Hana Garden has been serving delectable Korean eats under its current ownership since 2017. The restaurant features Korean staples such as Bibimbap, Kalbi, Bulgogi and Soon Tofu Jjigae. They also offer Korean adaptations of various dishes from regional neighbors such as ramen, wheat noodles in black bean sauce and breaded pork cutlets. Their banchan variety is robust and well-executed.
Yoon Chang Excels at Cooking and Entrepreneurship
Yoon and Robert Chang own Hana Garden. They graciously shared a few moments of their time with me and my wife after our meal.
Robert hails from Seoul, and Yoon is from a different region in South Korea that I didn’t catch. Robert has been in the states for about 40 years and Yoon has been here for about 30 years.
Yoon has owned restaurants in Los Angeles, but after the cost of operation and the cost of living there became undesirable, the Chang’s moved to northern Nevada where Yoon already had some connections.
Yoon purchased Hana Garden in 2017. Since that time, she leads the way in the kitchen and helps with front-of-house service as necessary. Robert joked that Yoon does all the heavy lifting while he mostly serves as a bus boy.
I asked Robert what some lesser ordered dishes are that he thinks many people would enjoy. He advised that the Haemul Pajun (seafood pancake), Soon Tofu Jjigae (spicy tofu soup), Naengmyen (cold noodles) and Yukgaejang (spicy vegetable, beef and egg soup) are all dishes that he enjoys that some diners might not otherwise order.
The Chang’s and our server were all exceptionally friendly and welcoming. They run a tight ship with an immaculately clean dining room and speedy, attentive service.
The Breaded Cutlet Reaches Far and Wide
We ordered the Tonkatsu for one of our entrées. As I understand it, the dish originated in Japan. It consists of a pork cutlet that is pounded thin, coated in panko, double deep-fried and topped with a Worcestershire-esque gravy. The cutlet is typically accompanied by a lettuce or cabbage salad and rice. In Korea, the dish was given the name Donkkaseu. You can see the dish spelled both ways in Korean restaurants in the United States.
While researching Hana Garden and deciding that I’d like to order their Tonkatsu, I discovered that breaded and fried cutlets are much more ubiquitous than I ever imagined. Indulging my curiosity, I went on a hunt for as many of these dishes as I could find. Ultimately, I found more than 30 countries and peoples who have some version of a veal, chicken, turkey, pork or beef cutlet that gets breaded and fried.
I felt comforted after my search reminded me that people across the world are more similar than different. Here are my findings.
Feasting for $40 at Hana Garden
Having not eaten much before our date at Hana Garden, my wife and I decided to indulge in a wider than usual selection at the restaurant. We ordered the Kimchi Jun for $7.99, the Gaeran Jjim for $7.99, the Jajangmyeon for $9.99 and the Tonkatsu for $12.99. We enjoyed all these dishes plus a wonderful selection of banchan – the complimentary and shareable side dishes.
The banchan selections included fish cakes, bean sprouts in sesame oil, pickles, savory potatoes, kimchi and salted zucchini. The variety of textures and flavors was outstanding.
The Kimchi Jun stole the show for me. Kimchi Jun is a kimchi pancake. Kimchi is salted and fermented cabbage, other vegetables and a long list of ingredients and seasonings that differ from cook to cook. The pancake is typically made with wheat flour in addition to the kimchi, but I’m unsure of the exact preparation at Hana Garden. The final product was superbly crisp, sour, salty and savory. We took home a small portion, and I pan-fried it the next day and served it with some eggs and rice – so good!
Next was the Gaeran Jjim, a steamed egg dish topped with chopped carrots and scallions. Broth gets added to the eggs while they steam to create a custard-like texture. Especially delicate foods are not always my preference, but since trying this dish at my first Korean BBQ experience years ago, I now seek it out. I enjoyed Yoon’s rendition.
My wife’s favorite dish of the evening was the Jajangmyeon. This dish is composed of wheat noodles topped with a gravy that features Chunchang – a paste made from fermented soybeans and caramel. The dish gets garnished with fresh cucumber matchsticks and chopped onions. My research indicates that this dish often includes ground pork, but my wife and I didn’t detect any in Yoon’s version. My research suggested that the dish originated in China, and then it was adapted to suit Korean tastes. Our server gave us the pro-tip to mix the noodles in the gravy right away for optimal enjoyment. The noodles were springy, and the gravy was savory, sweet and somewhat viscous. We both loved them.
The final dish that we shared was the Tonkatsu. The pork cutlet was pounded quite thin and then breaded and fried well. The double-fry creates such an enjoyable crispiness. The gravy was tangy, sweet and savory. The salad included shredded lettuce and cabbage and was tossed in what seemed to me like Kewpie (Korean mayo) and horseradish. I loved the salad. The rice was well-cooked and a welcome addition. Eating slices of the pork with the various banchan is wonderful. Every bite can offer something new.
Hana Garden’s Details
Visit Hana Garden at 1605 Sullivan Lane in Sparks’ Sierra Center complex. They are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They are closed on Sundays. Call in your take-out order at 775-351-1616.
Kyle Young is a local freelance writer. He offers content writing, blog posts, copywriting, and editing services. His current writing foci are food, cooking, and the oddities native to Reno, Sparks, and Tahoe. He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a bachelor’s degree in English writing. He gained some food chops while working as a dishwasher, line-cook, and food-truck operator. He learned quality control, imports/exports, and logistics at a local spice and seasoning manufacturer. When not hustling as a writer, he plays Scrabble, cooks, wrangles three pups, and attends live music/comedy with his wife.