One of the few Asian restaurants I’m intrigued recently is the newly opened modern Korean restaurant Hwaban in Chelsea. Hwaban is easily the best choice if you want a refined, tasty meal and the serene atmosphere that has a generally casual air is much appreciated since there aren’t many options out there that fits the bill (unless it’s very expensive).
Entering the restaurant without a sign indicating the restaurant, it’s a lovely yet minimalist decor. Lots of white with touches of warm wood and small vases of fresh flowers on each table for splashes of color.
Though this restaurant is nearing two weeks old, their food speaks to the Korean palate that is health oriented yet delivers lots of flavor but it’s prettily plated. The sweet shrimp crudo salad 단새우 샐러드 with frozen tomato sphere and Korean pear, cucumber, scallion, and Osetra caviar is a stunner besides the looks. There’s a beautiful mix of sweet, briny, slightly acidic and bitter flavors and the bits of subtle crunchy textures from the pear works wonders. It pairs perfectly with the fruity and pleasantly acidic glass of Domaine Faiveley Bourgogne Blanc 2015. The scallop crudo 가리비냉채 with apple, asparagus salad with mustard dressing has more earthy bitterness compared to the shrimp crudo but it’s refreshing with a touch of sweet spiciness from the mustard dressing and the scallops were very fresh and sweet.
The seared bass on a mild mackerel broth with pickled onions and mushrooms, tomatoes brûlée and pickled mushrooms with buttered soy sauce is a good light main course option. The bass skin was seared to a crisp, golden brown and the flesh cooked well. The fish broth isn’t too fishy yet gave the dish some backbone reinforcing the idea this is a pescatarian dish. The tomatoes and pickled mushrooms added some bright acidity. The stir fried rice cake with sweet soy sauce 궁중떡볶이 topped with rib eye steak was an elegant take to a traditional Korean dish. The rice cake noodles were wonderfully chewy and sweet from the sauce and the slices of tender medium-rare steak added some heft.
I am sure if you check the Internet and social media for this restaurant’s dessert, most of the galleries would be filled with the prettily buttercream frosted cakes that would vary in flavor as time goes. While I do like cake, I am not a big fan of frosting (it tends to be too heavy and sweet for my preference) hence my choice for the tropical pavlova. This classic baked meringue dessert is my preference for a hot late summer evening since it isn’t too sweet and the passion fruit and mango flavors just peek through the creamy vanilla chantilly.
Overall, this restaurant is solid given how young it is. The food is refined and delicious yet still deeply rooted in traditional Korean flavors and plated beautifully. The staff is friendly and knows the menu well. There were small errors like the waiter didn’t ask me if I wanted to see the dessert menu or if I wanted coffee or tea with my dessert but otherwise a very pleasant experience. The very sweet husband and wife co-owners walked to each table and asked how was everything.
To view more photos of this visit, please view the gallery below or CLICK HERE for the photo set:
55 W 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (917) 261-2020