Chef Meili is an oasis in Seoul. It’s the place to get authentic Austrian cuisine. And I do mean authentic. Chef Christian Meilinger is a bona fide Austrian Chef. Before he opened up his own establishment, he was the executive chef at the Hilton Hotel. Chef Meilinger is ecstatic about food and not in just the cooking. I have often seen him at tables taking orders and offering suggestions before going into the kitchen to cook and then serve his finished creation. His entire staff embodies this ideal and I feel this is unparalleled-especially in a country that uses little buttons to notify the wait staff.
Now not everything is perfect at Meili’s. The interior is a bit Spartan, so get there early so you can get a table on the terrace, and the red wine by the glass comes chilled (I recommend the Erdinger beer). Moreover, I feel the brunch is too pricey for what you get, especially with so many other eclectic brunch establishments in Itaewon.
Anyway, let’s talk meat. The sausages are made and cooked on premise and so are most of the deli meats and fish. The Salmon Rosti (W16,500) is a juxtaposition in textures and flavors. There is the crunch of crisp potato strips with cool sour crème, tangy balsamic syrup and bright onions that climax with the taste of rich, smoky salmon. This salmon makes you realize that store bought salmon is the ugly daughter in law of the smoked salmon clan.
The Pork Viener Schnitzel (W19,500) is the ultimate comfort food. It is breaded pork that is pounded thin and cooked in butter until crisp. In the past I’ve had the Pork Medallions with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce (W22,500). This I didn’t care for. The buttery Spatzle (Austrian Egg Pasta) was quite good, but the seared pork was just drowned in a cream sauce with only a faint whiff of Gorgonzola cheese. This dish made me quite envious of the table that ordered the sausage platter with its pile of succulent sausages atop steaming potatoes.
Meilinger can do more than just meat. His beet soup with horseradish threads is a pleasure on cold days, especially with a glass of Gluhweine (mulled red wine). He does vegetarian options like a Tofu Viener Schnitzel and he has great desserts: I recommend the Apple Strudel and the Chocolate Molokov. Oh, and his mash potatoes are heavenly.
And don’t forget about the deli on the first floor. There you can get sausages, meats, and cheeses by the kilo to take home. The Cheese Sausage (The Kaiskrainer) is especially delightful. Like I said, it’s a little oasis in Seoul.
Location: Next to Gecko’s Terrace, across from the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Days: Closed Mondays