Non-Korean Eats, Southeastern Seoul

Review: Edward Kwon’s Lab XXIV

Chef Edward Kwon at Lab XXIV
Edward Kwon
Edward Kwon’s Lab XXIV

This is my unedited review for Edward Kwon’s Lab XXIV. You can see the version on Seoul Selection’s Magazine here:  There is also a great interview with the chef

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.
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Activities/ Events, Food News

36 Hours in Seoul: Food LSG Sky Chef’s Culinary Tour

I was asked by KTO to write a few articles on the topic of Korean food for their website, Here is my latest on the culinary tour for the LSG Sky Chefs.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the culinary tour for the LSG Sky Chefs. These chefs were to getting a 36 hour crash course on Korean cuisine by attending cooking classes and then travel to a fish market, a kimchi factory, a soy bean farm, and to do a restaurant tour. These chefs manage the food for most of the major Airlines such as: Lufthansa, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Asiana Airlines, Swiss International Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Korean Air, and Aeroflot. The company manages about 30% of the worldwide airline catering market.

This is a true boon for Korean food since these chefs handle the meals of millions of people flying around the world. 15 chefs from the company that handle different aspects of Korean food such as menu planning, frozen foods, localization, and production came to Seoul in search of new flavors, and techniques, and finished products for the airlines. Our job was to introduce them to the culture, the products, and the cuisine of Korea in two days. With such a short period of time, the job of O’ngo Food Communications was to give them a crash course on all things Korean.

Our culinary experience started at 6pm at the cooking school with cooking classes. First, Chef Jia Choi taught the basics of the sauces and ingredients such as soy sauce, gochukaru, omija, garlic, ginger, etc. They were then split into 2 teams so they would learn to make 14 different dishes. The enthusiastic chefs made Korean favorites such as Bulgogi, Kimchi, Eggplant, Dakgalbi, Jayeok Bokkeum, Japchae, and some unusual dishes as pan roasted burdock and a royal hot pot. The chefs were very skillful in making all of the dishes and then they had a big meal together as a group with bowls of makgeolli and shots of soju.

The next morning we headed over to Noryrangjin Seafood Market. We saw some of the more unusual marine life that Koreans like to eat such as sea squirt, sea cucumber, fermented skate, and live octopus. We also had Korean perennial favorites like hwae (raw fish), whole steamed king crab and fish soup.

Go here to read the rest:

After our meal there, we were whisked off to Hansung Kimchi factory to see a tour of their kimchi processing operation.  Here we got to meet the CEO of the company Soon-ja Kim. She explained the philosophy of the company. We then did a tour of the factory to see the kimchi made, followed by a tasting of over 30 different types of kimchi. The chefs were especially impressed with the broccoli and cucumber kimchi’s. The topic of putting these dishes on the airlines came up more than once.

Keeping with our time schedule, we then rushed off to Seoil Farms to see the artisan process of making jangs (Korean mother sauces) and tofu. The farm, located in Anseong- outside of the city, is picturesque- full of greenery, bright flowers, and countless rows of the Korean icon: the O’nggi. These o’nngi’s are crafted from slate pottery and glazed brown. The rounded shape aids in the fermentation of the soy sauces, bean pastes, and red chili pastes that Seoil Farms is famous for. We then took part in a tofu making demonstration. We watched fresh, organic soybeans get stone ground. The bean juice was then coagulated with sea water from 40 feet deep- the teacher told us that this is the best way to coagulate the bean into plush tofu.
The taste of this fresh tofu was exquisite- soft like fresh creamed cheese with a hint of the sea.

We couldn’t leave without having lunch, so we enjoyed a sampling of some of the best dishes that Seoil Farms had to offer at the restaurant. We had lotus root, garlic stems, bracken, kimchi, beans, fresh greens, rice, and a special bean stew called cheonggukjang. Cheonggukjang stew is often jokingly referred to as “stinky bean” stew- it did have a certain pungent odor here as well. The taste was rich and compelling much like a finely aged, cheese. It was delicious.

