Every Christmas my mother would utter the same clichéd mom line, “Don’t fill up on sweets and ruin your appetite.” Of course I would eat myself sick on my grandmother’s fudge and spend the rest of the day in a sugar shock. And this was a good thing because the ham was always dry and covered in gelatinous ooze; the mash potatoes were the consistency of Elmer’s Glue, and the vegetables so over steamed a single fork touch would cause it to crumble.
At “dear chocolate” in Apgujeong I recommend you ruin your appetite.
The posh interior is like a beautiful wood carved bento box-the perfect container for artisan chocolates and eclectic cuisine. The space is truly impressive. Every aspect of this upscale space has been meticulously thought out. Subtle stone panels are set on warm white walls. and the mix of light and dark woods all evoke a sense of Zen and transport you from the maddening rush of the city.
I feel the most sophisticated, amorous, and exotic ingredient is the cocoa bean and the restaurant uses it in conventional ways. They have a wide range of different hot chocolates such as Classic Chocolate, Brandy Chocolate, and Raspberry Chocolate. My guest and I decided on the Pure-Chocolate (W8,000) made from 43% Italian Chocolate. The chocolate came tray service in pearl white service ware. Each sip sends a feeling of contentment through the body and we decided to pair this delight with an entrée of artisan chocolates and complete the meal with a cake. The fresh truffle was creamy palate opener, the chocolate log was a satisfying first course, the basil chocolate was an interesting entrée and the espresso chocolate with its smoky coffee punch was a satisfying end that prepared us for the humongous piece of kirsch torte. The torte had tart bing cherries and fresh whipped cream mortared between plush chocolate layers. The cake was then covered in more whipped cream and then buried in chocolate shavings. It is the best black forest cake I’ve had in Korea.
We should have finished the meal there, but this restaurant is not just a chocolateria. The menu boasts an extensive wine menu with bottles from all over the world. The bottles range from the common (beringer white zinfindel for W35,000) to the opulent (Chateau Latour W1,000,000). The menu focuses mainly on Italian cuisine with a range of different pastas and pizzas.
We started our meal with the “Grilled Cheese Salad (W18,000)” which came with a grilled hunk of what I believe was scarmoza cheese. The cheese tasted rubbery and the oozing quality I expected was not present. The ample amount of cheese came with several slices of crisp bacon, sliced apples, whole cloves of roasted garlic, and a small amount of salad. The salad dressed in a refreshing basil lemon dressing was the best part of the dish and yet it was overpowered by the other components of this dish.
We followed this with the “King Crab Ravioli (W18,000)” which came recommended. This was a delight. The ravioli was homemade and stuffed with chunks of king crab, minced mushroom, and shrimp. The sauce was well balanced and matched the subtle crab filling.
After this came the “Grilled Duck Breast.” This was a disappointment. The slices of duck were over cooked and it had a strong gamey flavor and the red wine sauce watery. The salad and the sliced tangerine couldn’t mask the pungent flavor of the duck.
Ultimately, I feel that “dear chocolate,” like many Western Korean restaurants, suffers from the “bibimbap factor.” It’s a hodge podge of too many influences all mixed together. While I was sitting in the very modern space I kept on asking myself what kind of restaurant I was in. Is it a café, a restaurant, a wine bar, or a chocolateria? Personally, I feel that it should stick to what the name and the space implies. It should focus on chocolates and push the bounds of flavor with adventurous chocolate inspired cuisine. Chocolate is a versatile ingredient and it shouldn’t be solely regulated to desserts.
** 2 stars
78-5 Cheongdam-dong Gangnam-gu Seoul 135-954
Directions: Go past the Galleria and make a right at the intersection. It is in the first alley to the right. It is across the street from the Park Yoon Su Design Shop.
Recommend Dishes: Crab Ravioli, Kirsch Torte, Pure Chocolate, and the Espresso Chocolates.
Price ranges from 15-30,000 won (10% VAT not included).