Secrets of the French Quarter

From bulgogi po’ boys to kimchi mac, the comfort food kitchen inside a swanky cocktail bar gets creative with classics


Just beyond the neon tube-lighting sign that beckons “Oui,” and before even choosing a drink at the bar or ringing the bell to order from the kitchen, The Royal Bobcat is a feast for the senses. Velvet armchairs, emerald green curtains with tiny pom-pom tassels, a glittering stained-glass window, and scrumptious fluffy light fixtures are all part of the allure – not to mention the framed portraits of regal bobcats on exposed-brick walls above every drinking nook.

The New Orleans-inspired bar teases a sultry, uncanny mystique with everything from the masterful cocktails and absinthe service to the intimate jazz acts and Cafe Du Monde coffee can flower vases – and Hanju Kitchen completes the magical ambiance with a menu you won’t find anywhere else in Providence. Jenny Han’s Korean-Cajun fusion menu of gumbo, po’ boys, rice bowls, dumplings, and wings takes the bold flavors of two culinary traditions and uplifts each in surprising juxtapositions and harmonies.

Nothing illustrates this better than the signature small plate – the Kimchi Mac, which Han recommended, though I certainly didn’t need convincing. This deceptively simple starter set the tone for the entire evening. If you didn’t think creamy cheese sauce could vibe with kimchi, a style of spicy fermented cabbage popular in Korean cuisine, think again. Topped with kimchi and green onions, the mac comprises a mixed bag of pastas, from bowties to penne, for a delightful range of textures, and seasoned panko offers a nice crunch. When I selfishly pried about what’s in the cheese sauce, which tasted delicately nutty under the Cajun spice notes, Han laughed and said, “That’s my secret! It’s made with passion and love.”

While savoring the Vegetable Dumplings, which were perfectly crisp on the outside and served over a delectable sweet soy glaze with sesame seeds, I enjoyed a Vieux Carré from the bar, a classic cocktail of the French Quarter with rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, benedictine, and bitters – like a Manhattan but more herbal, and a little bit sweet. I couldn’t think of a better drink to complement the Cajun heat and rich umami to come.

For his main course, my partner opted for the Surf ‘n Turf Poboy, which introduces Korean bulgogi steak to southern Louisiana fried shrimp. The two proteins are a match made in heaven, cozied up together in a fluffy roll with lettuce, tomatoes, and tangy pickled carrot and daikon radish. He raved about the remoulade sauce, and the lightly spiced Cajun fries were addicting. If you’re in the mood for something off of the Bobcat’s house cocktail menu, the mezcal-based Clear Night is a refreshing pairing for any po’ boy.

The Tofu Rice was as pretty as it was fun to assemble the perfect bite. Made up of many parts organized around the purple-hued black rice in the center, the bowl included sweet soy-braised tofu, fresh greens, cold banchan veggies, and roasted ones, with black and white sesame seeds sprinkled over top. I’m not usually one to gush about broccoli, but these lightly charred, flavor-packed florets wowed me, especially when eaten together with the crunchy red cabbage and edamame, soft rice, and perfectly cooked tofu. 

My partner and I lingered after the meal for absinthe service. As per French tradition, cold water is trickled over an intricate slotted spoon bearing a sugar cube to dilute and sweeten the anise-forward liquor – a ritual we relished in as the jazz band set up.

Like the bar it’s housed in, everything that comes out of Hanju Kitchen is refined yet playful, creative but comforting. Even returning guests should arrive primed to expect the unexpected at The Royal Bobcat. 


Hanju Kitchen inside The Royal Bobcat

422 Atwells Avenue




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