CLOSED Seasonal Reflections: Chef Jeong-Hyun Ahn's Wooriga

You can find the original article here at the Seoul Tourism Website here. Please be sure to leave a comment on their website.

Thanks, Dan

Written and Photographed by Daniel Gray

There is a reason why her food has been labeled “dining art.” At first glance, the food at Jeong-Hyun Ahn’s “Wooriga” looks too beautiful to eat. At her quaint, elegant haute cuisine restaurant overlooking Dusan Park, Mrs. Ahn breaks with Korean convention: her entrees are served course by course, so guests are not confused by a table littered with plates, and find themselves able – even obliged – to enjoy the artistry put into each dish.

Before getting onto the food, let me tell you a little about the chef. First and foremost, Jeong-Hyun Ahn is an artist. She was formally trained in applied fine arts and then went to Japan to get a degree in flower arrangement, before returning to Korea to study traditional cuisine. She then used her skills to make sumptuous wedding feasts, before becoming the chef of Wooriga.

On to the food. Our first course was jellyfish noodles, served with slices of cold pressed beef and topped with deveined and split shrimp. It was served on top of a green leaf and stone plate. The colors of the meal – savory brown meat, golden noodles and soft, pink shrimp – provided seasonal reflections: this was clearly the end of summer and the beginning of fall.

This thought-provoking dish was followed by a rectangle of grilled vegetables, topped with red sauce and sesame seeds; two long flower stems lay beneath, a small flower to the side. Then came Autumn Abalone with Gingko Nuts. The abalone shells were set against a small branch, making it look as though a tree had sprouted shellfish. Again, it saddened me to disturb this work of art, but the deep warm taste of the abalone and the creamy pop of the gingko nut took away my sense of sight and heightened my senses of taste and touch.

After the abalone came Autumn Galbi-jjim: soy sauce braised beef topped with jujube and roasted chestnut. Believe it or not, all of these courses were leading to the main course (in Korea, noodles or rice are considered main courses). An arrangement of six vegetable side-dishes was brought out with a bowl of subtle yellow soup. To the soup, which initially looked too plain, thin pink and white noodles were added and then topped with a chiffonade of assorted vegetables.

The dessert was “Beans and Berries with Persimmon Sorbet.” The orange-colored sorbet was topped with sweetened red beans, and fresh Omija berries. “Omija” means “five-flavored berry”, and with good reason – it starts off sour, then provides a hint of salt, a bit of spice, then a bitter note and finishes sweet. It’s a mind-warping flavor, and my evident amusement prompted the waiter to bring out a glass of Omija Punch, again made from this curious berry.

I was fortunate enough to spend a little time with Jeong-Hyun Ahn. She was very gracious and kind, and very humble about her food, with which she aims to "please all five senses and reflect the seasons." Mrs. Ahn's dishes are truly a reflection of the freshest available seasonal ingredients, and her plating arrangements appeal to the visual senses by using natural elements such as flowers, leaves, and branches. The taste of the food is inspiring, while the quiet and warm feel of the restaurant made me feel as if I was in a better world.

Chef Ahn Jeong-Hyun



Address: Gangnam-gu, Sinsa-dong, 631-33 Hyoyoung building, 2nd Floor.
Located opposite Doosan Park
By reservation only

Lunch course: 40,000 won
Dinner course: 80,000 to 120,000 won

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