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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Central Seoul 2, Non-Korean Eats

CLOSED Edward Kwon’s The Spice: Prestige Dinner Course

Open Kitchen, High Ceilings

Edward Kwon is like Ironman. He’s brash, he’s rich, he’s very outspoken and he is known to over exaggerate. Rumors circulate around this man like a tabloid newspaper under the influence of absinthe.  Now at the end of the day, it’s the food that counts. Now, I have to say that the food at Edward Kwon’s The Spice lives up to the hype for the price point. You get more than you pay for and the food, I think (but don’t tell Mr. Kwon), is a bit under priced for the quality you receive. For example, the Prestige dinner is priced at 39,500 won. With tax and service the meal comes to about 45,000 won for a 4 course meal. In this post, I’m going to focus on the Prestige Dinner- for I feel it’s his best course.

The concept of “The Spice” seems to be a culinary education. Each plate comes with a confetti of tastes, textures, and worldly ingredients. For example, the first course is:
“Foie Gras, Poussin, Pork Belly Ballontine, Candied Kumquats, Miniture Mesclun, Cornichon, Cucumber Salad Spiced Coriander.”

It seems like a mouthful, but what you get are intense tastes of miniature bits of food. It’s really fun to play around with the flavors and texture as you scoop them up with your fork. The Foie Gras, Poussin, Pork Belly Ballontine (meat that is tied in a bundle and poached) was like a velvety, savory sausage. The candied Kumquats added a nice tart, sweetness to balance the dish.

Next we had the White peaches, figs, procuitto, arugula orange vanilla dressing with marscapone mousse. This was a standout dish. The white peaches had a meaty texture, yet subtle in flavor. The peaches were grilled just right so the peach meat was just about to turn to mush. The skill in the kitchen is evident.

The main was Port wine braised beef short rib, potato gnocchi, green peas, spring onions, carmelized onion, chervils, baby basil. I have to say wow. This is the dish I would go back to the restaurant for. That evening I also had a chance to try the most expensive menu (The Journey of Edward Kwon’s TFT at 57,500 won), but this port wine braised beef dish was exquisite. The sauce was thick yet liquid, the beef was cooked tender but with bite, the gnocchi was crispy yet chewy, and who knew that green peas could go so well with port wine. This dish was a whirlwind of flavor that centered around the beef and wine sauce.

Finally the dessert: Cinnamon Chocolate Tart, Rose Jelly, Pistachio Chantilly. Meh. I mean it was a good attempt, but a bit overkill. The cinnamon on the tart was overpowering in flavor. The Rose Jelly was pretty to look at, but not memorable in flavor. The pistachio chantilly was nice but I would have liked something citrusy like a sorbet after the beef course. Overall, a very enjoyable meal.

Now I did have some issues with the place. The atmosphere is a bit too helter skelter. (I get that they are trying to be Las Vegas/New York, but a flashing red and white light throughout your meal makes it seem more like the remake of Psycho than a high-end meal). I love the high ceilings and the tiled walls. Very opulent. Oh, and the bathrooms. There are 1 person only and you can open them by pushing a button. Sure, it’s interesting, but just having 1 bathroom for men and 1 for women didn’t seem enough. Also, once I got in there, I was welcomed by plumes and plumes of smoke from the previous occupant. The room needs either a smoke detector or better ventilation.

Would I go back? Sure. I want to check out his lunch sometime, but I hope he turns off that infernal red light.

Go out Hangangjin Station (Subway line 6) Exit 3.
Reservations Recommended

Foie Gras, Poussin, Pork Belly Ballontine, Candied Kumquats, Miniture Mesclun, Cornichon, Cucumber Salad Spiced Coriander
The Bread
White peaches, figs, procuitto, arugula orange vanilla dressing with marscapone mousse

Port wine braised beef short rib, potato gnocchi, green peas, spring onions, carmelized onion, chervils, baby basil

Disco Balls???
Banana Brulee

Red. Red. Red.

Does that look good to you?

Whew, back to regular light.
Non-Korean Eats, South Seoul

CLOSED Chef Edward Kwon’s Cuisine

Chef Edward Kwon is a charismatic chef that has big plans for his restaurants in Korea. His restaurants are very successful here and he holds tight to his culinary philosophy. For one, he refuses to serve pickles with his pastas. When customers complain about that he or his staff go over and explain that pickles don’t fit in with cuisine. He’s a brave soul, fighting for what he believes in, and his food is quite good. I had his mushroom veloute and it was a marvelous soup- it was more cappuccino (foam-wise) than soup. It’s a big soup, enough for a meal, even without Korean side dishes. (Oh, and he refuses to serve side-dishes with his meals as well.)

The other dish I got was an open-faced chicken sandwich served on a brioche bun dressed with truffle aioli. I think all of what I just said seems like it would belong in NYC rather than in Seoul. Although, they were a bit heavy on the truffle aioli. It was a flavor experience I often had to travel on a plane to get.

His new restaurant, The Spice, is now open in Hangangjin. I’ll be heading there soon. Who wants to come join me?

Eddy’s Cafe is in Shinsaegae Department Store at Express Bus Terminal (Subway Line 3) in the basement. 


Mushroom Veloute
Artful Presentation
Open Faced Chicken Sandwich with Truffle Aioli
Truffle Aioli…yum.

Food News

Edward Kwon: Passionate Korean Chef of Eddy’s Cafe

At the Shinsegae Department Store, guess who I saw working in the kitchen? I saw Korea’s celebrity chef, Edward Kwon. This guy has a TV show and he is planning to open a major restaurant and there he was on the line preparing for the lunch rush. You’ve gotta respect a man with that sort of dedication. Edward Kwon was originally going to become a priest before he discovered his love of cooking. He has since worked in America and in Dubai. His new goal is to globalize Korean cuisine.

Eddy’s Cafe in the Sinsegae Department Store at the Express Bus Terminal is a breath of fresh air. They offer very California-style, gourmet meals at ordinary prices. You’ll see lots of fresh leaves, nuts, and vinegarettes. I hope this is a trend that will catch on.

Here are some pictures of Edward Kwon’s dishes. These are not dishes that you’ll find at Eddy’s Cafe. These are press shots that I received for a project I worked on about him.

Original: Seoul Eats/ Blogger Version

CLOSED: Edward Kwon’s Eddy’s Cafe

Eddy’s Cafe Edward Kwon is Korea’s new celebrity chef and he’s got the skills and the look to make it big. His cafe concept, which seems reminiscent of Wolfgang Puck, has opened at the Shinsegae department store at the Express Bus Terminal. I was told by the manager, It’s the first of many, many.” Here you can get big salads with toppings such as “roasted cherries, hazelnuts, and cheddar beignet (W8,500)” or “tomatillos, oven roasted paprika, feta and mint (W8,500)”; sandwiches with buffalo mozzarella, roasted fig, arugula and cherry tomato confit (W10,000); entrees like oven roasted chicken with cherry and raison compote (W14,000); and a fruit dessert in decadent creme sauce. The place has excellent coffee and almost all members of the waitstaff and the kitchen speak English.Vegetarian options available. 02-3479-1234