Central Seoul 2, Non-Korean Eats, Restaurant Reviews

Fine Dining Review: Peninsula Italian Restaurant at Lotte Hotel

Peninsula Italian Restaurant at Lotte Hotel
Osso Bucco over Saffron Risotto

You must have pickles at Italian Restaurants in Korea

Osso Bucco and Pumpkin Gnocchi are Top Notch!

by Daniel Gray (Seouleats)

The other day, my good friend and president of the company, Jia Choi said that every day seems to be a party. With many social functions and invitations to lunch, it seems that way. Recently, I was invited by Lotte Hotel to come visit their restaurants and give my thoughts on the food and service. So I went under the condition that I would be free to write whatever I liked. They encouraged me to be honest so I will.

Since it is winter, I was in the mood for some good Italian food. Overall, I haven’t been too impressed with many Italian places in Korea, but I figured that Lotte Hotel should be able to make something impressive- especially for the prices that they charge.

The first thing I did was to call the restaurant to make a reservation. This was a tad frustrating since the person taking the reservation kept messing up my phone number and my name. After trying several times, I eventually gave up and made the reservation in Korean.

When we arrived at the sumptuous hotel, the concierge directed us to the restaurant and we were seated. Peninsula Restaurant has two areas of seating. One is outside near the lobby and is very casual. We were directed to the inner rooms where our table waited. The restaurant inside is very open and bright. There is one room that has a domed ceiling and a private glassed in room that looks like a library. A very well designed restaurant.

They have typical Italian fare here: pastas, pizzas, antipastos, osso bucco, salads etc. There were a few things that caught my eye: the Caesar Salad with San Daniele Prosciutto; Organic Spaghetti with giant Clam, Seafood Risotto, Veal, and Lamb Chops. Since I was dining with friends, I decided on a tasting of different foods. My friends ordered the Minestrone and the Onion Soup and I ordered the Caesar Salad with Prosciutto.

For the main we decided on the Osso Bucco with Saffron Risotto, the Pumpkin Gnocchi and the Romano Pizza.

I placed the order and we were on our way. The waiter came around with some bread with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. The bread was good- especially the foccaccia. The foccaccia had a bit of baked Parmesan and some crunchy salt- just the way I like it.

The salads and soups came out quickly. The Caesar dressing had the right amount of creaminess and anchovyness. The leaves were crunchy as well and the prosciutto added the right amount of saltiness. The onion soup’s stock was richly flavored with beef, caramelized onion and a bit of Romano cheese. The minestrone was fine as well. A good start.

After this course, then came a long wait. After we finished with our second serving of bread, we asked one of the waiters why our food was taking so long. The waiter asked the captain and then the captain came over and explained to us that the risotto on the osso bucco was taking time to cook. He apologized profusely and then brought us more bread (you can have too much of a good thing). About 10 minutes later our food came out which was brought out by 3 servers (I guess they could sense we were running a bit impatient.)

They brought out serving tongs (which wasn’t very efficient for getting sauce or rice) so I had to wait a couple minutes as I tried to get the attention of one of our waiters that were rushing back and forth in order to get a couple of serving spoons. After getting the spoons, I was able to try the food.

The food was great- no problems here. The pumpkin gnocchi in cream sauce was plush and you could taste the deep, orange flavor of the winter pumpkin. There was some truffle oil as well- which I think it could have been omitted. While I like the flavor of truffles, the oil is too over powering. The pizza was good as well. The crust was thin and it had ample toppings on it. I liked the capers and the anchovies that added a nice flavor to the pizza. The star of the lunch was the Osso Bucco. The veal was fork tender and flavorful. The risotto was cooked perfectly and had the right amount of pop. The saffron smell was light and it let it complemented the flavor of the meat.

And at the end of the meal, we were treated to a light dessert of fruit and some sweetened marscapone on a almond cookie.

Overall, a fine meal, but I did have some problems with the service. It was a bit difficult to get the attention of some of the servers. I’m not sure if they were understaffed on this day or not. This was further emphasized when I went to pay for the bill. I think that the server should have offered the bill at the table after our coffee but instead I had to go to the counter. Also, I wasn’t really sure which of the many waiters were assigned to us- it seemed as if they were working in teams. I feel that for a restaurant of this caliber, the service should match the level of the food. The food was the highlight of the meal and service should complement that.

