Hanon is not a place to come with someone who says “awkward silence” whenever there’s an awkward silence. At this Japanese spot in Williamsburg, there’s not much by way of atmosphere - it doesn’t have a liquor license (yet), and a low-key coffee shop playlist is on the speakers. It’s a bright, narrow space where you could sit alone at the bar and think about all the better ways you could have responded to your CEO’s “hey” in the elevator this afternoon, or get a low-commitment meal with friends before heading to Union Pool or Rocka Rolla a block away.
If that makes Hanon sound like an easy spot to have a casual, affordable meal, that’s because it is. But you shouldn’t come here just because it’s convenient. You should come here because it’s convenient, and it serves some of the best udon in the city.
The menu at Hanon appears to be fairly straightforward. Except for a few appetizers, it’s entirely made up of different types of udon. But you could go to Hanon for a week straight, order udon every night, and feel like you’re having a completely different experience each time. The 20 variations include one, or sometimes both, of the two types of housemade noodles - a whole wheat variety and a green version made with barley shoots and bamboo - which have distinctly different flavors and textures, and are supposedly healthier than traditional udon noodles. They’re both delicious, and are served in either hot soup or chilled on a bamboo mat with DIY dipping sauces. After you select your udon, which comes with set mix-ins like duck breast or sea urchin, you can choose optional add-ons. We like the tempura that seems to be wearing a crunchy wetsuit to keep it from getting soggy in the not-too-salty broth.
Between the various choices of noodles, temperatures, dips, and toppings, trying to figure out the number of ordering options would probably require a TI-84. Make things easier on yourself by focusing on the ones served in hot dashi-based broth, which come with the grainy-but-still-tender wheat noodles, and should be tested as a cure for the common cold. Of the hot options, the best is the curry udon that’s so rich you might not even notice all the washugyu beef, which makes the huge portion seem like an even better deal at $18. If you want to try a brothless variety, go with mentaiko udon, a pile of springy whole wheat noodles tossed with seaweed and creamy, spicy cod roe. Each bite has so much briny roe that you’ll finally understand why your dog is so happy when she hangs her head out the window on the drive to the beach.
Not only are there a ton of udon variations here, but each one has layers and combinations of flavors that you might only pick up on after trying it for the second or sixth time. So whether you find something you really love and make it your “usual” order, or you buy a graphing calculator and work your way through the whole menu, you can’t go wrong. Both are totally acceptable tactics at your go-to neighborhood spot. And after trying the food, that’s exactly what you’ll want Hanon to be. Even if you don’t live in the neighborhood.
Japanese Fried Chicken
The bites of juicy, lightly dusted fried chicken are delicious and this appetizer should be on your table. But don’t be tempted by the red peppers lying off to the side. They’ll ruin your night.
Ordering a big slab of egg may not sound like the most exciting way to start dinner, but it’s exactly what you should do here. The tender slices of tamago are packed with spices, and they’re so rich that they actually taste fishy (in a good way, if you’re into fish).
You could order the cabbage steak without any cabbage steak, and this would still be very good. The unmemorable cabbage comes in a very memorable sauce that’s thick and full of chunks of seafood. It’s almost worth ordering this just for the sauce, but at $16, you might as well try another udon instead.
The thick whole wheat noodles snap when you bite into them, and are coated in rich, spicy mayo. The mayo gives it a nice creamy texture, and the seaweed and massive amount of briny cod roe basically make it a phenomenal seafood pasta.
Cold Seiro Udon
The left side of the udon menu here is made up of dipping noodles. These dishes include either or both of the two noodle varieties, which you dip in various sauces or bowls of dashi. The seiro tasting set is a good way to try all of the sauces and some tempura, but the best option on this side of the menu is the kamo seiro. The noodles are served alongside a big bowl of hot soup with slices of meaty duck breast that order as a stand-alone entree if we could.
Meanwhile, the udon on the right side of the menu comes floating in bowls of hot soup when it’s served. The curry udon alone makes Hanon a must-visit. It comes with tender pieces of washugyu beef, which are delicious, but you’ll barely even notice them once you taste the thick, oniony broth that’ll make you long for shtty weather just so you can drink this straight out of the bowl to make you feel better.