|Chef Edward Kwon at Lab XXIV|
|Edward Kwon's Lab XXIV|
Lab XXIV: A Conundrum Resolves
By Daniel Gray
Lab XXIV sounds like a molecular bistro that every Ferran Adria wannabe starts with their molecular cuisine starter kits filled with agar-agar, calcium lactate, and soy lecithin. I know, lots of scrumptious sounding stuff. It seemed as if the Chef, Mr. Edward Kwon, was seeking to reinvent himself especially after his hushed-over expulsion(?) from his previous endeavor, Spice.
Luckily, the menu was more contemporary European, rather than molecular as words such as foie gras, veloute, feuille, and jus jumped up at us. The atmosphere of Lab xxiv is sleek like a Mercedes with polished glass and high-end light fixtures all around. With the glass and the retro seats, it feels like a scene out of the futuristic movie A Clockwork Orange.
As we were about to place our order, we were surprised as Mr. Kwon came over from the kitchen to greet us. He explained that his restaurant was named Lab XXIV because, he, the chef, thought about food 24/7, 365 days a year. “OK, that's fine,” I thought. He also said the concept of this restaurant was to be a place of culinary education. He said he wanted to teach Korean people how to properly enjoy his food and to learn about the cuisine. He excitedly showed us little cards that accompanied each plate that stated what each dish was. “Hmmm...a tad condescending,” I thought. Anyway my job was to focus on the food.
Our first course was a shot of wet-cappuccino-foam shot of creamy soup. “Nice amuse,” I thought. Then our first courses came out: a Cray Fish Ravoli that had a zebra striped pasta draped over naked shellfish dressed in foam and perfect orbs of green peas. “Not bad,” I mused. We also got the shaved foie gras de canard, the very flaky, yet melting tower of foie gras with savory cubes of gelee and dots of sweet milk. A beautifully, plated dish that looked a bit like the planet Saturn.
My next course was butter poached frog legs. The tear shaped bowl that the deboned leg came in was covered in white foam and garnished with edible flowers. Pulling the perfectly poached frog leg out of the foam made me think of the witch’s scene in Macbeth. The legs tasted delicious- with a hint of truffle oil. I didn’t get to taste my guest’s colorful braised vegetables, but she assured me it was brilliant as she scraped her fork to get the last bits of sauce.
Our next course was a veal loin course with a horseradish emulsion, torched squid and white asparagus. Each was plated in their own row and although they looked and tasted so differently, when each element of the dish was placed together they fused wonderfully. Each flavor and element was separate, but each element was cooked with skill and when brought together the flavor, texture, aroma, and look all complemented each other. “Maybe this chef does really think about food 24/7,” I thought.
The next was an intermission, a pre-dessert: a pecan yokan. Meh, it couldn’t match the flavorful main we just had but that was because what followed was a delicious yuzu curd dessert with flaky sables, meringue beurre and a dollop of chocolate sorbet. The yuzu curd is a flavor I think belongs on every dessert I shall have from now on.
Then came coffee and a few more flourishes: a white chocolate-covered cherry, chocolate sables and a little cookie topped with vanilla sorbet and a strawberry hat.
Ok, not everything was perfect. For one, the bread could have been crustier (I prefer crusty bread) and the plastic, gothic chairs didn’t quite fit the décor (the staff assured me Italian chairs were being shipped.) Regardless, if the chef can keep this level of service and quality up, this restaurant will do very well in this increasingly epicurious city.
*** (3-Stars out of 4)
T. (02) 511-4523
Opening hours: 11:30am—2:30pm; 6pm—11pm
Prices: Lunch 45,000—52,000 won; Dinner 85,000—92,000 won
A short taxi ride from Cheongdam Station, Line 7, Exit 9.