With the day done it was time to relax, so the chefs decided to end the day with some drinks. First stop was a cloudy rice wine restaurant famous for their green makgeolli (it had some mulberry leave powder mixed in). This was followed by more drinks at a ribs place and finally a trip to Kwangjang Market for crisp bindaetteok.

These chefs ate most of what Seoul had to offer in 36 hours. Hopefully, they will take what they learned and experience and add it to the menu’s on the different airlines around the world.

So was this tour a success? I asked one of the participants, Fritz Gross, Director of Culinary Excellence Asia Pacific, which foods he thinks would work on the airlines. He said, “Bibimbap is great for foreign tastes because it has lots of vegetables and nicely marinated meat the gochujang is not too spicy.” When I asked him if there were other dishes, he thought would work he said,”Korean stews would work well and so would bulgogi because it has a nice sauce and vegetables in it to keep the meat moist. I think that it’s a dish many people would like as well.”

When I asked Willi Woidera, Director of Product Development for FRA ZE- specializing in frozen foods, what he thought of the culinary experience, he answered, “It was a great experience because we got to see a lot, make a lot of different foods and ate a lot of different types of food. I think the Korean food and techniques can be incorporated into different cuisines and I definitely want to add these ideas into our menus. In the Kimchi factory, I learned about many new ideas- I especially enjoyed the new techniques for veggies. I can’t wait to incorporate them into what we do.”

Of course, I had to ask Alfred Rigler, the head of the LSG Sky Chefs why he chose Korea to do this Culinary Excellence Program.

“There were several reasons. First of all, we have a very large operation here in Korea. We work with many of the major airlines here. Second, we do a lot of business with Korean clientele and they have specific needs and tastes. But most importantly, we wanted our chefs to get a first hand experience in the Korean kitchen to learn the kitchen style and techniques. Korean cuisine is very different from Italian or French or any other cuisine. We need our chefs to be educated on this so they can share this information with other chefs in our network.”

This was a wonderfully, educational culinary experience. I think that this group of chefs will be able to share this experience with the countless other chefs in the company and spread Korean cuisine through the air.

Daniel Gray

Food News

Seoul Eats Exclusive: Michel Richard of Citronelle using Korean Pear

Michel Richard, the Happy Chef, of the restaurant Citronelle has been using Korean Pear in his appetizers, entrees, drinks and desserts. His public relations personel, Robert Kang, told me, “Michel loves Korean pear. When we gave it to him, he took a bite and then his eyes lit up. He said ‘give me a minute.’ and he rushed into the kitchen. When he returned from the kitchen he had finely sliced the pear and put raw tuna on top of it and braised the tuna with the torch. It was a breathtaking dish.”

Here are some of his other dishes that Chef Richard has created using Korean Pear.

I think I’m going to have to make a trip to Washington DC to eat at his restaurant.



Out of Seoul

Awarding Winning Grilled Cheese and Fox Hill Cheese House

Chef Micheal Howell with his award winning Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Has Seoul Eats become Nova Scotia Eats? I know it seems that way for now, but it’s because I had such a great food experience there that I want to share it with you all. I’ll start mixing in Seoul food as soon as I start eating again. Here are some pictures of my visit to the Fox Hill Cheese. Chef Michael Howell from the Tempest Restaurant was on hand serving up his world class cuisine made from local ingredients including his award winning grilled cheese sandwich.

Foxhill Cheese House

Mark Howell’s Grilled Cheese has figs, prosciutto, arugula, and Canadian Gouda Cheese

One can’t subsist on grilled cheese alone: Chicken with roasted tomatoes

Polenta Cakes

Nova Scotian Mussels

Nova Wine

Mark Howell’s Seafood Bisque was what everyone at our table was talking about. It was creamy and full of flavor and we were shocked when we learned that he made it using condensed milk!

