The past few weeks have been perhaps the most trying stretch for local restaurants since the pandemic began, as the latest prohibition on indoor dining stretches into its third month and winter weather keeps the patios empty of customers.
Closures accelerate in this setting. Some restaurants go out with fanfare; others slip away so quietly you’re not even aware they’re gone.
Such was the case for Fu Yuang, a much-loved Korean-Chinese fusion spot at Scottsdale Village, on Eubank north of Candelaria NE. I’ve been going there since the mid-1990s and recently looked it up for some takeout, only to find that it had closed in November.
Sad news, but as telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell purportedly said, “when one door closes, another opens.” In this case, that other door is Hanmi, a new Korean-Chinese fusion restaurant that opened in the fall in a strip mall on Juan Tabo south of Menaul, a couple miles from Fu Yuang’s former location. The restaurant is the brainchild of Carol Chiang, whose previous venture, the Chinese restaurant Yummi House, is still going after almost 15 years.
Hanmi’s menu is much like that of Yummi House, with the addition of a handful of Korean and Korean-Chinese dishes. The starter menu is peppered with the usual suspects, such as egg rolls, pot stickers and egg drop soup, priced from $2.95 to $7.95. An appetizer of squid salad ($3.95) is a little more off the beaten track, the fishy strips of squid picking up some heat and sweetness from the soy- and vinegar-based sauce.
The Korean dishes on the menu run from $9.95 to $14.95 and include spicy chicken, bulgogi, Korean short rib and the vermicelli noodle dish known as chapchae. Hanmi serves its sundubu jjigae ($9.95), Korean stew made with soft tofu, in a tall plastic container for takeout. More the consistency of soup than stew, it gets its orange-red color from the chile oil that also makes it quite spicy. Served with white rice, it’s a great dish for a cold winter’s night.
Despite an often-contentious relationship with their neighbors, Koreans have incorporated many Chinese culinary traditions into their cuisine. Perhaps the best-known example is jjajangmyeon, or soybean paste noodles.
Jjajangmyeon, which means “fried sauce noodles,” is a Korean spin on the Chinese dish zhajiangmian, and Hanmi’s takeout version ($9.95) is terrific. The components are packed separately to keep the thick noodles springy, and when you mix those noodles with the pungent, dark brown sauce, you get something wonderfully complex: nutty, sweet and a little bitter. It’s no wonder that Koreans like to serve this on special occasions.
Hanmi’s fried chicken with garlic sauce ($13.95), another ubiquitous Korean-Chinese specialty, presents as a pile of boneless, skin-on chicken pieces battered and fried and tossed in a thick, clear sauce. The sauce was good, delivering the promised garlicky flavor, along with some heat, but the chicken skins were disappointingly rubbery.
The rest of the menu largely consists of beef, chicken, pork or shrimp turned out in familiar preparations such as kung pao, lo mein, and sweet and sour. Prices are between $10 and $15. There are several vegetable options, and most of the dishes are available in gluten-free versions upon request. The gluten-free cashew chicken ($9.95) is made with a mix of white and dark chicken meat, a hodgepodge of vegetables like celery, carrots, peas and zucchini and lots of cashews browned in the wok. The light touch with the tangy sauce was appreciated, as was the generous serving that fed two with leftovers.
Like many other Asian restaurants in town, Hanmi has a lunch special with an entrée, soup, egg rolls and rice for $7.95 or $8.95.
I ordered by phone on a Saturday night and was told the food would be ready in 20 minutes. It took closer to 30. The food was still hot when I got home.
Albuquerque’s restaurant scene may be on life support, but new restaurants such as Hanmi prove that its heart is still beating.
HANMI KOREAN-CHINESE FUSION
LOCATION: 2120 Juan Tabo NE, 717-1287, hanmi-korean-chinese-fusion.business.site
HOURS: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday-Monday; closed Tuesday