Author: Patty Moncrief (Foodie/Amiga de Audra)
Foodie Frenzy Week 2…Score!!! The goal for this week was to find a good Korean Barbecue Restaurant worthy of y’all trying out and HAN IL KWAN exceeded our expectations.
First of all, a big thanks to so many Aha! subscribers for the great feedback on our 1st Food Frenzy blog and for all of the great suggestions on your faves. It seems that many of us love to venture to Buford Hwy for a little something different.
Please remember, we are not Iron Chefs by any stretch of the imagination, just ordinary “Jos-ephines” who like good food and adventure. So, if I incorrectly describe the exact ingredients in kimchi, for example, I know no better. It’s just our taste bud rendition… no culinary institute infusion.
With that being said, I have been reading about the popularity of Korean BBQ restaurants for several years and knew this was the time to try one out. After perusing quite a few comments and articles, it seemed that HAN IL KWAN was always the restaurant to which others were compared. We loaded the GPS and hit 285 for the 2-ish miles over to our dining destination. Not even a ½ mile from 285 ITP was our haven for the next hour.
Having grown up in Tucker, my family would occasionally dine out on Buford Hwy. So when we pulled in, I started having flashbacks of dining at a Chinese restaurant in this same building in yonder years. Although the building was retro, the cuisine was not!
We entered a nice, clean restaurant filled with all Asian diners, but soon had some other gringos saunter in. Although I was disappointed that they did not have the authentic tabletop coal grills cranked up at lunch, it actually turned out to be a big benny for us. We had the opportunity to try some amazing lunch specials to whet our palates in the world of Korean cuisine, which was perfecto! Although we had a little language barrier with our original waitress, friendly English speaking (well, definitely friendly but “sort of” English speaking) staff quickly greeted us in no time. They were very helpful in giving suggestions and answering our questions every step of the way.
There was an abundance of lunch specials to choose from, but we went with a Bul Go Gi Box ($8.99) that resembled a bento box in terms of organization. This consisted of thinly sliced cooked, marinated beef with onion, rice, salad with house special sauce, 2 sushi rolls and a clear glass noodle dish. We both thoroughly enjoyed everything in the Bul Go Gi Box and agreed that it would be more than filling alone for lunch. However, we had to keep going! (only for our readers sakes, of course!)
We were served immediately with the much-anticipated Banchan (similar to appetizers or side dishes that accompany entrees). Here’s what the 6 banchan little plates consisted of: kimchi (to me tastes like a spicy, vinegar-based marinated cabbage and so worth a try), spicy zucchini, potato and bean sprout side dishes that were all quite tasty. The last two banchan were tofu and potato salad. Not our favorites. My comment here is that my Mom and Mammaw make the best potato salad ever…so those two dishes were quickly put into “time out” way over in the corner beside the buzzer bell that you could ring for service if needed.
We also tried a Bibim Bop called Dolsot ($9.99), which was mixed mushrooms, mung bean, carrot, radish, drift weed, watercress, zucchini, ground beef and egg over rice in a hot pot with special house sauce on side. It is served sizzling similar to fajitas. Since no utensils were on the table, only chopsticks, we definitely requested assistance with adding the table hot sauce and properly mixing the entire dish together. They graciously obliged and stepped in to help (maybe because they had seen us attempting to add the hot sauce to the first course miso-like cup of soup which was a definite no-no). We both gave this dish two thumbs up also!
Last, but not least, we ordered Yae Chae Pa Jun ($10.99) which is a chive and scallion pancake with a delicious dipping sauce to go with. We both agreed that this was our favorite! They have several different types of pancakes including seafood, which is supposedly very popular.
Halfway through our meal, we got a big compliment when a Caucasian man sitting beside us starting eyeing what we were eating after placing his order. He asked us what we were enjoying and how we knew what to order. That’s when we knew our research had paid off, as well as, the great advice given by Audra’s co-worker, Leigh, whose husband is half-Korean and was texting us with their family favorites prior to ordering. Our new Caucasian friend told us that his Korean acupuncturist had recommended Han IL Kwan.
When his lunch arrived, it was fried rice!!. We puffed our chests a bit and felt a little more like professionals than when we arrived! I couldn’t help but think about the line from the movie When Harry Met Sally and wondered if he was secretly thinking, “I’ll have what she’s having”!
All in all, we LOVED Han IL Kwan and hope you will too! Lunch is a great way to check out Korean cuisine, because the prices go up at night. Audra and I both agreed we would bring our families back for dinner so that we can experience the hot coal grills and enjoy some other dishes that we didn’t have room to try. As it was, we way over-ordered and took 4 boxes home. There were just too many dishes we couldn’t resist! We wouldn’t change a thing!
Thanks to reader suggestions, we are now committed to always providing the most current health rating for each restaurant we visit and are pleased to share that Han IL Kwan scored a 93!
5458 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30340