Chicken with stewed tomatoes and polenta cake seems like a simple combination, but when done well; it is perfection.

Paco the Hedgehog poses with my lunch.

Blueberry Tart for Dessert

Inside the Cheese House you can watch them make cheese from scratch

Paco poses with some milk jugs.

Activities/ Events

Chefs that will attend Seoul Gourmet 2010 September 26-30

Seoul Gourmet 2010

France_Michel Troigros
Italy_Carlo Cracco
Belgium_ Sang-Hoon Degeimbre
Spain_Fernando del Cerro
Italy_Luigi Biasetto
France_Bruno Goussault
Michel Troisgros
Michelin 3stars
“La Maison Troisgros”

Michel was born on April 2, 1958 at Roanne. Today he runs the business on his own. He studied at Grenoble from 1974 to 1982, and met his future wife Marie-Pierre there when he was 16 years old. They toured the world to learn the art of cooking from various master chefs: Frédy Girardet in Lausanne, Taillevent in Paris, Michel Guérard in New York and many others in Brussels, San Francisco, London, and Tokyo.

▪ 1968 : Michelin –three stars
▪ 1972: “Best Restaurant in the World” – Christian Millau du Gault-Millau
▪ 1997-1998: “Best Wine List” by Wine Spectator
▪ 2000: ” Restauration ” Prize and ” Grand Prix du Jury “.
▪ 2003: “Chef of 2003”, Gault-Millau
▪ 19/20 score in Gault-Millau
▪ 29/30 score in Zagat Survey, “Best Restaurant in the World”

Restaurants_ 3 star Restaurant “La Maison Troisgros”
Michel restored the original Troisgros restaurant at Roanne with his father in 1983. Michel managed the place with his wife Marie-Pierre, maîtresse d’hôtel and chief decorator. Marie-Pierre, as decorator, created a cordial and modern environment of purified design, evoking modernity, Zen, elegance and refinement. The spirit of a family business was preserved, but the assets and techniques learned during the couple’s international travels were also added to the mix.

Carlo Cracco
Michelin 2stars
” Ristorante Cracco”

Carlo Cracco is a leader of the new generation of progressive Italian cuisine. He has garnered worldwide attention at his restaurant in Milan for creative takes on classic Italian foods: pasta made of cuttlefish and pureed salad encrusted in caramelized sugar.
He is always on the search for new ratios and combinations of textures and flavors from everywhere in the world. Then he adds his genius sense for flavor ratios and combinations, whilst never forgetting his Italian roots. His specialities include white truffle dishes and risottos
1986 Gualtiero Marchesi (the first Italian restaurant to be awarded 3 Michelin stars)
1988 Relais & Châteaux-La Meridiana in Garlenda
1991 Head chef at L’Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence (3 Michelin stars)
1996 Le Clivie, in Piobesi D’Alba (1 Michelin stars)
2000 Cracco-Peck (2 Michelin stars)
2007 Ristorante Cracco (The restaurant was voted 22nd best in the world in Restaurant (magazine) Top 50 2009)

Sang-Hoon Degeimbre
Michelin 2stars ” L’Air du Temps”

Born in South Korea, he was an orphan who migrated to Belgium at the age of four when he was adopted by a couple there. He started his career as a sommelier at the age of 17. A self-taught chef, he opened his own restaurant, L’Air du Temps, in 1997 on the outskirts of Brussels.
In 2002, he ventured into molecular gastronomy, which is a school of cooking that uses scientific methods to create food with unexpected tastes and textures. He had trained under Herve This, a French scientist who first coined the term molecular gastronomy.
Restaurant_ 2 star Restaurant “L’Air du Temps”

Sang Hoon Degeimbre’s career is very eclectic : he started out as a butcher and became a sommelier, which served him well to train his taste buds. This passion for studying combinations and flavors inspired him strongly to engage in a career as a Chef. He opened his restaurant “L’Air du Temps” in 1997 in Noville sur Mehaigne, near Namur, Belgium. Sang Hoon Degeimbre is as one of the specialists of modern-day molecular cuisine. He breaks the shapes to rebuild other ones, plays with flavors, materials and temperatures. For that he uses several techniques such as low temperature roasting or liquid nitrogen and ultrasounds. The Michelin guide rewarded him with a first Star in 2001. He obtained his second Star in 2008.

