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Hangawi: a vegetarian shrine in another space and time
12 East 32nd Street (between 5th and Madison Ave.), New York (near Penn
25 July 2000
Behind big oak doors lie this gourmet vegetarian Korean restaurant. It was next door to The Avalon hotel where I was staying. My ex-colleague suggested it. He insisted on the emperor set menu for two.
"Are you sure it's not too much?"
No, he assured me as we took our shoes off and moved to our reserved table. The floor was polished and clean. We sat next to a couple of older women.
The appetisers came first. Each presentation was a piece of art. I was almost afraid to touch the delicate forms. "You can eat the flowers, too," my friend chewed on the decorations. I had only come across such a setting in Tokyo. Yet here was this little secret, right next to my hotel.
Good vegetarian food does not encroach. It does not remind you that it is vegetarian. I tasted fruit, vegetable, nut, wild rice, and other natural treasures finetuned in traditional Korean style. It was even better than the Zen Palette another friend had taken me a year before. I was fascinated then. Hangawi is a new experience, topping the gourmet vegetarian cuisine I had in Hammersmith, London (in a converted church).