Korean romance in the Flatiron: Hanjan
Other than Eataly, Nomad and the Ace Hotel there aren't many spots in the Flatiron that I'd want to hang out at, at least that I'm aware of. After a night at Hanjan, on 26th Street between Broadway and 6th Avenue, I now have the ideal location for eating–and for romance.
The stretch of 26th Street that Hanjan is located on is dark and, other than a few random sportswear shops and a lonely barbecue joint, the street is empty of any active storefronts. If you're not careful you might walk right past Hanjan, so subtle is their lighting. But, once you're up the stairs and inside, you'll be kissing the gods of subtlety for their deft hand at illumination.
First, you'll notice the long bar, good for sitting and eating or for sitting and drinking. Then you'll notice a long communal table taking up the center of the restaurant. And last you'll see there are booths on one side and intimate tables for two on the other. It's the perfect shoebox-sized restaurant good for any occasion.
Like Danji, Hooni Kim's first restaurant in Midtown, Manhattan, the menu at Hanjan lists both traditional and modern Korean bites, like an Izakaya joint in Japan or the eastern version of a Spanish tapas bar. Almost every dish features meat so I'll just say straight away that you should not come if you're a vegetarian. This is the kind of place you go if you can hang with pork or bulgogi or brisket or chicken wings.
I went with one other person and we ordered four dishes, plus an excellent side of kimchi that included a duo of cabbage and daikon. Our first dish, pork fat ‘Ddukbokki’ or should I say spicy ricecake and fishcake something or other. It was hands down our favorite dish, to the point where we each tracked how much we ate so we dared not be short changed. I don't know what it is about rice cakes, they're chewy and strange, sort of like meat but not, it just takes on any taste you want. As a diabetic I'm curious how it affects my blood sugar but so far it seems to act like a simple protein, even though all it is is carbohydrates.
Next we shared the BBQ galbi skewers which were tasty little bites of steak that went fast and an extremely uninteresting mushroom and scallion skewer that could use some reinvention. The fried chicken, somehow removed of its bones, is rich and tasty and had me licking my fingers. I don't know if I would order it again but it was tasty and delivered fat to my taste buds the way all good fried chicken should.
Our last dish, a spicy octopus stir fry, was the main miss on the menu for me. Too saturated in its spicy sauce that I had a hard time distinguishing any single element. The octopus was also a little too hard and too dense. I'd suggest adding more vegetables for some pops of alternating texture and cutting back on the sauce. But then again, I'm not paid to cook. I pay to eat.
What Hanjan comes down to is this: it's a wonderful place to spend an hour or two, a hidden gem with great atmosphere. I say bring a date and bring your appetite for adventurous foods.