By CB Wismar
The stairway to a second floor entrance at 131 Water Street in Torrington is the only notice you get when approaching Hanq’s
. Is that enough to entice you? In this case, it pays to be curious. Because in all honesty, Torrington is not known for great dining establishments. That is, not until now. Hanq’s is more than a great restaurant... it’s an experience, one that you can have inside in the dining room or tap room, or outside on the rooftop terrace.
Hanq’s (the name honors Kris’ faithful dog) is the fulfillment of owner Kris Kelsey’s dreams of offering a varied, high-quality menu with an ambience that actually promotes lingering, sampling and relaxing. It combines the atmosphere of a Greenwich Village or Rush Street or Poydras Street club with a menu that cheerily offers the best seafood, meats, vegetables beers and wines available with signature drinks and desserts that call for return trips.
To start, the Santa Fe clam chowder ($6) is a savory departure from the typical Manhattan variety. Spices associated with Southwestern cooking give the chowder a spicy bouquet that supports the fresh ingredients.
Two salad standouts, each with a secret ingredient are the Mediterranean salad and the panzanella salad (both $12). They are amply sized to be full meals and are certainly large enough to share as a first course.
During the growing season, the herb garden that occupies a space of honor in the rooftop dining area yields mint, pineapple sage, oregano, thyme, cilantro, rosemary, various flavorful peppers and cherry tomatoes. Salads feature these “just picked” accents as long as the frost holds off and the garden can thrive.
Kris Kelsey honors the fact that some folks are lighter eaters, so the assortment of “plates” is designed to cater to them. The marinated skirt steak ($14) is a great customer favorite that has well-deserved notoriety because the soy/garlic/brown sugar marinade keeps the steak both tender and flavorful. Served atop potato gnocchi with fresh tomatoes, baby spinach, pepper pesto and a “hint of cream,” it comes as no shock that the serving team is quick to identify this dish as their personal favorite.
Even a plate of wings ($13) — a pub standard — can be ordered one of four ways. Traditional Buffalo wings are joined by coconut curry, honey sriracha and truffle parmesan options.
The pasta at Hanq’s is made fresh and the lobster ravioli ($34) is filled with fresh lobster, spinach and a sherry cream sauce that is simply elegant. Also notable on the entrée menu is the “Air Chilled” D’Artagnan half chicken ($24) — brined for 24 hours, seasoned with a house-made dry rub, roasted and served over a fresh apple slaw with sweet potato crisps. Plan to take some home for the next day.
To truly test fine American cuisine, it’s often suggested that the lowliest item on the menu — the burger — be used to judge the sincerity of the chefs. There are two ways to test that theory at Hanq’s, and both are memorable. The Hanq’s burger ($14) is black angus beef done to each customer’s exact directions served on bibb lettuce, sliced heirloom tomatoes, pickled onions, white cheddar cheese and crispy bacon on a toasted brioche bun. In all sincerity, its gets an A-plus.
For the more sophisticated experience, the Asian burger ($18) starts with grass-fed wagyu beef, adds truffled potato strings, sriracha aioli and goat cheese. All sandwiches can be accompanied by the choice of sweet potato fries, dressed greens or “sidewinders,” thick-cut fried potatoes that could be a meal by themselves.
For other sandwich-type fare, the fish tacos ($16) featuring Cajun-rubbed Alaskan cod with avocado mousse and mango salsa are superb, as is Hanq’s Cuban ($14), which combines slow-roasted shaved pork with shaved pastrami, house-made dill pickles, melted smoked gouda and Dijon mustard on a toasted hoagie roll.
But, whatever your dinner selections may be, please leave room for the desserts ($8), all of which are made fresh in Hanq’s kitchen. The tiramisu includes coffee anglaise and chocolate- covered espresso beans, the hint of spirits and a cake that is moist and tender. The strawberry crème brulee is a unique combination created by one of the chefs. Smooth, elegant and richly flavored, it’s served with macerated strawberries.
One dessert special that elevates unbridled indulgence to new heights is Hanq’s take on coffee and a donut. On a bed of coffee anglaise, a split donut opens like an oyster to deliver its pearl of coconut almond ice cream (a Hanq’s signature item) and elegant berry preserves. Donuts will never be the same again.
A true “plus” to the Hanq’s experience is the periodic appearance of live musical groups who take their place in a corner of the rooftop when the weather cooperates or on the club stage in the main dining room. Kris Kelsey understands both hospitality and the complete entertainment experience, and the combination of great music and wonderful food yields memorable results.
Coming to Hanq’s is both a lunch menu (timed to coincide with the opening of the new courthouse in Torrington) and a brunch menu that will entice diners into the fall. Not a re-working of the current menu, both lunch and brunch menus will offer items uniquely Hanq’s.
131 Water St., Torrington, CT
Mon & Tues: Closed
Wed & Thu: 5 – 10 p.m.
Fri: 4 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Sat: 1 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Sun: 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.