** 2 Stars: Very Good: Very Good Experience. With a few tweaks, it could be exceptional

$$$ 20-80 USD

Peninsula Italian Dining and Wine
Lotte Hotel
Jung-gu, Sogong-dong 1 bonji 1st Floor ZIP: 100-070
Visited January 2012 with Colleagues/clients

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Romano Pizza
Caesar Salad San Daniele
Osso Bucco, Romano Pizza and Pumpkin Gnocchi
Pumpkin Gnocchi
Jia Choi with head chef Bruce Lee!

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Activities/ Events, Northeastern Seoul

BYOB: Bring Your Bottle Night at the W-Hotel

Chef Ciarian Hickey over at the W-Hotel is one of the last foreign head chefs in Seoul. He has had his position for almost 5 years because he is constantly innovating. Over his tenure he has made the W-hotel ‘The Hip’ venue for Seoulites in Seoul. His champagne brunch is top notch and so are the meals over at Kitchen. Chef Hickey also came up with the humongous X-burger (which I haven’t had a chance to try.)  I have had his other burger and that is pretty darn tasty.

These days over at the W-Hotel, they have a BYOB promotion. BYOB is bring your own bottle night. You can bring your own bottle of wine and have it with the menu the W-hotel will prepare. This is a great idea and something I am looking forward to going to again. Now you can pick your own bottle and share it with others without having to pay Hotel prices for wine. Plus the food is darn tasty.

The dinner per person is only 100,000 won and with the luxury of bringing your own bottle, I’m totally there. The next one is November 9th from 7 to 10pm. Who’s free to go with me?


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Pictures are taken either with my Panasonic DMC-G2 Camera with 20mm Lens or with my iPhone 4G
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Non-Korean Eats, Photographs

CLOSED: Photoblog: Chef Matthieau of Le 75


Chef Matthieu of Le 75

A restaurant that I got to preview about 2 weeks ago has had their soft opening and they are ramping up. The food is excellent and all made by Chef Matthieu. The chef asked me to try not to write too much about him because he says, “I’m shy.” But also, he says he needs time to perfect everything. I can understand. So instead of doing my normal write-up, I’m just going to tease you with some shots of his food. I’ll tell you that the place is in Hongdae.

King Crab Croquette in Poppy Foam at Le 75
Chef Mattieau at Le 75 
Smoked Salmon with Lemon Caviar with Pea Puree at Le 75
Lamb at Le 75
Chocolate Souffle at Le 75
Chocolate Souffle Le 75
The Best of Seoul

