand with the territory - and last night was no exception. The complaining started early when I read in the Zagat Guide that shoes were "not allowed" in the restaurant. What?!? Its 4,000 degrees out and I had planned to wear some strappy sandals, sans socks, of course. I don't think I like the sound of this.

Knowing full well that I can't seem to go 5 minutes without visiting the loo, I tucked some dainty socklets into my purse ... knowing also that, germophoe that I am, I have NO intention of visiting ANY ladies' room in bare feet. Not gonna happen. (Clean and pretty as the facilities were, I was well-pleased with my advance preparation!)

Upon arrival I was further displeased to find that a.) the air conditioning was less than optimal, and b.) the tables were of the traditional Korean variety ... meaning that they are about an inch off the ground, with a deep well underneath for your legs. Are you kidding me? In order to dine I must contort myself, crawl into a hole, and sit on a backless bench ... with bare feet? My knees and I are not amused. Even if I can manage to "sit down", who knows how and if I'll get back up. Oh, and just for laughs, I need to somehow negotiate this maneuver without mooning the joint ... I was wearing a short summery dress. Great. Not. Fortunately I was able to preserve my dignity. Small wonder, that.

At this point I'm hot, starved, confused, and woefully anticipating a meal of hemp bark and lotus root ... and let's just say that the husband was less than thrilled with my company. Sounds like the makings of a great night, right? Here's the shock ... it was! Hangawi is heading straight to the top of my list of new favorites. Once I was able to relax and cool off, I realized that this was a supremely tranquil space and entirely conducive to intimate conversation and pleasurable dining. The restaurant is quiet and beautiful, the staff is gracious, attentive and helpful, and the menu - odd as it may be - is delightful. Its full of exquisitely prepared vegan dishes - and if that sounds like some sort of oxymoron, trust me, it isn't.

The food at Hangawi is beautifully presented and lovingly crafted with an eye towards health and wellness. Perfect for a Diva on a diet! I began with an appetizer of cabbage rolls - they're somewhat akin to a spring roll - but soooo much better! The filling was composed of sliced pears, raw red bell pepper strips, fresh tofu and something else I can't recall ... all wrapped neatly in some crunchy, raw cabbage leaves and topped with a delicate drizzle of spicy/savory sauce. Outstanding! I followed that with the "Organic Brown Rice Stone Bowl" - which I gather is one of their specialties. Served in a heavy stone bowl, the savory rice was mixed with all manner of delicious vegetables, a bit of tofu, and again topped with a spicy/savory sauce. The waiter adds the sauce at table, to your specifications, and this is a nice touch. Can I just tell you that this rice dish is to-die-for?! I wish I could have some tonight and I'm going to want some tomorrow too. It was *that* good.

I suppose I should note, for the record, that all of my whining was done prior to the arrival of our dinner companions. I may be a Diva, but I'm certainly not uncivilized. We had a lovely evening and everyone seemed to enjoy both the food and the company. I'm thrilled that we were introduced to a new and exotic restaurant and I was pleased to tell the clients so. Like so many other occasions in my life - what began with displeasure, ended in jubilation. You'd think I'd have learned that lesson by now and skip the Diva moments at the beginning ... but you'd be wrong. I yam what I yam ... and I am eagerly anticipating my next visit to Hangawi.


pixelgal said...

As long as you didn't eat the Kim Chee (or Chi)! One night when feeling adventurous I tried it and was never the same after that. My palate was numbed and I couldn't taste anything for weeks...well days at least. But the restaurant sounds good. Let's go there sometime when we're in the city.
P. S. How about them Yankees!!!

Deb said...

You're killing me, I had supper but the food you described sounds great and is making me hungry! I don't have any similar restaurant here in Tampa so I'll just have to live vicariously through you Diva



Don't - you're making me hungry. I'm glad you had a nice meal after the panic you suffered after learning about the shoes/toilets situation. I daresay I would have been a bit skeptical too but as long as the food is good...

Hah, thanks for the lovely comments on my blog. Things like that make it worth it.

P.S. Can I add you to my blogroll? I love your little restaurant hoppings and recipes and wouldn't want to miss out (despite the fact I'm a horrible cook)

The Diva on a Diet said...

pixelgal - Hey, I like Kim Chee! I know its spicy though. We didn't have any on Wed. night. Would love to take you there sometime!

Deb - you can always come and visit and I'll take you there!

jamjarsuperstar - so nice to see you again. Of course you can add me to your blogroll - that would be much appreciated! I'll add you to mine as well. Nice!

Kat said...

Reading your story was an amazing inspiration. I recently had to go gluten and dairy free (I have yet to implement the strategy, as I am waiting for my cookbooks) and being OBSESSED with dairy I am fearful of what I will be eating. Though hearing these vgan/vegetarian delights just added Koren to the top of my recipe search.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Hi Kat - and thanks for the lovely comments! I so appreciate them.

Good luck on your new gluten and dairy free life-style ... come back and tell us how it goes. I'm going to launch a full-scale investigation of that brown rice bowl dish and see if I can find a recipe. If I do, I'll be sure to post it and let you know. I'd love to be able to make it at home.