three great places - Seoul
Written by Nell McShane Wulfhart
In the last few years, Seouls dining scene has exploded with an array of culinary experiences that will impress even the most jaded of visitors. Seoul resident, Nell McShane Wulfhart, offers her choice of three worth sampling.
Jung Sik Dang
If Korea has a celebrity chef, it's Yim Jung Sik. The genius behind Jung Sik Dang, Yim is a mad scientist in the kitchen, experimenting with molecular gastronomy techniques that produce dishes like a modern bibimbap peppered with tomato jelly; perfectly cooked snapper with a crispy, puffy crust of scales; and sea urchin served over rice lightly doused with sesame oil. The Gangnam neighbourhood restaurant, quiet and elegant, is the ideal spot for a business lunch or a romantic dinner, beginning with a clever amuse-bouche and ending with a rich dessert, like the mousse served in edible chocolate renderings of Koreas traditional kimchi pots. Need further encouragement? Yim's New York branch won its first Michelin star last year.
Vatos Urban Tacos
One of the trendiest places in town, Vatos opened in late 2011 and became popular so fast it had to move to a new location within a year. Now it's set up on the main street of the trendy Itaewon neighbourhood, and Koreans and foreigners alike line up to sample its unique mash-up of Korean and Mexican food. Home to the infamous kimchi taco, Vatos has a menu of alluring fusion dishes. Juicy fish tacos feature white fish coated in panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), then topped with pico de gallo and a salsa verde cream sauce. A vegetarian quesadilla is stuffed with pinto beans, vegetables, melted cheese – and kimchi, adding an Asian accent to spice things up. Drinks also mix and match cultures, with the Makgeolita replacing tequila with makgeolli (a traditional Korean rice wine) in a fruity spin on the margarita.
If Western food is what you're craving, and you've got a stomach the size of a whale, Jacoby's Burger in Haebangcheon is the place for you. There's often a wait around dinnertime, but its worth it – the food here is authentically good and the portions are enormous. Burgers are highly customisable. Customers tick off preferences on a form that gets down to specifics, including which variety of cheese (there are eight different choices), whether you'd like your onion fresh or grilled, and whether you'd like the beef mixed with garlic or rosemary. There are vegetarian and chicken options as well, and all come piled high and require two hands (and a stack of napkins) for consumption.
Tel: +82 2 3785 0433
Seoul, South Korea
Distance: 7,116 km
Flight Time: 8 hours 40 minutes