Restaurant Recommendations for the G20 Summit

G20 Seoul Summit 2010
The G20 Global Summit puts Seoul on the world stage. Now even though each country’s delegates are all coming her for a specific purpose, there is one thing that unites them all: they all have to eat. Here is a list of of some of my recommendations for people if they would like to eat their way around Seoul.
Recommended Korean Restaurants in Seoul
This restaurant list has general directions and phone numbers because addresses are hard to find in Seoul. It is often best to ask people where the restaurant is (Rest-au-rant O-diseyo?), have a guide call the place, or call the place to help you.  This is a common thing in Korea so don’t feel embarrassed. If you are taking a taxi call the place and point to this:
이 번호로 전화하고 여기로 가주세요.
(Ee bon-ho-ro chonhwa-hago yogi-ro kajuseyo.)
The hot regions for dining depend on the region, the history, and the economics of each area. To the Northwest of Seoul, you can find Hongdae, which has Korea’s most famous Art’s University. The food here ranges from the eclectic to rustic student fair. To the central north, you have the working class area of Jongno, where the food has remained unchanged for decades. Myeongdong, near central Seoul, is a well-known Japanese tourist hotspot. Itaewon, also near central Seoul is the foreigner section where you can find many international restaurants. Apgujeong, which is south of Itaewon, is the rich enclave where you’ll find many luxurious restaurants that are the playgrounds of the rich. Once you get below the river near Gangnam, the restaurants become very modern. You have a mix of western and Korean establishments.
Fine Dining
Baru: Contemporary Buddhist vegetarian cuisine that pushes the envelope of what can be done with vegetables using Korean techniques.  The food is mindful and satiating with presentations that are closer to art than a meal. In Insadong.http://www.baru.or.kr 02.2031.2081 Reservations Recommended.
Congdu: Neo Korean Cuisine. Specializes in using tofu and beans to reinterpret Korean food to be visually and sensually appealing. In the Seoul History Museum. 02-722-7727.
Doorei: Traditional Korean restaurant serving traditional Korean cuisine in an antique 100 year old Hanok (Korean Traditional House). 8-7 Insa-dong Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea. www.edoore.co.kr 02-732-2919.
Jang-o-Rang: Freshly grilled freshwater eel topped with slivers of ginger. The eel can be basted with either a soy barbecue sauce or red chili paste sauce or served plain with salt. In Hongdae: 02-333-1455
Jihwaja: Bok-Ryeo Han is the highest living authority on the Royal Court Cuisine Tradition. She was awarded the title of Korea’s Intangible Human Cultural Heritage #38, which means she is the only one who can certify court cuisine chefs and restaurants. By Anguk Station: Tel: 02.3673.1104, www.jihwajafood.co.kr
Jungsikdang: Korea’s top young chef that has global ambitions. His cuisine uses contemporary techniques to modernize Korean favorites. In Apgujeong: 02-517-4654. http://jungshikdang.com
Kumsu Blowfish: Specializes in blowfish cooked in a variety of ways. You can have it sashimi, fried, or in soup. On the top floor of the building there are private dining rooms for full course blowfish meals. www.ksbog.com 02-3448-5488.
Our House (uri jeep): Homestyle Korean food served in a converted Korean house. The chef is originally from Namdo and cooks in that fashion. In Hannandong: 02-379-1150. Reservations Recommended.
Poom: Nestled in on Namsan Mountain. Poom was established by a Royal Cuisine expert, a food stylist, an art curator and a businessman. The idea was to modernize luxury and tradition to meet the needs of today’s consumers. The chef creatively reinterprets Korean traditional favorites into new forms. www.poomseoul.com 02-777-9007.
Nwijo: Buddhist inspired Korean full course. Near Anguk Station, Insadong. 02-730-9301.
The Spice: After dropping out of seminary school, Chef Edward Kwon wandered until he found his niche in food. His travels took him to America where he worked 20-hour days. He was selected as a top young chef by the American Culinary Federation in 2003 and then went on to work at the 5 star “Burj Al Arab Hotel.” Edward Kwon is a tad controversial for people love him or hate him. By different accounts, he is very successful or floundering. He’s a maverick that is offering high-end cuisine at mid-range prices. Out Hanganjin Station (Subway Line 6) Exit 3. 02-749-2596
Star Chef: Former chef at the prestigious Shilla Hotel in Seoul, Ho-nam decided he wanted to open up a bistro in the business district of Daechi-dong- an area more known for wanton bars and clubs than fine dining restaurants. After he opened, he started to become very popular and couples, families, and foodies came to frequent his place. His food has touches of Chinese, Korean, and his own style. Maebang Station (Subway Line 3) Exit 4.  Open from 4-12pm Closed Mondays. 02-52908248.
Uriga: Originally a candle artist and then a florist. She later learned cooking to combine her talents to prepare scrumptious wedding feasts for the rich and famous. Pierre Gagnaire has praised her beautiful, seasonal food. Located opposite Doosan Park. Wooriga. 02-3442-2288.
Woo Lae Oak: The original restaurant in Eujiro 4ga has been around since 1946. This upscale restaurant has many of Korea’s most legendary leaders and celebrities walk up the wide, flowing staircase to the private rooms upstairs. The meat is top notch and so is the revered beef soup. Near Euijiro 4-ga Exit 5.http://www.woolaeoak.com/ 02-2265-0151.
Yongsusan: Full Course, Royal Court Cuisine. www.yongsusan.co.kr 02-743-5999. Reservations Recommended.
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Where the locals Eat:
