Sometimes, when we discover a great new restaurant, we like to imagine ourselves as old Hollywood agents who’ve just discovered new talent.
“Barry!” we’d say in that old very pronounced way they talk in old movies, probably while smoking a cigar. “I found a star.”
Today, that star is Her Name Is Han. And for right now, you’re going to be Barry. (Sorry about that.)
Her Name Is Han has a lot of star potential. First, a great name – the perfect trifecta of memorable, unusual, and fun to say. Second, a great look – the place looks like something between a library, an East Village apartment, and a movie studio. It totally works. Third, and most important, both the food and the overall vibe are excellent, and unlike that of any others we’ve found in New York.
Han specializes in homestyle Korean food – which means everything from seafood stews, to plates of spicy pork, to noodle soups, to pan-fried dried fish that tastes like candy. All of it feels incredibly fresh and even light, an unusual combination when you’re eating food that’s spicy and fermented. No matter what we order here, it tends to be great.
Located a block away from the heart of the bright neon lights of Koreatown, Han is relatively laid back, but everyone here always seems to be having fun. Maybe it’s the $27 bottles of grapefruit and blueberry-infused, house-brewed soju, or the $6 soju cocktails. Maybe it’s the improbably great soul/jazz soundtrack that we Shazam-ed numerous times. Either way, it’s the kind of restaurant you walk out of happy, wanting to tell all your friends about it. So Barry, when are we taking you to Han?
This big, bubbling cauldron of shrimp, crab, clams, and beef dumplings is the audition tape that made us realize Han was going to be a star. The seafood and the intense, flavorful broth make you a believer, but the dumplings seal the deal. Come with a group, and make this the centerpiece of your table.
These chewy rice cakes – the gnocchi of Korean food – are excellent. Rather than drowning in sauce like other versions we’ve had, these have a lighter touch. The squash rounds the whole dish out nicely.
These spicy red strands of pork look and taste great. Like most of the food here, it’s lighter than it sounds.
The stews are the star, but if you’re with a smaller group or don’t want to share, the smaller noodle soups are a good way to go. That said, you can also get one to share – they’ll bring smaller bowls to portion it out. If you can, add dumplings.
The lone dish we wouldn’t order again. These are a lot like Middle Eastern grape leaves, with some bulgogi beef. They’re not bad, but they didn’t do much for us.
A bunch of julienned vegetables (well, nine kinds, actually) in a stone pot over rice, this dish is essentially a vegetarian bibimbap. We liked it as a simpler dish to go along with some of the more intense ones.
We usually reserve the word “complicated” for our Facebook relationship status, but damn if this isn’t complex: it’s tangy, sweet, savory, chewy, and crispy.