Cover Hansik Goo's signature pajeon, or seafood pancake (Photo: Courtesy of Hansik Goo)

Chef Mingoo Kang’s modern Korean restaurant will switch over to much larger premises and offer an updated and expanded menu this August 2021

Hansik Goo by chef Mingoo Kang was one of 2020’s most highly anticipated openings, as well as one of the most high profile launches to happen in the midst of a pandemic. From hosting daily Zoom calls with his Hong Kong team while in Seoul to having his team dream up creative ways to pivot to takeaway and delivery (Hansik Goo’s now-iconic fried chicken bucket was a staple among food lovers in the know), Kang has been through a most unusual, yet oddly rewarding year.

On July 3, the restaurant on Lyndhurst Terrace went through one final service before shutting the doors on the place the kitchen team called home for the first year. The new Hansik Goo will re-open in a new space a short walk away at The Wellington this August (joining new openings Whey and Wing), with an updated look that will be inspired by bu-eok, or the traditional Korean kitchen and hearth; Korean studio Area Plus have been tasked with bringing Kang’s vision for Hansik Goo v.2 to life, one that encapsulates a feeling of cosiness, with a down-to-earth elegance to contrast with the more renegade approach to the food.

See also: Korean Chef Mingoo Kang On Opening A Restaurant During The Pandemic

With the new location and visual identity also comes a refresh of the menu, which Kang describes as being “one level up” from their original mission to spotlight traditional Korean cuisine—this time, they’ll be more audacious when it comes to adding creative touches to dishes, and refining their interpretation of classic flavour profiles, thanks to an upgraded kitchen and expanded culinary team. Kang, who was able to come to Hong Kong late last year to oversee the development of his first restaurant in the city, aims to make another trip to get hands on with Hansik Goo’s reincarnation. We spoke to the chef about the year past, what’s ahead for Hansik Goo, and what to expect when the restaurant reopens in August.

Since opening Hansik Goo, what have been the highlights as well as the unique challenges you and your team(s) have faced?

Having to make decisions without being physically present was a foreign experience for me. That said, the process of communicating with the team remotely was not as difficult as I would have otherwise expected. From our partner ZS Hospitality Group and the team of chefs from Korea to the Hansik Goo team we met in Hong Kong, everyone showed great teamwork. I learned how to trust the team and learned how to divide labour without meeting physically in person. It was a new experience, working through remote communication.

Now that the HK public has had time to understand your story of Korean cuisine with Hansik Goo, how are you going to push that knowledge with the upcoming new dishes? What facets of Korean cuisine are you excited to share with HK?

As expected, Hong Kong has an amazing food culture that respects and enjoys originality. From this one-year experience, we realised there was no need for us to twist our food in order to suit the local palates at all. We were able to keep the authentic taste of Korean dishes with Hansik Goo’s own sensibility and wit added. Fortunately, our guests in Hong Kong appreciated it a lot.

Moving forward with Hansik Goo 2.0, I would like to introduce more diverse Korean culture. Korean barbecue, chicken, seafood, dessert, coffee, etc—there is so much more to explore in the rapidly changing Korean food scene. I hope to showcase the charm and depth of authentic Korean food through our brand, rather than just seeing it as a trend. 

With the shift in direction to a more “refined” cuisine, what would you say to those who may suggest that Hansik Goo is moving more towards the style of Mingles?

I would say Hansik Goo and Mingles share the same root, but grow into different fruits. We have the same objective of presenting authentic Korean cuisine with our own creative touches. The two are also sharing more resources as we would like to reinforce the “Korean-ness” of Hansik Goo. For instance, more culinary talents from the Mingles team are joining Hansik Goo, and Area Plus, the Korean design company that was in charge of Mingles’ interior, is also taking care of the new Hansik Goo. However, unique creations are derived from these similarities. We are excited to present a more specific and confident personality of Hansik Goo. 

What will stay from the previous menu and what will go?

More creative menus will be added to the existing Hansik Goo’s menu. The goal is to use more variety of ingredients while maintaining the taste of Korean food, or adding new techniques to Korean food. However, everything will be done within Hansik Goo's original aim of introducing authentic Korean food in Hong Kong.

In the year that has passed since you opened Hansik Goo during a pandemic, what have been some permanent changes you’ve made to how you run a restaurant?

Hansik Goo also did the delivery. As time spent at home increased, it was a new experience for us to try take-out or delivery-type food. We also conducted cooking classes with Zoom and participated in gastronomic events online. There will be no immediate change, but dining restaurants are finding ways to communicate with customers in various ways. We are experiencing new things every day, as we all are.

Hansik Goo, 1/F The Wellington, 198 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.