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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Han Il Kwan


credit: funkidivagirl.com

Eating and Tweeting (credit: funkidivagirl.com)

Have you ever been to an “Eat ‘N Tweet?”

I hadn’t either until last week when I visited Han Il Kwan — an excellent Korean barbecue restaurant on Buford Highway — with a trio of lovely social media powerhouses.

With handheld devices at the ready, we all logged into Twitter and Tweeted throughout the entire meal, simultaneously pushing tiny buttons and stuffing faces, fielding questions from followers and lobbing them at our savvy and amused waitress, snapping pictures and knocking back glasses of the warm barley tea called boricha. If anyone had asked me to pat my head or rub my stomach, I think I would have lost it.

My guests for this grand experiment included:

  • @funkidivagirl
  • @chatterboxcgc
  • @AskWifey

The latter two also blog and Tweet as @blogrollers. For this event I, too, shed the name on my birth certificate and chewed as @jdkess.

We then proceeded to give a blow-by-blow of our meal and our conversation in real time, using the hashtag #eatntweet. (Anyone can read about these goings on on Twitter, even if you don’t have an account. Simply enter “#eatntweet” in the search box on www.twitter.com.)

photo-3As none of my dining companions were at all familiar with Korean barbecue, I ordered my tried-and-tested beginners meal.

If you go to a restaurant that uses live charcoal rather than gas, there’s always a great moment at the beginning of the meal. A man comes from the kitchen holding a pan of coals in a pair of those heavy duty tongs — the kind usually reserved for radioactive materials.

“Stepping outside my zone :) ,” Tweeted @AskWifey.

Before long the table was filled with all the small dishes of salads and  kimchi that are called, collectively, ban chan.

photo-1Everyone loved the hae mul pa jun — this crisp, savory pancake filled with pieces of squid and shrimp. I Tweeted that I thought it was the best in town, and @AskWifey quickly Retweeted. I do love the way the heated cast iron serving pan not only keeps the pancake hot, it keeps it crisp.

Soon the meats began arriving. I ordered both bulgogi — thin-sliced marinated rib-eye that is stir-fried with onions in the kitchen — and galbi — short ribs that a waitress grilled for us over the coals at our table. We also opted for one order of chicken.

I showed @AskWifey how to roll the freshly grilled beef with some salad and thick, savory bean sauce in a lettuce leaf to eat.

“Korean barbeque gets a big thumbs up,” she announced to the Twitter-sphere.

Before long we were getting questions and comments. Is this as good at barbecue in New York’s Koreatown? I’d think so. How does Han Il Kwan compare to others in Atlanta? I think it’s among the best.

One person just watched us from CNN Center and drooled.

photoOnly these dried fish (one of the ban chan selections) got a thumbs down. “Everything was yummy–except for the tiny, whole dried fish,” blogged @funkidivagirl. “I was brave enough to taste one and no thank you, I won’t eat that again; that tiny fish had the flavorful punch of a very big (smelly, fishy-tasting) fish.”

As the conversation ranged, it all went up on Twitter.

“Okay @jdkess just became my new BFF! He’s a big GoGo music fan! DC in the house!” Tweeted chatterboxcgc.

True: we discovered that we are both Washington, D.C., natives and huge fans of our hometown’s indigenous funk music.

@AskWifey was about to take her daughter to Disney World, and I told her about the time I rode the Tower of Terror to avoid losing face in front of my 10-year-old. Up it went on Twitter.

The meal was a huge hit, and everyone was making plans to return. “I have to get a list of what we ate when I go back with my family LOL,” Tweeted @funkidivagirl.

By the time I left, I was happily full, my fingers were a little sore and my iPhone smelled like barbecued meat. I also had three new friends.

If you’d like to see the meal from another perspective (with plenty of pictures of the four of us at the table), please take a look at funkidivagirl’s blog — funkidivagirl.com.

10 comments Add your comment

Love it!

November 24th, 2009
9:07 am

thanks for the food details-we’ll add it to our list of places to go…but I have absolutely no desire to text and eat…thats just gross.

N-GA

November 24th, 2009
9:15 am

Went to visit friends out-of-state. They had their boss & wife join us for dinner (at home). One tweeted and the other IM’ed the whole night. They didn’t really participate very much in the evening’s conversation. Our friends were embarrassed….it’s not the fault of the technology that people don’t have any manners!

Madge

November 24th, 2009
10:12 am

I’ve only been to Hae Woon Dae for Korean barbecue, and from the first time I ever tried it, I loved it. From your post, sounds like Han II Kwan is just as good. Has anyone been to both? Is one better than the other? Thoughts? Opinions? Are there other good Korean restaurants that don’t specialize in barbecue?

Ramona Clef

November 24th, 2009
11:58 am

Why I don’t care for sans serif: Is it Han ill Kwan or Han two Kwan?

Michigander

November 24th, 2009
4:46 pm

John, while I love your stuff, I have to go with the other bloggers who say that tweeting and eating are just rude. It’s one thing to blog about a great meal and/or an interesting experience at a restaurant. But to correspond with followers during a meal, to me, just illuminates the decline in social skills.

John Kessler

November 24th, 2009
5:08 pm

Michigander: It was an…experience. Not sure I’d do it again.
Madge: I might give a slight not to Han Il Kwan
Ramona: “il”

rob

November 25th, 2009
2:10 pm

I asked a Korean friend to take us to the best Korean restaurant in Atlanta, and we went to Han Il Kwan. Awesome food!

He ordered for the table, including many of the dishes that you talked about. After we thought we were completely stuffed, he ordered one more course: chilled cucumber and noodle soup. We didn’t think we had any more room, but the soup really cooled the fire in our bellies.

We then went to a Korean karaoke bar across the street for several hours of singing. Our enthusiasm made up for the lack of talent. What a great evening!

What I expected...

December 1st, 2009
9:13 pm

These has been a great blog to read. JK, I’m glad you visited a Korean eatery, but Han Il Kwan is not that good. I think it is catered more for the Americans who want to try Korean BBQ since it is a new, trendy cuisine. The banchan is less pickled and less spicy (which means less authentic and worse) than other restaurants since I think this is a first-timers kind of place. As for the little dried fish, they are very similar to the dried shrimp found in many Asian cuisines and are a great contrast to the vegetables. One last note, don’t ever order chicken. This is just one more sign that the food is geared toward those who want to ease into the Korean food. I am a big fan of Cho Sun Ok, which is further up Buford. That is authentic Korean, not a toned down version.

John Kessler

December 1st, 2009
9:52 pm

Chosun Ok is my favorite, too. We have a longstanding Kessler family tradition of celebrating birthdays there. But I do like Han Il Kwan a lot and think it’s a little better for newbies. One of the ladies didn’t eat beef, so we ordered chicken. It was a first for me but you know what? It was pretty tasty. Think I’d get it again

[...] Han Il Kwan, one of the best Korean barbecue restaurants on Buford Highway and in the city, has opened its second location in the former Seoul Garden at 3040 Steve Reynolds Boulevard in Duluth. More and more, Duluth is the place to be for Korean dining. [...]