Beautiful Barbecue House: Specializes in high quality beef and pork. Can be grilled plain or marinated in a special sauce. After your meal you get homemade frozen yogurt. A great place to take your own bottle of wine (very few places have corkage fees in Korea). www.hwagozip.co.kr Near Samsung station (COEX) 02-3452-7895.
Dong-in-Dong: Spicy Braised Beef with lots of garlic. This dish is originally from the southern Korean city of Daegu. They also do pork pancakes and other fried delicacies. There is always a queue of people waiting. Dong Dong-ju rice wine is recommended. Near Sinsa Station Exit 7. 02-516-5765.
Ginko Tree (Unhaeng namu jeep): Specializes in stuffed whole roasted duck. The duck is stuffed with nuts, dates, rice, and herbs and then roasted in a clay post for 3 hours. Reservations 3 hours in advance needed. Near Hannamdong. 792-3851.
Jongro Barbecue: Pork Belly that is slowly roasted over hot coals until the fat renders. Served with salted cabbage and shrimp sauce. A local delicacy. Near Jongno 3-ga. 02-3675-9031.
Kamasot Sundubu: Homemade, unfermented tofu stew. They make excellent side dishes and their creamy tofu stew is highly regarded. Near Seoul National University of Education Station. 02-3477-8264.
Korea Ginseng Chicken Soup: Has black chicken: a special breed of chicken whose skin and meat and black, and ginseng soup. Near City Hall. http://www.koreasamkyetang.com/ 02-752-9367.
Namsan Kimchi Chiggae: If taxi drivers are regulars then the food must be traditional, filling, and flavorful. This very popular kimchi stew place is frequented by young and old, commoners and celebrities. Near Noksopyeong Station. 02-794-2458.
Pyeonyang Jeongga: Homemade North Korean Naengmyeon noodles and homemade dumplings. Near Seolleung Station across from Seolleung Park. 02-568-1577.
Train Track Kalbi: Korean Barbecue   Restaurant famous for their cuts of beef and marinades. 4-2 Chanjeon-dong, Mapo-ku, Seoul, Korea.http://home.moatv.com/kinggalbi/ 02-322-9543
RIB’s: Pork Ribs on the bone that are marinated in red pepper paste, black pepper, or soy sauce and grilled over a flame. A college student favorite. In Hongdae. 017-201-9227.
Tea Talk (Cha-ee-ya-gi): specializes in green tea rice with various leaves for wrapping. Served with barbecue. Restaurant is famous for their homemade barbecue paste (ssamjang). Near Anguk Station, Insadong. 02-735-8552.
Haehyun: specializes in Korean raw fish. Great full course with spicy soup afterwards. Near Guro Digital Palace Station. 02-850-7767.
Octopus Heaven (Nakji Chunguk): Specializes in live octopus and spicy octopus dishes. Near Jongno 3-ga. 02-763-5151.
Yi Chun Bok Cham-chi: All you can eat tuna buffet restaurant with entertaining chefs that will serve you cactus alcohol with tuna eyeball, if you are nice. Out Sookmyeong University Subway Station Exit 6 (Subway Line 4). 02-794-4558.
Snacks and Street Food
Eat, Rest, Pay, Go (Mok, Swee, Don, Na): A famous place for spicy Korean rice cake mixed with a variety of toppings such as dumplings, mussels, cheese. Near Anguk Station, Insadong. 02-723-8089.
Reggae Chicken: Korean hippies decided to make herb dusted fried chicken and beer. In Hongdae’s art district.www.reggaechicken.net 02-333-3438.
Sak: Best Gourmet Street food in the art district of Hongdae. Here you can get your fried squid and blood sausage smothered in spicy sauce and wash it down with a beer. Out Sangsu Station Subway Line 6 Exit 1.
Street Food Tents in Jongno 3-ga: Have your street food under a tent on the side of the road with a few drinks. Here you can get Chicken Feet, Live Octopus, and Pan-Seared Pregnant Smelt. Go out Jongno 3-ga Station Subway Line 3 Exit 4.
Tteokbokki Street: Located in Sindangdong, this area is famous for rice cake noodles in spicy sauce with a variety of different toppings. The original is Mabaongnim Halmoni Tteokbokki (Mabaongnim Grandmother Spicy Ricecake). Go out Sindang Station (Subway Line 2 or 6) Exit 8. 02-2232-8930.
Between: Seoul’s newest and very popular tapas lounge. Great atmosphere that draws the young, the hip, the affluent, and the beautiful.  In Itaewon. 02-795-6164.
Bliss: Where all the young, beautiful people hangout to have light meals and drinks in Itaewon. 02-798-1125.
Chin Chin: Upscale rice wine (makgeolli) restaurant whose chef was trained overseas at CIA in America. Great tapas and even greater rice wine. A wide selection of rice wine and even rice wine sorbet. Hongdae. 02-334-1476.
Club Palm: Local Jazz Club with live shows from Wednesday-Sunday Night. www.clubpalm.co.kr 02-336-9016.
H-Makgeolli: With almost 70 different varieties of Korean Rice Wine, this drinking hole is a favorite among the expat community. Out Noksapyeong Station (Subway Line 9) Exit 2. 070-8950-8362.
Pakga-ne’: Crispy Mung Bean Pancake Shop that offers a variety of pan-fried delicacies. Near Jongno 5-ga Station, Kwangjang Market. 02-2267-0614.
Soulsome: Hip lounge with DJs. In Cheongdam: www.soulsome.com 02-542-5667.
Su-jak: Popular drinking place for university students with excellent Korean food and alcohols. Near Sadang Station exit 5. 02-598-8279.
Café and Tea
Aa Design Museum: A furniture museum with a neo-industrial interior serves great coffees, cakes, and sandwiches. In Hongdae.http://www.aadesignmuseum.com/ 02-3143-7312.
Café de Coin: One of the best places for Korea’s popular dessert: Red Bean Shaved Ice. Many different variations such as coffee, green tea, berry. In Samcheongdong. 02-737-1506.
Madagascar Café: A photographer spent years traveling around the world taking photographs and volunteering to help the less fortunate. Afterwards he opened a café to showcase his work. www.madagascarlove.com Near Sookmyeong University. 02-717-4508.
Margot Café: Next to a Buddhist Temple, they make homemade raspberry shaved ice and lotus root tea. Near Anguk Station, Insadong. 02-747-3152
Seoul’s Second Best Tea House: Traditional Korean teas: persimmon cinnamon punch, red bean porridge, and deer antler tea. In Samcheondong. 02-734-5302
List compiled by Daniel Gray