Fernando de Cerro
Eco-chef, “Casa José”
the thousand flavours of the Madrid orchard
Fernando has concentrated his work in the kitchen demonstrating his weakness for new culinary tendencies that have marked the evolution of the Spanish restoration for which the fortunes of the restaurant provide ample justification. Commencing work with traditional foundations, he has succeeded in renovating the cookery book introducing combinations and completely novel inventions. The foundation is a subtle combination of avant-garde techniques and regional products.  The Picotazo orchard has played a fundamental role in the career of this cook whom many place among the so called eco-chefs; professionals who throw themselves into the care of the products with which they work.

Restaurant: Casa Jose
Casa Jose is a pioneering restaurant in Aranjuez. It was the first one that started to offer a different cuisine, as it took on the innovative and modern vectors emerging in Spain in the 1970’s. It was also one of the first ones to receive a prestigious Michelin star, an unusual award at the time for a restaurant that was not located in a capital city. At present, with Fernando del Cerro in charge of the stoves, the restaurant continues along that path taken to improve and excel, where anyone’s taste can be satisfied. The savoury food menu and the taste menu as well as the traditional menu cover a whole gastronomic range whose main argument is that it centres lovingly on the great products from Aranjuez. Its motto might just as well be tradition, innovation and respect for the customer.

Luigi Biasetto
World Champion in making dessert in LYON

Luigi, born and grown in Bruxelles-the homeland of chocolate, arrived in Italy in 1989 but he found an immature market, not ready for an innovation in quality, still focused on industrial production, so he decided to wait and in the meantime the worked as consulter for candymakers and chocolate procucers. This experience allowed him to get in touch with the most prestigous characters of the candy world and to know which brands or suppliers where the best. That means that, when he decided to open his shop in Padua and in 2008 in Bruxelles too, he was completely aware of the kind of approach that he had to follow to be successful: “High quality is the value that inspires each creation”.

Restaurant: Pasticceria Biasetto
(no English introduction)

Dr. Bruno Goussault
Cuisine Solutions’ Chief Scientist

Dr. Bruno Goussault is Cuisine Solutions’ Chief Scientist for over 16 years. He assisted in design and construction phases of five sous-vide processing facilities in the US, France, Chile, Brazil, and Norway, as well as overseeing all of the scientific aspects of the company’s sous-vide cooking processes, methods, and parameters. He is also responsible for the company’s quality assurance programs. Dr. Goussault founded CREA (Centre de Recherche et d’Etudes pour l’Alimentation) in Paris in 1991 to train chefs around the world in right temperature cooking. To this day, he has trained many of the Michelin’s three-star chefs in Europe, as well as top chefs in the US, on the use of sous-vide cooking.

Dr. Goussault is often cited as the founders of sous-vide cooking. Developed in 1970, his focus has been on low temperature cooking, food safety, and industrial cooking applications. This work in sous-vide has led to changes in the way top chefs cook for their guests in restaurants, and the way food is prepared and served on planes, trains, cruise ships, hotels and resorts, and convention centers around the world. 
  Also he has published scientific articles, appeared on television, and presented at forums around the world. He received the Ordre National du Mérite from the President of France in 1995. He has a PhD in Economics from the Universtiy of Paris Pantheon and post graduate degree from the d’Etudes et du Developpement Economique et Social (IEDES) and a MS degree in food technology from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Industries Agricoles et Alimentaires (ENSIAA).

Organized by Seoul Tourism and the Korea Food Foundation, supervised by Dreamville Entertainment