Thursday, December 09, 2010

Transcendent Cuisine Poom: Seoul

Poom Seoul's Shitake Mushroom stuffed with shrimp

Originally published in the December 2010 issue of Seoul Magazine. Reprinted with permission
Poom Seoul: Transcendent Cuisine
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel- especially when you have top-notch ingredients and a perfect location.
Located on Namsan mountain, Poom overlooks the majesty of Seoul from the center. The journey to the restaurant makes you adequately aware of what season it is and sets the mood for the meal.
You have to walk down to enter the restaurant- ironic as it is on a mountain. It opens into a minimalistic space full of light from the large bay windows.
The style of Poom is evident. Rustic pottery and bronze chopsticks and spoons juxtaposed with western-style tables draped with white tablecloth. Even the barley tea was served in glass wine glasses.
You don’t order your meal when you get to Poom, because you have to make the reservation with your order 1 day in advance. I had decided to order the regular seasonal lunch set (50,000 won) since I figured, it would be a good way to measure the quality of the restaurant.
The meal started with an amuse bouche of thinly sliced baked daechu (Korean dates) and toasted pine nuts. The daechu were surprisingly addictive- it was a very simple reinterpretation of something that was mostly commonly used in teas and in ginseng chicken. This was a good sign.
Then the first course came: a velvety shitake mushroom stuffed with plump shrimp that was placed in quaint chicken broth. This was exquisite. The shitake mushroom was cut in four pieces and as I was nearing the last piece, I hesitated for it was so good. I drank the broth in remembrance of the mushroom.
Poom Seoul's Shitake Mushroom stuffed with shrimp
Poom Seoul's Japchae

Next came a very inventive play on japchae (Korea’s typical glass noodle with beef and vegetables). Poom’s version is fresh; the starchy noodles replaced with strands of pear, minari (Korean parsley), and poached beef; the savory sauce replaced with tart, tangy vinegar.
Then came two coins of seafood pancake- a miss. This made me wonder what the more expensive lunch course would have had in its place.
This was followed by bossam: poached pork with briny crisp cabbage and turnip kimchi laced with fresh oyster. This was okay and timely with the kimchi-making season soon to be upon us.
The meal finished with an acorn and rice soup. The broth of winter dried pollack merging the autumn breeze of acorn jelly. This dish could be symbolic as the change in season and if I was more poetic, I could probably wax on about it in the form of a cinquain or possibly even a sonnet. It was a good dish, but I enjoy putting my rice into my soup.
Dessert was rice cake topped with almost butter-like red beans with a warmed pear tea. White pear was cut into tiny rounded stars studded with black pepper and they floated in the golden punch- a nice dénouement to the meal.
I must admit- Poom is not for everyone. It is for those that prefer the subtle, quiet revelations of life. In retrospect, I would have ordered the more expensive lunch set, but there were enough hints of the quality, that next time I vowed to treat myself. Chef Noh Young-hee isn’t going for fireworks. She is in tune with the seasons and she uses the best local ingredients to offer transcendent cuisine for the mind and body that is a reflection of nature.
Address: 3F.
 Jeongsa-Daewon B / D 358-17 Huam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 
Phone: 02 777 9007
Opening hours: 12:00-15:00, 18:00-22:00
Closed Sunday
Reservations should be made 24 hours in advance. Check the website for the menu. ­Lunches cost 50-70,000 won per person. Dinners range from 100-250,000 per person (15% tax and tip not included).

Poom Seoul's Bossam
Poom Seoul's Acorn Rice Soup
Poom Seoul's Acorn Rice Soup
Poom Seoul
Poom Seoul