Monday, March 3, 2014

Eating in Midtown: Hanbat

   Midtown is the center for most hotels and visitors in NYC. It's also the nation's largest business/commercial district. Unfortunately for most visitors staying in Midtown, the confluence of hotels and offices means that there aren't many of the casual, reliable, and affordable eateries nearby their hotels. So every now and then, I'll highlight a casual midtown eatery I enjoy. Today, Hanbat on W. 35th Street



   Koreatown is a small area of businesses, hotels, and restaurants run by the Korean-American community in New York City. It mainly consists of 35th, 33rd, and 32nd streets between 5th and 6th Avenues. The area is actually not a Korean immigrant community but more of a Korean business community. It makes sense since a large number of Koreans live in Northeast Queens and take the Long Island Railroad into the city, and Koreatown is a short walk from Penn Station. So while you won't find much in the way of the street markets of Chinatown, there are lots of restaurants and bars.
   Hanbat has been a favorite of my wife dating back to when she worked nearby on Madison Avenue. It was the most popular Korean spot for she and her coworkers, and I have since been won over too. And when it really hits the spot is on a cold winter day when you need something to really warm you up. That's when you need a heaping bowl of bibimbap. It's a staple of Korean food that involves a big iron bowl of meat, rice, carrots, daikon radish, zucchini, and other delicious vegetables. Usually an egg is then cracked over the top and allowed to cook as you stir the dish together. Add some chili sauce to the mix and you have a dish that will warm the coldest heart. And best of all, when you reach the end, lots of the rice will have crusted itself to the bowl and you can scrape it off to finish the dish with the crispy rice leftovers. And if that's not enough to warm you up, there's always unending tea on your table as well.
   The decor isn't fancy, but it does manage to evoke a traditional Korean teahouse without being too cheesy. The prices are moderate and good value considering how large the dishes are. Not to mention you get a complementary sampling of banchan, which are cold side dishes, to start the meal. There's other good dishes, like the seafood pancakes or stews. I will admit to not being an expert in Korean food or even having had a wide selection of dishes here since I love the bibimbap so much. But every time I'm here, there's a good crowd of people mostly made up of local Korean workers, so I will let that stand as further recommendation. There's so few reasonable options in the area that a restaurant doesn't have to be destination-worthy. It just has to be reasonably priced, delicious, and competent. And Hanbat is all those things.

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