If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us it’s this: We took travel for granted. Yes it will be a while until large scale leisure travel resumes, at least in Asia, but for now at least, the battered industry is seeing some life thanks to the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL).
Amongst the cities that we have these arrangements with, Seoul’s was greeted with the most cheer. The city offers the four seasons that we crave for, the exciting pulse of the the Hallyu wave and best of all, great restaurants and eateries that let you truly appreciate korean cuisine with all of its intricacies.
There’s a lot to appreciate here. The cuisine deploys a battery of techniques, there’s fermenting, grilling, braising, boiling and all of these often make it on the korean table simultaneously in one meal. If this fascinates you, then check out these 5 essential restaurants to visit in Seoul.
It wasn’t too long ago that Korean fine dining flew under the radar. Today, Seoul is home to two three-Michelin-starred restaurants and Gaon in Gangnam is one of them. The fine dining temple is run by Chef Kim Byoung Jin who has operated the space for a whopping 17 years. The food here is traditionally Korean but polished and executed with an elegant hand. Expect a contemplative dining space that lets you ponder over the seasonality of Korea’s finest ingredients.
M Floor Horim Art Center, 317 Dosan-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul.
Shopping in Myeongdong in the cooler seasons? Head to Hadongkwan, a well-known family run eatery that specialises in Gomtang, or beef bone soup. This broth is created by boiling beef bones and meat with radish for a great number of hours to produce a clean tasting yet flavoursome soup that will warm your stomach as much as your heart. The restaurant has been open since 1939 and is much loved by its local regulars as much as the traveling gourmand. Bear in mind that it doesn’t have a fixed opening hours and it closes the moment its large vats of soup run dry.
12 Myeongdong 9-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul.
Religion plays an important role in every society and in Korea, Buddhism manifests in its culinary practices in a meaningful way. At Balwoo Gongyang, expect Buddhist temple cuisine being executed for the regular diner in a beautiful way. It is run by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, and the kitchens only use traditional recipes handed down in Korean temples which itself has 1,700 years of history. The food here is entirely vegan by tradition and while the restaurant does not have an alcohol list, guests can bring their own beverage with a corkage charge.
56 Ujeongguk-ro(gyeonji-dong), Jongno-gu, Seoul.
If you’re craving for hearty portions and the signature rambunctious flavours of Korean cuisine then Jungin Myeonok at Yeongdeungpo-gu will tick your boxes. But far from a mindless eating experience, the casual eatery actually specialises in North Korean dishes which means you will get a glimpse of the food culture of the hermit kingdom. The cold buckwheat noodles or naengmyeon is legendary and its recipe is a closely guarded family secret.
10 Gukhoe-daero 76-gil, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul.