Bates' Takes: Good Value for Money at Niji RestaurantFriday, March 18, 2011
Here is the latest review from Jonathan Bates. He takes on Niji Part 2 Restaurant near Ewha University. Would you like to contribute to Seoul Eats? Do you have a restaurant you would like us to review? Send me an e-mail to Seouleats at gmail dot com Opinions expressed in this review are from Jonathan Bates and not of my own.
White Day. Sound familiar? It should – seeing as it was just a few days ago. In a nutshell it’s the Korean version of Valentines Day so you may have noticed (I don’t know how you couldn’t) couples in vast number inundating shops, cafes, and restaurants with romantic zeal. Being in a relationship with a Korean meant that my participation in White Day festivities was not a choice but an expectation. Since I was the half responsible for V-Day, my partner took the reigns and thrust us right into the heart of the not oft-traveled area of Ewha Women’s University and into the uber chic course restaurant, Niji Part II.
The entrance and façade of the restaurant depict the restaurants feel, chic minimalist. As you descend the steps into the heart of the restaurant you’re given a full and remarkable view of the establishment. White tweed curtains illuminated by bright white lights hung from bamboo are used to separate each table, lending to a romantic and intimate setting. Low lighting within the cinderblock and concrete masses that serve as benches (don’t worry there is a sizeable cushion atop for your sitting pleasure) add to the trendiness and make the restaurant seem clean, sleek and streamlined. At the back of some booths are forests of dark brown bamboo rooted in river stones creating the perfect balance between nature and the rigidity of modern design. If you’re keen on more traditional dining styles, floor seating is available on elevated platforms.
The menu like Niji Part II is minimalist. They have two options for dinner: one course or two courses. After reviewing the menu we both settled on the “one course” option and that’s when the show started. Quickly, the first volley of a fresh garden greens salad with balsamic vinegar and tangerines, a baked cream of asparagus soup, pickled jellyfish with walnuts, vegetable and beef spring rolls accompanied by a spicy thai dipping sauce, and two morsels of chicken smothered in a sweet sauce came rushing out and onto our table. I soon realized that in this restaurant not to let the title “one course” fool you. It seemed like a never-ending barrage of food and it was only the first round.
Soon after the first course hit, the second came rushing in. It was a seafood pasta dish in a spicy cream sauce adorned with various delicacies from the sea such as squid, shrimp, and baby octopi atop a sizzling griddle. By this point I was starting to feel that my hunger was being abated but was ready for more. As soon as we had finished, the third course – a plate full of beautifully fried tempura shrimp smothered in a semi-sweet yogurt garnished with beets and a delectable California spring roll festooned with fried tempura crumbles – was delivered to our table. After, the next course – a traditional Korean dish called jiritang (지리탕) which is a thick, clear soup with rice, vegetables, and various seafood’s mixed into a scalding hot cauldron – was brought to the table. As this was my first experience with jiritang I eagerly dove into it. It had a moderately fishy taste, most likely from the multitude of baby octopi and mussels that made up the bulk of the soup, but altogether was quite delicious though bland. Accompanying the jiritang was an amazingly presented six-piece tuna, salmon, and sea bream sashimi dish with the usual wasabi and pickled ginger. At this point I honestly thought the barrage of food was over but the joke was on us when the final main course of jjajangmyeon (짜장면), a black soybean sauce atop a bed of noodles, came out. Seeing as I am a huge fan of jjajangmyeon, this was the perfect closing to an utterly wonderful and varied smorgasbord of Japanese, Chinese, and Italian foods. Of course, there was just one last course to be served and that was a simple yet delectable dessert of coffee and a piece of cheesecake laced with a chocolate sauce.
When it comes to value, Niji Part II is king (or queen). Not only does it provide one with a great dining atmosphere in terms of the aesthetic but also puts out high quality, mouth-watering dishes. The only drawback would be for people that aren’t avid fans of seafood or vegetarians. Being that most of the dishes offered had at least some trace of seafood in it, one would have to open and willing to try foods normally outside of their preferences to fully enjoy the buffet of foods this restaurant has to provide. I would definitely recommend this place to take someone on a date or a special occasion. However, if just having amazing food, and a lot of it, is to more to your liking then by all means drop in and try it out.
The “One Course” and “Two Course” are 16,000 and 21,000 won per person, respectively. The main difference between One and Two is that in addition to everything you receive with the “One Course” you get one glass of wine and an extra dish. Seeing that the “One Course” is enough food to satiate a hungry teenage footballer, the first option is more than satisfactory. A glass of white or red wine will run you a paltry 3,000 won but if you want the whole bottle, they have a fairly long wine list to choose from. A lunch course is available for a mere 10,000 won. Niji Part II is open from 11:30 AM to 11 PM daily. Reservations are recommended on holidays and weekends. Phone: 02-392-2252/010-2333-0922, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to get there. Line 2 (green) to Ewha Women’s University (이대) station, exit 2 toward the University. Out of the station, walk straight towards the University. On the left, about 5 minutes from the station, look for the Dunkin Donuts across from the University’s entrance. Take a left towards DD. Go down the very small alleyway directly to the left of DD and Niji Part II will be right in front of you.