Guys, picking the right restaurant for Valentine's Day is important to your romantic wellbeing. Be sure to make a reservation. If you don't have a reservation already, this is the equivalent of forgetting your anniversary or her birthday. You don't want to be that guy. It is not enough to just pick the right restaurant - the cafe or bar afterwards is just as important.
And girls, it's 2010. You are more than welcome to make reservations and give hints on the places you would like to go. If you would like, you can have this page opened to this article and just strategically circle the restaurants, bars, cafes, you would like to go. (A heart or a star would be a good hint.)
The restaurants on this list have a good mix of atmosphere and taste. In general, I am staying away from franchise places. I am staying away from hotels as well, but I have to say the hotel restaurants are perfect for Valentine's Day.
My main criteria are atmosphere and service. Of course food is important, but I'm not picking places just for that alone. There are plenty of places in Seoul that have great food, but the restaurants look like they are out of a Third World country. I am also staying away from Korean food simply because there are so many high-end Korean restaurants. Adding them would simply overload the list. Go to the Korean the Korean Tourism sites for Korean restaurant recommendations.
The list is divided by regions and with prices; I'm assuming that you are drinking alcohol.
One special thing to consider. This year, "Seollal," or Lunar New Year falls on Valentine's Day so some restaurants will be closed and many people will be traveling for the holiday. Please check if restaurants are open and consider celebrating a day early.
$$= expect to pay 20-40,000 per person.
$$$= expect to pay 50,000 or more per person.
Apgujeong and Gangnam
Where to Eat
Antonios in Apgujeong as authentic Italian food and the charming piano playing host will make you feel very special. The whole salt baked sea bass is enough for a family and the thin crust pastas are just like out of the old country. $$ (02) 3443-4333
Dear chocolate has the perfect atmosphere for whispering sweet nothings into your lover's ear. The chocolate truffles and hot chocolate are superb. The modern styling with avant-garde furnishings make it a great place to get a light meal followed by a hearty helping of dessert. $$ (02) 3446-7251
The idea of sushi and sashimi is sexy. It must be the fact that it's naked. Gazen near Gangnam Station has great Japanese food. Signature dishes include Okonomiyaki (10,400) and the Tuna and Avocado Maki Roll (8,400). $ (02) 532-4428 www.gazen.co.kr
Chef Eo studied Italian Cuisine in Rome for 10 years before returning to Seoul to bring an authentic Italian experience. His gnocchi is divine and so is his foie gras. Inside the house, you'll feel right at home in the warmly-lit rooms and you will be impressed with his Grand Prix menu. Outside in the covered patio, you'll get simpler fare, but just as delicious. $$$. (02) 3443-1970
Located near Gangnam Station is a fabulous wine bar that is owned by a French Sommelier. Here you will find perfect pairings of wine and food. There is a mix of Italian and French influences for the food, and you'll find a good value for your money in the wine menu. The sheik atmosphere has several private nooks for conversation. $$$ (02) 555-9925
Omakasi. Is the keyword for getting opulent sushi that tests the mettle of the chef. We are talking toro that melts on your tongue and scallop tops minced so fine that it feels like velvet in your mouth. Be sure to ask for Chef Ahn. $$$ (02) 545-0023
The menu is playful Asian fusion and the taste is mind-boggling. If you want a meal to excite the appetite then this is your place. I recommend the Beef and Mushroom Salad and the Whole Fried Fish. Go to Maebang, Exit 5. $$ (02) 529-8248
This is a place with a great sense of style. It has a very Asian upscale aesthetic to it. The menu and atmosphere make it a great place to have a quiet evening contemplating thoughts of romance. The menu has a range of choices from noodles to sushi rolls. It is located near Designer Club in Apgujeong. $$ (02) 541-1461 www.zenhideaway.com
Hongdae and City Hall areas
Where to eat
Primo Bacio Baci
It means "kiss, kiss" and it has been a long-time favorite of university students. The food is creative and inexpensive and they have a nice selection of wines that won't break the bank. I can't promise there won't be a line out the door, so be sure to get there early. $ (02) 323-0098
It's a decent Italian place that has chocolate pizza. Yes, chocolate pizza that is topped with cheese, pistachios, and cashews. The pasta is not half bad either. $ (02) 757-0817 www.spannew.com
Coffee, Wine, and Dessert
Aa Design Museum
Aa Design Museum is great for coffee and dessert. The coffee mugs are even well designed. Go there to see what I mean. $ (02) 3143-7311 www.aadesignmuseum.com
Cacao Boom has - I think I should quote my friend - "chocolate that makes me want to squeal." The Belgium style confectionaries are aphrodisiacs. $ (02) 3141-4663 www.cacaoboom.com
In Hapjeong's Cafe Street, you'll find a French Bakery where you can rent the oven, use the equipment, and have the space to make your beau your own cake. $ (02) 326-6218 http://cafe.naver.com/lefour
Samcheongdong seems to be the place to go for coffee and dessert and my favorite place is J's Kitchen. The cakes are homemade with all natural ingredients and the setting is delightful. $ (02) 742-4810 www.jscake.com
Itaewon and City Hall
Where to eat
Bon et Beau
Over by the Cheil building is a new upscale French restaurant whose authentic cuisine has quickly found a rich following. They make a Caesar salad that Caesar would be proud to eat. My favorite so far has been the Glavlax Salmon Blini and the Lamb. $$$ (02) 3785-3330
There are so many options at Chef Meili. You could pick out some house-made artisan sausages or cold cuts and make your date a delicious dinner or you could go inside and enjoy a candlelit dinner especially made for Valentine's Day. $$ (02) 794-7024.
