Sunday, March 08, 2009

Restaurant Impressions: T-won

This article is in the new issue of Eloquence Magazine. You can see it with the wonderful pictures that Penny took.


Restaurant Impressions: T-won
By Daniel Gray, Chris Sanders, Penny Brooks, and Magik

Recently, Eloquence Magazine was invited by the Seoul Plaza Hotel to visit their Chinese Bistro restaurant, “T-won.” Excitedly, Chris, Penny, Magik, and I accepted; and a few days later we were in the restaurant. They asked us to give our honest assessment of the meal and the restaurant.

In my opinion, Chinese food seems to be the chameleon of its environment: the cuisine changes to adapt to its surroundings. American Chinese food is nothing like the Chinese food in Korea, Japan, or China. So when I heard that T-won was a “Chinese Bistro,” I fully expected a chameleon with polka dots.

As soon as you enter the restaurant, you realize that this is a not your typical Korean Chinese restaurant. I said to my group, “it looks like an opulent space pad. I fully expect people to start doing martial arts in zero-G.”

I don’t think everyone got my references and they simply gave me a quizzical look. Chris replied, “I don’t know, Dan. To me it looks like one of those restaurants in Chinese movies set in the early 1900s.”

Now, I didn’t know what these restaurants that he referred to looked like, so I smiled and nodded. Penelope added, “It’s a very class place. I enjoy the openness and the space.” And to this Magik replied, “let’s eat.”

The interior was quite impressive. I admired the large private rooms. One of the rooms with its rose hard wood floors with dark mahogany high back chairs, moss green tablecloths, and jade walls, evoked a calming sophistication.

We were greeted by our host. She had already picked out our menu for us, so we set and ready to eat. We were told if we preferred “course” service and we replied, “of course.” I really like the idea of being served dinner courses because it feels less rushed.

We started out with a thick mushroom and crabmeat soup. The thick gelatinous broth with subtle crabmeat and delicate stem mushrooms was a great start- the heat activated our appetites. Chris added, “This is exactly what I'd want to have at a good Chinese restaurant.” about the soup.

This was followed by a Fresh Vegetable and Fried Chicken Salad with a sweet and sour dressing. The dressing had a citrus accent and it was balanced well with soy sauce, crisp vegetables, and savory, crunchy chicken. I found it quite delightful, but Penny thought the use of iceberg lettuce insulting. She suggested romaine instead. Magik was too busy eating and Chris said that he admired the colors in the dish. The dish did have a nice contrast of golden brown, green, and red sweet peppers.

Then another dish followed. This was the fried shrimp with a Mango and Mayonnaise sauce. It wasn’t a favorite the table. Penny said, “I think this is a bit too fusiony.” We all agreed with her, well except for Magik. She was happy because it meant more for her.

The next course were spring rolls stuffed with cabbage and cheese. The spring rolls were double the length of the average spring roll. Let me tell you, the size did not increase the enjoyment of this dish. The cheese and filling made the wrapping too soggy. This is one recipe that needs to be reworked.

Don’t worry, the next couple rounds of dishes redeemed the spring rolls and the mango and mayonnaise shrimp. We had a delicious version of Tangsuyuk that had tomatoes in the sauce. It was nostalgic for me because it was like General Tso’s chicken that I would get from the states. Even Penny liked it. The chucks of tomatoes added complexity to the tangy sauce.

And for the last course of the main meal was a variety of different noodle and rice dishes. The fried rice dish was perfect. It was as if each grain of rice was individually wokked. To get rice done this way requires one of two ways. You get a particular grain of rice (Korean short grain rice won’t work because it is too sticky) or you refrigerate the rice overnight so it dries out. The different soups were fine. The fiery jjampong was filled with the bounty of the sea and the spaghetti was an interesting twist on this otherwise typical Korean dish.

We also had a second noodle soup with a clear seafood broth. This one had a subtler flavor, but it was deceptively spicy.

So we thought that this was the end to our meal, but then came dessert. It was iced persimmon with tapioca balls on top. This was a great way to cleanse the palette and ease our minds.

T-won is not your everyday restaurant. It’s for special occasions and for hosting guests and parties. If you have guests from overseas and you would like to console them into Korean food, then I feel that T-won would be a great place. The environment is a familiar mix of the exotic and new. As Penny put it, “it is a very classy place with a variety of seating areas from privately enclosed dining rooms to a centrally open seating which faces an open kitchen. There you can watch the staff preparing the meals - flames flying and all.”

When I do go back, I look forward to trying the sautéed beef with pine mushrooms, the sautéed spicy chicken with coconut sauce and lemongrass, the steamed shark’s fin in oyster sauce, and eggplant in a spicy bean paste.

Yonsei University
서울시 서대문구 신촌동 134번지 연세대 동문회관 B1