I had never even heard the name OKitchen mentioned until I went to the medicinal competition in Sancheong. The chefs representing the restaurant won one of the top prizes. After that I noticed that everyone was talking about it and telling me how great the food was, so I thought it was about time I tried it. After a little research online, I found that it was fine dining. Little did I know that I had walked past the restaurant dozens of time. We had even looked at the menu before, thought it looked good, but not ventured inside. It just goes to show that appearances can by deceptive and you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The little wooden plank clad restaurant looks more like a ski chalet in the mountains than a fine dining establishment. But once inside, the restaurant is warm, cosy, and perfect for a nice intimate dinner.
Soon after sitting we were brought the bread basket. Four different varieties, focaccia, butter scone bread, a black sesame crisp and a walnut bread. The bread came with oil and vinegar and was refilled once we finished it. The walnut could have done with a little more salt but all in all it was a nice selection.
Niall ordered the tasting plate, which consisted of six different courses for 80,000. I’ll run through that and then discuss the a la carte dishes I ordered. The first dish of the tasting platter was the seafood plate. A large variety of fish and seafood were on the dish, far too many to recount. A nice start to the meal if you like raw fish. I sadly did not so couldn’t comment but Niall enjoyed it and felt it was nicely balanced and the accompaniments worked well.
Next up was the polenta cake with mushrooms and a poached fertile egg. I was looking forward to my taste of this one, eggs and mushrooms are always a winning combination for me. The egg looked as though it was sous-vide rather than poached, which was not to my preference as the egg white is not as solid as if it had been poached. The egg yolk was lovely and runny though.
The starters kept on coming and next was a roasted fig with gorgonzola and poached pear. Not usually a gorgonzola fan, the cheese complimented the fig well. It was small though and quickly devoured.
Next came the pasta course. The pasta of the day was spaghetti with mackerel. The mackerel was not too strong in flavour and I was actually able to eat a little of this one.
After the pasta course was the main of han-woo steak. This steak was half the size of the regular option but after all those courses it would have been far too much. He ordered his steak blue which I thought was a little rare for the cut of the meat, but he enjoyed it all the same. It came with little pearls of mustard seeds, greens and roasted potatoes.
Finally on to the dessert course of warm chocolate cake with espresso ice-cream. The cake was warm with a little sauce still melting in the middle. The ice-cream was nice and creamy and the raspberry jus smeared on the plate nice and tart. A lovely nice dessert and the perfect end to the meal. Thankfully it was small or we might not have finished it!
Rather than the tasting menu I went a la carte and had the potato gnocchi with pumpkin sauce and truffle oil (23,000) This was as yummy as it sounds. The gnocchi was soft and lightly fried so the edge was crisp. The pumpkin sauce was sweet and complimentary and the delicious smell of truffles wafted through the dish. Topped with grated parmesan and mushrooms, I will be coming back for this dish again.
On to my main of Australian lamb done two ways (45,000). Composed of a rack of lamb, perfectly cooked to medium rare. The pan seared edge tasted of lemon and herbs and was extremely good. The second piece was slow cooked in delicious gravy like sauce, the waitress didn’t explain this dish at all but I would guess it was shoulder, served on a bed of mashed something. I have no idea what it was could have been celeriac, cauliflour, or polenta. I just don’t know. It was tasty though. The slow cooked lamb was divine it was so soft and tender it just fell apart in my mouth and melted into my tongue. It’s hard to beat a nice rack but this did it in spades. Possibly the best lamb I’ve ever eaten in Korea. I’ll be coming back for this one, too. I couldn’t be happier about my choice of dishes.
The only part about the dining experience that I think needs improving is the service. We waited longer than we should have to be given menus, and every time a dish was brought over they just left without explaining the dish. When prompted they were able to explain but it is my personal belief that during a fine dining experience it is paramount that servers explain the elements that compose the meal. The menu gives very little detail other than the two or three main ingredients. The chefs go to a lot of trouble to put together each plate and for the customer not to know what’s on seems a little redundant. The owner was kind and warm but I think he could do with training his waitresses a little better. I was also a little miffed to see no cocktails on the menu, but those who enjoy wine and beer will be happy enough.
Over all we had a great meal for a reasonable price at Okitchen and I will definitely be returning. The service could be improved but it wouldn’t stop me from visiting again or recommending it as a good place for a special dinner. I would recommend that at least one person in your party get the tasting plate if you like to try a little of everything. But also try a few other dishes on the menu too.
Okitchen is located at Itaewon-dong 168-14 Itaewon-Dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Itaewon station and come out exit 1. Walk straight for maybe 100m and you should see Okitchen in one of the little alleyways. If you get as far as ABC mart you’ve gone too far. You can call them on 02-797-6420 or check out their facebook page.