When done right, Spanish food has always been one of my most beloved European cuisines. However despite the fact that traditional Korean food is often made up of small plates of food to share, tapas hasn’t really caught on in the way that other European cuisines have. So when Chef Manuel, previously of Mi Casa, invited me to come and try out the food at his new restaurant I quite frankly jumped at the chance.
The restaurant is of a moderate size and is located up on the second floor of a building near Sangsu station. The walls are painted a festive blue and yellow and the huge blinds have been printed with the cityscapes of Barcelona and Alicante to honour the hometowns of the partners who run the place. When sitting down at our table the first thing I noticed was how big the kitchen was, especially with just two chefs working in it. Seoul kitchens are famously tiny so it was nice to see such a large working area.
For our meal we were recommended the chef’s tasting menu which was 35,000 per person with a minimum of two people. The menu included an apertivo, four tapas dishes, paella and homemade ice cream so was incredibly well priced.
To kick the night off I had to try a glass of their sangria (7,000) and TFB went for the slightly less sweet Tinto (6,000). The sangria was superb and the perfect blend of fruit and wine, while the tinto is a blend of red wine and red vermouth. With our drinks came freshly baked bread, garlic aioli, and a fresh tomato tapanade like dip. I smothered the warm bread in the amazing aioli and fresh and delicious tomato dip. I’m still dreaming of it now and this was just the free bread not even a course!
Our aperitivo was the Croquetas de jamon (10,000). When I bit into it my taste buds came alive, there was so much flavour in the cheese, it felt like it was singing. Salty pieces of ham complimented it nicely and it was wrapped in a lusciously crisp exterior. Ham and cheese would not be a go to filling for me but this was divine. I could have eaten a million of them.
Up next with the Nuestras Gambas Ajillo (12,000) or garlic prawns to me and you. The shrimp were large and juicy and had a lovely flavour. They were clearly cooked fresh and not frozen like so many shrimp dishes you come across these days. With this dish we were brought more of the wonderful bread and dips, and I was more than happy to devour them.
After the prawns came the scallops. I used to eat these all the time at home living by the sea but rarely have them here in Korea. These were cooked sous vide, which is not my favourite method of cooking, then seared in the pan. The accompanying sauce was very mild to let the scallops speak for themselves but I wish the sauce had just a little more punch.
After the seafood came the meat, Panceta Espanola (12,000). Spanish sous vide pork belly with vegetables. The pork was very tender, and it almost melted in the mouth, I felt truly spoiled after having so many wonderful different dishes.
We thought the paella would be next but then out came the Bombeta Barcelona (10,000). An absolute show stopper, it was very impressive. Chef Manuel told us this is a regional dish that he always used to eat with his family. The bomb was stuffed with beef mince in the middle, wrapped with soft potato, breaded, and deep fried. It reminded me a lot of a cottage pie.
I was absolutely stuffed by this point but out came the Arroz Negro (24,000) paella. The squid ink paella as black as night and filled with squid, clams, mussels, and top with two more of those wonderful prawns. The squid ink was so rich it turned our lips black. Personally I favour the saffron yellow paella stuffed with meat to the squid ink but we certainly managed to eat most of it anyway.
After the paella I was pretty much busting, and if I had been wearing trousers I certainly would have been unbuttoning them. However I soon found some extra room in my belly once the homemade pineapple ice cream (5,000) turned up. The ice cream was a delight, the fresh and fruity palette cleanser we were in need of, and the homemade wafer on top was the cherry on the top of a wonderful meal.
Overall I was incredibly impressed by this meal, the price was exceptional. I rarely eat set menu meals in Seoul because they are usually around the 100 mark and unless it’s a special occasion it’s just out of my price range. Considering the fact we got to try so many different dishes all made up of premium ingredients I think it was an absolute steal and it was by far the best Spanish food I have eaten in Seoul, I cant wait to visit again.
Alma Restaurante is located at 2F(which is actually the third floor) 143-29 Sangsu-dong, Mapo Gu, Seoul(서울 마포구 상수동 143-29). To get there take a train to Sangsu Station(line 6) and come out of exit 2. Turn back on yourself and walk around the corner. Alma is maybe 50 meters down this road on your right hand side.