Hana is, fundamentally, a typical Korean restaurant tucked away in one of Zamalek’s side streets. Though Asian cuisines, such as Chinese and Japanese, are more prevalent in Cairo, Korean restaurants certainly seem to be rising in popularity. Hana also offers some Japanese and Chinese flavours, but it mostly identifies as a Korean kitchen.
We went inside, and it felt like your typical hotpot restaurant somewhere in Southeast Asia – which is a great change of scenery and vibe. We got to our hotpot table and were handed two huge menus. The options were too extensive, to the point of bursting into tears from confusion; duck, pork, vegetables, fish, chicken, crab, shrimp, noodles, squid, and the list goes on and on. If you’ve never been to a Korean restaurant before, you’ll probably get lost in the menu for ages, which was our case. The best thing is that about seven small salads/appetisers are served for free, so all you need to do is choose your mains. Each salad was unique; Kimchi (traditional Korean spicy pickled cabbage), pickled radishes, sautéed sweet potatoes, bean sprout salad, cold potato salad, pickled cucumber salad, and pickled cauliflower salad. It was an interesting mix of flavours, but we could tell that pickled vegetables are Korean staples.
If you’re unfamiliar with hotpot, you get to choose to either cook your own food with the hotpot, or order something else and have it cooked in the kitchen. As we were too hungry for the hotpot experience, too afraid to overcook our food, and having already struggled with just picking our dishes, we decided to play it safe and order from the kitchen. As a hot appetiser, we opted for the Vegetable Spring Rolls (30LE) – they came crispy and hot with a savoury sauce on the side. Then we were tempted to try the Fried Bean Curd (80LE) – which is fried tofu blocks with a sauce, also on the side. The tofu was firm, and the sauce gave it the hint of flavour it needed – the portion was a sizable as well.
We then went on to choose our mains; first, we ordered the Shrimp Fried Noodles (120LE); the shrimps were well cooked but rather bland in taste. It was a well-prepared dish, just lacking in flavour. But after we had added some side sauces we had from the previous dishes, salt and pepper, it was more palatable. The second dish was the Fried Fish Balls (120LE) – we felt like this dish was really out of place; it resembled the English Fish & Chips rather than a Korean main. It was just fried fish pieces with fries; it didn’t have the unique twist that we were expecting, or maybe it was just a poor choice from our part.
Hana doesn’t have a dessert section, which was odd. We asked the wait staff, and they said sometimes they have fried pineapple, but they will check if it’s available. They never got back to us, and as we were full, we didn’t ask again. All in all, the experience at Hana was distinctive, and we enjoyed the change. However, it’s preferable to dive deeper into the menu. There are pages and pages of dishes. Maybe next time it would better not to be hesitant and also trying the hotpot – the latter would be a great addition, but we’ll YouTube it first though – ruining food when you’re hungry would be devastating, to say the least.