Come take a cooking class or take a Culinary Tour in Seoul! http://www.ongofood.com

Korean Eats, Southeastern Seoul, The Best of Seoul

Restaurants: Jungsikdang: New Korean

Milano Seafood Jjim

I’ve been meaning to put up the rest of my pictures from my most recent visit to Jung Shik Dang. Their new restaurant is over by Shindang near Samwon Garden. You can find directions to their location on their website. I went to this restaurant with Chef Nick Flynn from the Intercontinental and my friend Terry. Good company and very…creative cuisine. This is my third visit to Jungsikdang and I have to say that I am a bit worried about the franchise.

The food is beautiful. The setting is stylish and beautiful and the staff and service is top notch. Oh, they have a great wine list as well. In the past, I have criticized the service at this restaurant. Now they have really taken this to another level. The service and atmosphere is actually worthy of a Michelin Star.

The food is, well…did I use the word creative already?

Let me explain. When Jungsikdang first opened they had a variation of their current signature menu with the foie gras pate with pistachio shaving, pork jowl with yuzu, kimchi consomme, etc. The “first” signature menu was great, but then they followed it up with their “nuevo menu” and then opened up two restaurants.

I feel that Jungsikdang is rushing ahead (they have opened up a bar, a fine dining restaurant and plans to open a new restaurant in New York City) with only a few fully complete menus; I worry for their success.

I found his “nuevo” menu to be a mixmash of too many influences- the chef is like a kid that learns a new technique and gets fascinated with it- he doesn’t “own” the skill yet. I wish he would sit down and hone his techniques like a fine artisan or athlete and become a master of his craft before jumping to a new project.

The food, for me, had a hint of saccharine, sweetness that dulled the flavors. I was looking for a stand out dish, but I couldn’t really find it here. I ordered the “Nuevo Dinner Tasting Menu (120,000 won + tax). The only dishes that I really thought were surefire successes were the Milano Seafood Jjim and the Tomato Sujebi. The Milano Seafood Jjim looks like the Kracken- brilliant shocks of green stood out among the white fleshed fish. The taste reminded me of Holden’s dream in the book Catcher in the Rye: I was in a green field of rye that overlooked a cliff.

The Tomato Sujebi were a chewier, Korean version of bowtie noodles with tomato sauce. I liked it.

So…is Jungsikdang worth it? Of course it is. I mean I wouldn’t eat their everyday, but if you have a business dinner meeting in the afternoon, the 60,000 lunch tasting menu is perfect for entertaining guests. Even the dinner at 100,000 and 120,000 per person is an excellent bargain. (When I say bargain, I mean you get 10 course meals with coffee, after dinner treats- all inclusive.) The food is fun; it’s creative; it’s beautiful; it’s tasty; it’s just not quite ready for NYC prime time. 

Jung Shik Dang
567-28 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu Seoul, Korea
02-517 4654 (English Spoken)

Kimchi Consomme
I believe this was their tomato salad
A Grasshopper on a Spring Hill

Champ-Elysee Rice Bowl
Tomato Sujebi
Palate Cleanser: Omija
Excellent Wine Selection at Jungsikdang
Rack of Lamb
Five Sensation Pork Belly overpowered by the spicy peppers
Su jeong gwa
Green Tea Cremeux with Sable
Interior Shot