Earlier this year, Peter Cho transformed a hidden space between The Ocean microrestaurants and Providore Fine Foods store into a prix fixe restaurant Han Oak. They are only open a few days a week and are reservation only. I’ve covered their Sundays only brunch before which provide you with a tray of multiple goodies so you only have to worry about your beverages and everything else is set. This time, I wanted to show you a Han Oak Dinner.
The door to the secret garden of Han Oak – it’ll be to your right through a huge tall door after this. Of course when you visit for dinner it will be dark – this photo is from the day. Look for it between the doors of Pie Spot and 24th ad Meatballs on NE 24th between Sandy and Glisan
The seating is communal (unless you have a big party that takes up a whole table…) either at communal tables with benches on the main floor or up a few steps by the counter and high backed stools overlooking the open kitchen.
The Han Oak Dinner is by reservation only Fri and Sat night with seatings at various time 6 – 9 PM. They offer 3 courses for $35 plus any additional drinks and dishes you can order a la carte.
You will already have a menu at your seat – peruse to see what additional dishes you want to try. I always get the Soondae, or blood cake here because I love how they serve it in a square that is crispy on the outside and the grains are tightly packed and dense, here topped with a big duck egg. Maybe it sounds scary, but its like a dense meat version of a potato cake.
I also highly recommend the ddukboki, a chewy (almost like long gnocchi sized that is the texture of al dente pasta) dish of rice cakes in a gravy with bulgogi (marinated tender thin slices of beef), padron peppers and onions.
Meanwhile Mama Cho is hand making those pork and chive dumplings in a black vinegar broth with ginger. If you need more vegetables, there’s another option in the snacks, a korean fried cauliflower with spicy gochujang and tamarind glaze (a bit of sweet and sour and sticky).
They start you off with Banchan – small side dishes of food that are accompaniments during the first and second course. They inevitably include a little spicy sour kimchis (cabbage, cucumber, radish, etc.) and seasoned vegetables of some sort. You eat from the various dishes in between and even with your savory dishes.
During my visit, the banchan included four dishes
- napa cabbage and daikon kimchee and cucumber and radish quick-chi
- wilted bitter greens with oyster mushrooms, whipped tofu, tsuyu, and bonito
- roasted carrots, delicata squash, cress, toasted seeds and rice
- sweet and sour new potatoes
Starter of Kalgooksu, hand cut wheat noodles in an egg drop chicken broth with poached chicken, scallion soy dressing, and nori. You can see in the kitchen the noodles being created and cut fresh!
Again, don’t feel compelled to necessarily finish off all your banchan – I like having the kimchee especially as a bit of a palate cleanser between bites of the ssam. And oh, that delicious ssam. You will get two meats as part of your ssam, which is a course of meat and stuff you wrap either in greens or noodle sheets. One will be the Ember Smoked Hanger Steak with lettuces, perilla, chrysanthemum, cabbage slaw, and ssam-jang. Then there is also the Koji Marinated Slow Roasted Pork Belly and Coppa with rice noodle sheets, pickled daikon, and scallion salad. Don’t make me choose which ssam is better because they are both incredible in different ways.
The dessert course is the one that seems like it varies, unlike the ssam, sides, and general format of the banchan – for this time it was chilled fruit on ice, the fruit here was Rubinette apples, Crimson Crisp, 20th Century Asian Pears.
There are multiple beverages you can choose from varying from the exquisite cocktails curated by Michele Ruocco (ok I’m biased here), but also great wine and beer and non alcoholic drinks. The cocktails change seasonally and probably change the most if you return for multiple visits. For instance, there’s the cocktail Seoul Structure with gin, cucumber, celery, lime, togarashi
Another option was this cocktail Gone ‘Til November created with brandy pear, cinnamon, ginger, brown sugar, served warm.
This dinner is sooo good – with my favorite parts being the snacks, ssam, and cocktails. I would definitely recommend for a full dinner experience you need to order a snack for every 2 people – I saw the dumplings and rice cakes particularly as easy wins for any dining party. Have you had ssam before, what catches your eye during this Han Oak dinner?