was headed to Hangawi, the korean vegetarian restaurant w/ the prix-fixe emperor's meal but assuming there'd be tables, we arrived at 8:00pm on a friday night and were told there was a two-hour wait. but, the hostess recommended we go to Franchia, their sister restaurant which was about 10 blocks away. Hangawi smelled so good and we were hoping Franchia lived up to its sibling. The answer? definitely not. without even having had the food at hangawi, the smells and atmosphere were so much more inviting than the strange tri-level Franchia. not empty but, empty enough to feel it. we had three dishes and all were terrible: vegetable dumplings, dolsot veg bibimbap and the franchia roll (they have a full sushi menu but 100% vegetarian). the vegetable dumplings were gigantic floppy dumplings, reminding me a bit of stuffed cabbage but the interior was a bland mix of cabbage and, couldn't taste anything else. the bibimbap was dry, extremely small for the portion, and really, no flavor in the vegetables. the only flavor came from the gochujang. the franchia roll (it listed 10 or so ingredients) and was twice as expensive as all the other rolls had me expecting some beautiful futomaki with all sorts of ingredients (burdock, asparagus, greens, etc.) but what came were 1" diameter rolls, the typical size (but 12 to the order) with a really horrible, slimy fishy taste. this place SUCKS. the only saving grace was their wonderful tea selection; each order gets you a mug/strainer/cap contraption and a thermos of hot water was placed on the table so we could steep and re-steep at our leisure. but again, this place SUCKS. really wish I had made the reservation to go to hangawi; even though I had never eaten there, I just know it would be a better meal.
the day after, I went to an old standby, the Souen located on 6th Avenue at Prince Street. They finally redid their foyer entrance so you can enter right from 6th Avenue and they slightly upgraded the interior, and some of their china; the food was clean, healthy and delicious. the macrobiotic plate was served w/ a huge plate of mixed steamed greens, a chunk of steamed kabocha, hijiki salad, a quinoa/brown rice mix, and a couple of other vegetables; very plain cooking and seasoning, but the flavor of the ingredients shined through. my friend had the salmon with a side of maze rice (brown rice with burdock, carrot, mushroom, etc.) and we both got their creamy parfait, which was excellent. hard to describe but basically, a gelatinous strawberry compote with agar-agar, topped with a soy cream which was quite thick, and then topped with granola. an excellent, not too sweet dessert that left you with that "I am so virtuously healthy" feeling.
12 Park Ave, New York, NY 10016
210 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014