Hanjan's Instagram feed is an enticing photo compilation of softly lit wood and caramel-hued cups of coffee.
Every few frames, a bowl of jewel-toned fruit or beautifully plated food breaks up the stream of creamy lattes and other caffeinated concoctions.
One photo, a mound of glistening, crispy Korean fried chicken, seduced me with a siren sizzle so powerful, I could feel the heat through the screen of my laptop. A brunch of chicken, waffles and Korean-style coffee? Yes, please.
Hanjan's interior is cozy coffee shop meets midsummer night's patio with faux trees, light posts and umbrella-topped tables.
Semi-private booths on the perimeter offer as much privacy as one needs or wants in an out-of- the-way restaurant in a strip mall at 37th Avenue and 99th Street.
Woodland fairies, or the Lumineers singing Ho Hey would both be at home here. Diners, it seems, may be the oddest participants.
You can get lost in coffee or sochu, depending on your mood. You can also eat; you can drink; you can come for brunch on weekends, dinner on weeknights, or karaoke on weekdays. You can come for chicken and waffles, or galbi (ribs) and bibimbap (rice bowl).
At Hanjan, there is nothing you cannot do, or eat, or drink.
Food lacking identity
According to the website, you can have an algae latte, although once ensconced in a semi-private booth for brunch, we were informed special lattes don't really exist.
Hanjan needs some time to figure out who they are, and what, exactly, they are offering.
It seems, too, the food is suffering from a lack of identity, or presence of any note.
The bibimbap is flavourless, heavy on mung bean sprouts, and light on bulgogi.
Thankfully, the egg — the crowning glory of any bibimbap — was expertly cooked with a creamy yolk soft enough to mix in and coat the rice, mushrooms and vegetables.
Tip: you will need all the accompanying gochujang to bring some spark to this dish.
Missing zip or zing
The Korean fried chicken and waffle was pleasing enough, although it, too, despite being coated in a chili pepper glaze, was missing any zip, zest, or zing of note.
Small bones fragmented in the cleaved portion of dark, crisply coated meat offered up more of an annoyance than anything.
The waffle, though, thin as it was, had enough density to stand up to the residual sauce left behind from the coated chicken pieces.
Thin too was the seafood pancake called pajeon.
The soy vinegar dipping sauce tried with all it's might to enliven this flaccid flapjack, but the only thing that triumphed was grease and regret.
Hope remained in the donkas, a Korean schnitzel of sorts, but like the rest of the offerings, the dish was devoid of interest.
Even the donkas sauce — granted every restaurant has their own recipe for the sauce — was a bland blend of ingredients; not one could stand out and announce its presence, and the lettuce and tomato salad drizzled in a thin sweet mayo dressing and white rice only added to the banality of it all.
It appears desserts and coffee are the strongest offerings of this Korean coffee shop/café/karaoke bar.
Hanjan delivers on their bingsu: shaved ice mixed with condensed milk and topped with fresh mango or strawberries.
The portion is large enough to feed four and did wonders to assuage our wanting bellies and unmet expectations.
Until Hanjan finds its focus, I'm not sure if I should go for coffee, bibimbap, or hang out in hopes the Lumineers will show up for a video shoot.
I think I'll hold out for the latter, at least I know what to expect.