Upscale Korean restaurant Hansik Goo reopened recently at a brand-new location in Central at The Wellington, in good company with two other restaurants, Miss Lee and Whey, all under ZS Hospitality Group at the same address.
Opened originally in a tumultuous 2020 on Lyndhurst Terrace by lauded chef Mingoo Kang, who headlines two-Michelin-starred Mingles in Seoul, Hansik Goo’s menu is built on the bones of traditional Korean cuisine, using modern interpretations. What diners experience at the restaurant is a unique brand of “fine-casual” cuisine, marrying authentic Korean gastronomy with fine-dining finesse – or, as Chef Kang describes it, “discovering newness in familiarity”.
The new location means an upgraded and bigger kitchen, which allows for more complex, refined executions. The kitchen team now includes several young Korean culinary talents who trained with Chef Kang at Mingles in Seoul.
Whilst the interior of the original Hansik Goo was trendy and modern, the new Hansik Goo evokes the warmth of a traditional Korean kitchen, or bu-eok. Designed by Korean design studio Area Plus, the large space features authentic Korean elements such as dark wood pillars and an entrance window shrouded in fabric. Natural earth tones are reminiscent of the soil foundations of traditional Korean houses, offset by minimalist white walls and modern furniture with clean lines.
In addition to the spacious main dining room, there are also two private rooms, each with a capacity for 10 guests and the ability to be combined to form one larger room. But even with this doubling of space, the 65-seat restaurant is still full each day, with waiting lists now extending until mid-November.
Sool, or Korean alcoholic beverages, comes hand in hand with a great Korean meal. Hansik Goo offers an extensive wine list and a pairing menu curated by the world’s first Korean Master Sommelier, Kim Kyung Moon, but we opted for a Korean rice wine, Ellyeop Pyunjoo ($990/375ml), staying on the side of tradition. This rice wine derives its name from a poem written by famous scholar Nongam Lee Hyun-Bo from the Joseon Dynasty and is thick and subtly sweet, with a hint of peach aroma.
There are also enticing-sounding cocktails like the Jang-fashioned, a blend of doenjang butter whisky and maple syrup. We will have to save this for our next visit!
The new menu draws inspirations from Korean royal cuisine as well as everyday home cooking. Our meal began with abalone juk to warm up the stomach. This creamy, smooth porridge is soothing and incredibly comforting. Abalone meat, green onion and abalone liver add complexity, while the caviar accentuates the flavours with pops of brininess.
A trio of accompaniments is served alongside the abalone porridge, ranging from crispy fried seaweed (bugak), to a type of pressed cookie made with angelica and shrimp (dasik), to beef jerky (yuk-po). The beef jerky was a delicious surprise – we weren't expecting so much juicy flavour from that tiny triangle of meat!
The hweh course consists of raw seafood and meat dressed with Korean condiments. We were advised to start with the amberjack rolled around a green plum (maesil). The delicate white fish pairs well with the sweet acidity of the plum and the robust flavour of the soybean paste. The slices of squid have a chewy, addictively gooey and sticky texture, and the accompanying seaweed brings out even more notes of the sea. The Hanwoo beef carpaccio is given a dash of sweetness and crunch with spears of Korean pear, and the strong flavour of the rich mackerel is countered by the tartness of two-year-old kimchi.
A dish often served in the royal household, the cabbage ssam is rolled cabbage dumplings filled with minced shrimp. A nod to traditional royal cuisine, the delicate cabbage-leaf dumplings have a bouncy texture thanks to the plump shrimp within and are served with sugar peas and the most addictive white bean soup. The silky, creamy soup, made entirely from finely milled white beans, coats the mouth with incredible texture and flavour. We could have easily gulped down several more ladlefuls of this!
The fish mandu is another Korean-style dumpling that uses fish as the wrapping. Local sea perch is wrapped around tofu and two-year-old kimchi and topped with a woven crown of Korean mustard and courgette threads. The tart undertone from the kimchi is a pleasant contrast to the soft, yielding fish and tofu, making this a perfect union of fresh and fermented ingredients.
Cheekily named samgye risotto 2.0, this signature of Hansik Goo has been given a makeover from the previous soupier version. The rolled chicken, infused with delicate notes of ginseng and rolled around a mushroom-mousse centre, is encircled within a crisp seaweed shell. The gooey risotto has the addictively glutinous texture of sticky rice and is accompanied by earthy shiitake and garlic slivers. We were thankful for the chewy texture of the rice, prolonging our enjoyment of the dish.
Sorry Colonel Sanders, but KFC (aka Korean fried chicken) has become extremely popular in Asia and across the globe. If you want to taste the best-ever KFC ($188), look no further than Hansik Goo. Offered as an à-la-carte item, every bite of these crunchy, juicy morsels is euphoric. Each chunk of succulent dark thigh meat is battered in an incredibly crunchy batter and then drizzled in a zesty, syrupy yuzu-garlic sauce. We are literally salivating just reliving the textures and flavours whilst writing this review!
Tender Korean pork belly suyuk is served alongside two varieties of Korean beef and cold noodles. The pork belly texture is refined and delicate, with the perfect fat to lean meat ratio.
Our first time biting into Hanwoo beef was at Wang Bi Jib (왕비집) in Seoul, and we became instant converts to this delectable meat. Dare we say that we think Korean beef is even more flavourful than Japanese Wagyu. The texture of Hanwoo beef is buttery but not overly rich, and it still retains the robust, beefy aromas that Wagyu often forgoes owing to its intense, fatty marbling.
The beef combination at Hansik Goo features two of the most popular dishes in Korea: a marinated minced beef patty called tteokgalbi and grilled strip loin. The tteokgalbi might just be the tastiest hamburger patty we’ve ever tried thanks to its sweet, aromatic marinade, and the grilled strip loin had just the right amount of marbling to give it a juicy chew and heady dose of meaty flavour.
Ganjang noodles, or cold buckwheat noodles, make for a refreshing accompaniment to the rich and hearty meats. We loved the chewiness of these noodles.
A variety of banchan, ranging from bossam kimchi, to ssamjang (spicy dipping paste), to marinated cucumber, to leafy vegetables, add more textural and flavour contrast to the noodles and meats.
Almost too pretty to eat, the palate cleanser of peach sorbet infused with radish-water kimchi, or dongchimi, prepared us for dessert.
We remember bar-hopping in Seoul when makgeolli bars were all the rage. This popular Korean rice wine is made into an ice cream for the dessert course of the tasting menu, accented with a black garlic meringue disc and cheese “snow”. The slight tartness and sweetness of the rice wine works well with the cheese “snow”, which melts on the tongue, and the black garlic meringue has just a tiny garlicky undertone.
Petits fours of black pineapple leather sprinkled with pumpkin-seed powder and black sesame pressed cookie (dasik) concluded our tasting.
The new Hansik Goo, with its expanded kitchen, offers a more elevated menu than its former self. The dishes are executed with increased finesse, resulting in refined presentations that will make you re-evaluate any preconceived notions of Korean cuisine. Currently, only one dinner tasting menu is offered at $1,280, with a variety of add-ons available. Even with the larger space, the restaurant is fully booked until mid-November, so make a reservation now!
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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