Hidden behind the Hamilton Hotel is where this gem has been for years. Another mainstay of Itaewon that has been giving its patrons refined fare in a legal setting. I recommend the lamb, the salmon, and the fresh baked bread. $$ (02) 790-0540 www.geckosterrace.com
The beautiful interior has large windows that overlook the dreary street. Now for some strange reason it makes the street look optimistic. This restaurant is a market and upscale bistro that is bold with flavor combinations. There is Spicy Pork Belly with chili jam, a wasabi and steak sandwich, and even a banana, cranberry, and maple syrup sandwich on the menu. $$ (02) 749-9181
Behind the Hamilton Hotel you will find this unpresumptuous French Restaurant that has the most amazing dessert tray in Itaewon. The menu changes depending on available ingredients - a good sign that the chef is proficient. $$ (02) 95-2465
This has become of Seoul's most popular restaurants because it sticks to its principles. They make almost everything in-house and they place very high importance on service and quality. The atmosphere has an artist's touch and everything about the place will leave a deep and lasting impression. I recommend the coursed menus. $$ (02) 797-6420 www.ofoodart.com
They have three locations: Itaewon, COEX, and Bundang. They always have great American-style food in an upscale atmosphere. If you are tired of eating French, Italian, or Korean - this is a great place to go. $$ (02) 797-3698
What a view. Seoul from the 33rd floor is pristine. You are paying a premium for the view and the food is not too bad, either. If you are worried about what to order, just get the Australian Filet Mignon coursed meal and sit back and enjoy the skyline. $$$ (02) 2230-3000 www.topcloud.co.kr
Villa Sortinos has quickly established itself as the top upscale Italian place in Itaewon. Sortinos has been consistent with its quality and service for a long time. The new venue has matched its sophistication with atmosphere.My favorites are the white pizza, the pork chop, and the risotto. $$ (02) 553-9000 www.sortinos-seoul.com
The authentic Bulgarian dishes in an atmosphere is a perfect romantic place to go on Valentine's Day. The spinach rollada dish is the perfect starter and they have many couple sets. The wine prices are reasonable, so have a bottle or two, and finish your meal with homemade yogurt topped with honey. $$ (02) 749-0600
Coffee, wine, and dessert
Strawberry Rhubarb pie. Blueberry, Cherry, Pecan, and Lemon Meringue Pie. Oh, pies with a crisp crust that snaps under the weight of a fork. Oh, pies that hang over my head like a halo. Pies. Pies. Pies. Get a pie and take it home because the cafe is always packed. Actually, get two. $ (02) 3785-3400
Gluhwein is spiced mulled wine and chef Christian Meilinger makes a great mug of it. And although he won't say so himself, his desserts are divine. $ (02) 794-7024
19st. Neal's Yard
This cafe looks like it belongs in Apgujeong, but I'm glad it is in Itaewon. They make good coffee and they have a wide range of dessert and brunch selections. $ (02) 794-7278
It is the headquarters for the Paris Croissant and Paris Baguette Empire. The shop below has a chocolatier, bakery, deli, and cafe $$ (02) 2071-9505.
Daniel Gray works for O'ngo Food Communications. You can follow his adventures at www.seouleats.com; the opinions expressed here are the author's only and do not necessarily represent those of The Korea Herald. - Ed.
By Daniel Gray