Cafe Hanover Does Undercover Korean
If there’s one place here in the Financial District that I can’t believe I haven’t been yet, it’s Cafe Hanover at 5 Hanover Square. I have heard a LOT of buzz about this undercover Korean joint disguised as a generic deli and I always told myself “hey, you should go there next week.” But things would come up, new places would come on my radar, and Cafe Hanover was being perpetually pushed back. Well, my friends, “next week” has finally come and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed.
From the outside, Cafe Hanover looks like any number of sandwich shops people like us would walk by in disdain. But some luncher out there had the brilliant idea of going inside. Once beyond the doorways, the real Cafe Hanover is revealed. Hot bar on your right (or left, depending on which entrance you go in), deli/Korean kitchen on your right, assorted household goods (some ridiculously overpriced) down the length of the store. My advice to you is to either turn immediately to your left (assuming you entered from Hanover Square) and order the Korean fried chicken or continue down past the hot bar and order at the Korean food counter. I did the latter and came away with a decent meal.
Stepping up to the counter, there were quite a few options to choose from, including bibimbap and jajangmyeon. I knew I wanted a lot of something and I’d prefer if it wasn’t all the same thing, so the most logical choice looked to be their lunch box special. I had a choice of bulgogi or teriyaki salmon that came with a California roll, shrimp shumai, miso soup, sweet chili tofu, and kimchi. It clocked in at $9.99, and with tax it pushed it to almost 11 bucks, but a lot of the other options were almost as expensive. The only menu items that looked to be significantly cheaper were the noodle soups, but that’s another post.
The bulgogi was certainly the star of the show and there was plenty of it. While it wasn’t the best bulgogi I’d ever had, considering I was at a deli in the a couple blocks from Wall Street it was pretty darn good. In combo with the rice, it was almost enough to satisfy a decent hunger. With the rest of the platter, it was more than sufficient. The California roll was alright, though I would’ve liked a little wasabi to liven it up. Soy sauce may be necessary for the gourmet, but the bulgogi juice was perfectly alright for me.
The shrimp shumai were very fishy and didn’t have the greatest of textures, but all in all wasn’t bad. Still, my least favorite thing on the plate. The surprise of the bunch was the sweet chili tofu. The menu said I’d be getting seaweed salad and this most certainly was not it. Looking at the jiggly, yellowish rectangle, I was wary of it, but after taking a bite, found the sweet chili sauce made this one of my favorites.
As good as the rest of the meal was, though, the two items that really stuck with me were the miso soup and the kimchi. Arguably two of the simplest, most basic dishes on my tray, they really were something else. The kimchi tasted fresh and well-made, and the miso soup was made by someone who knows what they’re doing. The latter reminded me of my year in Japan. You know something is good when it reminds you of food in another country.
So, my friends, if you’re on the lookout for Korean food in Financial District, you should definitely have this place on your radar. For not being a strictly Korean place, it does the job pretty well. And I certainly learned my lesson from this place: while good things come to those who wait, don’t put off til tomorrow what you can do today. And yes, that includes eating Korean food from Cafe Hanover.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- The lunch box special has a lot of food and good variety in the dishes
- Lots of other options to check out, Korean and otherwise
- Some of the best kimchi and miso soup I’ve had in Manhattan
THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- This place is definitely pushing the Midtown Lunch price limits
- If I’m going to eat Korean, I’ll wait for Koreatown
- I read a rumor they serve Kyochon fried chicken and they totally don’t
Cafe Hanover, 5 Hanover Square (@ Pearl St.), 212-809-6808