Steve's Gastronomic Home Page

Han Il's Restaurant

9477 Dyer St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 759-7911

Han Il Restaurant on Dyer Street

Han Il Kwan (otherwise known on the sign outside as "Han Il Restaurant") is one of several Korean restaurants along Dyer Street in northeast El Paso that offer an alternative to the Mexican restaurants that are found at just about every street corner. All of the Korean restaurants, including this one, seem to specialize in Korean barbecue, with a large number of vegetable side dishes being served. I think all the Korean restaurants have fewer customers than they should considering the quality of food served, but that may change when the expected increase of troops occurs at nearby Fort Bliss. I do not think there is one Korean restaurant that clearly stands out above the others in all areas, but Han Il is one of my favorites in most of the features that are important to me.

The least impressive food I've eaten at Han Il was when I tried to order a vegetarian dinner. This was the Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap, consisting of rice, vegetables, and a fried egg cooked in stoneware, along with some side dishes. This dish normally contains meat, and it cost the same as if the meat had been included. Flavor-wise it was not anything I would want to order again.

Tofu chigae
Tofu chigae is made with soft tofu, vegetables, and meat for flavoring

Tofu Chigae is a soup made with large pieces of tofu that are not fried but are simmered in the broth. The broth contained a mixture of flavorings that made it the strong point of the dish. I found a couple of pieces of meat in the bottom, and the broth tasted as if it had gone through the slow cooking process in which the juices from some type of meat are a critical element. This is not a dish for vegetarians but may be good for those who feel they need to cut down on the amount of meat they consume, and are looking for a flavorful way to increase their vegetable intake. While I am a tofu fan, the tofu used in this dish seemed above average, as I would probably expect with the large number of Korean markets located in El Paso.

Chicken bul go gi
Chicken bul go gi

Bul Go Gi, a Korean style barbecue dish made with marinated chicken, has been a consistent favorite at Han Il, as well as some of the other Korean restaurants. I am almost ready to say that the one here is the best, but I have not tried it at every restaurant in El Paso. The meat was good quality with a large amount of white meat, very little gristle, and a better than average sauce (the cooks make it spicy, similar to most Mexican style spicy dishes). The portion served is so huge I doubt if I would ever want to order it without sharing with somebody.

A complimentary soup is served before anything else comes to the table. While I can say that this is probably not the best soup in El Paso, it was very enjoyable with a thin light broth and an abundance of vegetables.

The side dishes were not very impressive on my first visits, but have recently been expanded to include a number of additional offerings. I like the ones at Kal Bi House better, but the ones here are pretty good. The Kimchee has made a noticeable improvement from the first time I tried it. I think the best side dish is the one with seasoned cold cucumbers. Much of the food is so spicy that anything serving to cool off the mouth is a relief.

While some restaurants serve side dishes as an appetizer, they come with the meal at Han Il. The owners say the different dishes in a Korean meal are meant to be eaten together, something that makes sense considering the extremely spicy nature of some foods and the alkaline quality of others. If you come with more than one person it definitely makes sense to order the main dishes family style. The restaurant will furnish the plates you need for individual servings.

Han Il has either started using MSG or it has always been used and they failed to tell me about it on my earlier visits. In any case it has never given me the predictable "MSG headache" that would be the result of a moderate or large quantity used. They are now saying that they use it and they will omit it from the food if you make the request.

There is also a Chinese menu, along with some "Korean style Chinese dishes." Personally I do not go to Korean restaurants to order Chinese food, but maybe the food here is good.

The Korean iced tea is very good, particularly because it is on the house, and it seems to be particularly effective in killing the effects of the spicy kimchee and other piquant side dishes. I believe the tea is made with rice and barley, but I am not sure. Anyway, it tastes better than it sounds.

RESTAURANT DETAILS

RATING: 20

Cuisine: Korean
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Sun.
Accessible: No handicapped parking
Tea: Korean iced tea house
MSG: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking
Buffet: No

Most Recent Visit
Jun. 21, 2007

Number of Visits: 4

Special Ratings
Chicken Bul Go Gi:
Tofu Chigae:
Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap:
Kimchee:
Korean Iced Tea:



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