A Korean Thanksgiving

My family was in town this past Thanksgiving. This was their first time in New York, their first time seeing Dustin and I in our humble apartment, and their first vegan Thanksgiving. I couldn't be more excited to show them around. As most vegans could attest, there is a certain pressure to impress your non-vegan friends when you tell them you're taking them to a vegan restaurant, especially your non-vegan family.  This was my chance to show them a different side of vegan cuisine. And I knew just the place to take them.

I like to think of HanGawi as my own little secret. Like a trail off the beaten path, HanGawi is worth discovering; a sanctuary right in the middle of Koreatown. In fact, I have only taken a select few people to this place. (It's that special.) From the moment you step in and walk past the gigantic mahogany door and into the hallway, you are greeted by the hostess who kindly requests you to take off your shoes, while assuring you that they will be well taken care of in your absence.

As you walk barefoot to your table, you notice the traditional Korean-inspired decor around you, from the low wooden tables to the traditional plates and tea pots that live behind a glass display, as if they are priceless artifacts in a museum. There's a certain spirituality imbued in HanGawi, which roughly translates to Thanksgiving (in the Westerner's sense), and you immediately get this feeling the moment you "sit" at your table. 

HanGawi-14.jpg
HanGawi-4.jpg
HanGawi-16.jpg

For our dinner, we spared no expense. I wanted this to be a memorable experience for my family and I made sure of it. All 6 of us signed up for the Emperor's Prix Fixe Tasting Menu, which consists of 2 starters, 2 appetizers, an entrĂ©e, and the chef's choice of dessert. While it might not sound like much, this 6 course menu ended up being a solid 3 hour dinner. But the beauty of it all was that nobody cared. Time flew by as my family drank the freshly-picked herbal teas (highly recommended), while Dustin and I switched between soju cocktails and our new favorite Korean beer, Kloud. 

 Bell flower root and celery salad with mixed greens, persimmon, and cucumber in Korean apricot dressing.

Bell flower root and celery salad with mixed greens, persimmon, and cucumber in Korean apricot dressing.

 Stuffed persimmon, crispy vegetable cake, yam and sesame leaf rolls in almond lemon sauce, and lotus koroake.

Stuffed persimmon, crispy vegetable cake, yam and sesame leaf rolls in almond lemon sauce, and lotus koroake.

 Tofu pizza and leek pancakes.

Tofu pizza and leek pancakes.

 Crispy eggplant in sweet and sour sauce.

Crispy eggplant in sweet and sour sauce.

 Maitake mushrooms and spinach with vegetable stone bowl rice. 

Maitake mushrooms and spinach with vegetable stone bowl rice. 

 Chef's choice of dessert.

Chef's choice of dessert.

Between the amazing traditional Korean food and the incredibly unique ambience, HanGawi is a place that everyone needs to experience, vegan or not. Even with all the food we ate (everybody's plate was licked clean), we all felt content when we left. Maybe it was the impeccable service or the well-timed courses or the great company, but whenever I eat at HanGawi I always leave feeling satisfied, not stuffed.

By the end of the night, everybody's faces were beaming and we all let out a collective sigh of relief. It was a sign of a great dinner and truly a night to be thankful for. And then, just as I thought the dinner couldn't be more perfect, it started snowing.

Have you been to HanGawi before? Tell us your experience in the comments section below. If you haven't, what are you waiting for? For reservations, which are recommended, visit their website here.