Every since I was 10 years old and I visited Marco Pierre White’s Criterion, I have had a penchant for fine dining. While it is a hobby I can not afford to practice as much as I would like, it is a passion none the less. Seoul is certainly a youngster in this arena, however big steps have been made in the last few years, with Seoul even getting its own Michelin guide at the end of 2016.  One of those stars was awarded to Jungsik, which has always been highly regarded as one of Seoul’s best restaurants. I actually got my first taste of Chef Jungsik Yim’s food when I visited their bar, which is located downstairs. But Valentines Day provided  me my boyfriend, with the perfect excuse to splash out and finally get to try a whole meal.

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, though we opted for the former. There are three different set menus available at at lunch, a four course for 60,000 per person, a five course for 80,000 per person or an eight course tasting menu for 150,000 . As it was lunch we decided to just stick with the four course. The meal comes with an appetiser, a rice course, a fish or meat course, and a dessert. However as it was a super fancy meal an amuse bouche was also included. And as amuse bouches go, this one was pretty impressive. There were five different elements within the dish. A corn dog, or at least their fancy take on it, fried potato on a stick, a salmon ice cream cone, a rice and seaweed wrap and a radish and fish pancake. A great way to kick off the meal. It being a special occasion and all, we also ordered a bottle of champagne, well, Cava (60,000), but it all looks the same in the glass. The wine list was actually pretty large and the prices were fairly reasonable. Considering what some bars in Itaewon charge, their prices were not bad at all.

No sooner than the champagne selfies had been taken, our first courses arrived. My starter was pretty much my idea of food heaven. The simply titled “Mushroom” left a lot to the imagination, but all was revealed when it was presented to me. Nestled under a forest of delicious buttery mushrooms was a crispy egg. Once I broke through its crunchy exterior a golden yolk oozed out and provided the perfect sauce for the mushrooms. It was exquisite.

My beloved instead chose the crispy octopus with gochujang aioli (10,000 won surcharge). This dish was similar to one of the dishes we enjoyed at the bar on our previous visit. As you can see, it was a visually stunning dish. This is the kind of plating I yearn to learn.The aioli had a hint of spice to it without being overpowering, while the meaty piece of tentacle had a crispy outside. Personally I liked mine the best, but he suffers from an intense dislike of mushrooms, and so preferred his.

After the appetisers we were given the rice course. I opted for the kimbap, while TFB tried the Aromatic rice with barley and perilla oil. Both dishes were beautifully presented but the kimbap really stole the show in terms of flavour thanks to the kimchi tartar sauce, and the crunchiness of the seaweed. I thought this to be the most traditional of the dishes we tried, and really incorporated a lot of the most popular Korean flavours.

For our main we both selected the lamb with ginger vinaigrette as it’s one of our favourite meats, but this was probably the least favourite dish of the meal for me. The lamb had been cooked very slowly but there really wasn’t much flavour and the texture was a bit amiss. TFB in particular likes his lamb “lamby” and was a little disappointed. The dish was not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it just lacked a bit of oomph.

Luckily we ended on a high note with a collection of desserts. The Cheongdam Pie, aka apple pie, was pretty special. Caramel sauce, apple puree, and ice cream were layered upon two crispy biscuits. It was a total “Mmm” moment. We also tried the Dolhareubang, a green tea mousse concoction that is their signature dessert. Let’s face it is kind of a work of art. The sesame coated man, in the shape of one of Jeju’s famous Hareubang, was filled with green tea and chocolate ganache. He was rather delicious indeed.

Overall I’d say that Jung Sik just about met my expectations, and we had a very enjoyable lunch. It’s the ideal date restaurant for when you want somewhere special. It’s really exciting to see Korean ingredients used in this way, so I’m glad I finally got to try it. By the time we polished off our coffee and petit fours, we were pleasantly full. The bill came in at just under 200,000 which I thought was good considering we had a bottle of bubbly too. The menu is the same for both the lunch and the dinner service, except the lunch is about half the price, so take that into consideration if you are on a budget. You could also try eating at the bar downstairs if you are unable to get a reservation, as they offer a lot of the restaurants most popular dishes, and a very large selection of wines by the glass.

Jung Sik is located at 11 Seollungro 158-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Apgujeong Rodeo (yellow line) and come out of exit 4. Walk straight for one block and then turn left. The restaurant is on your left hand side, and the restaurant is the second floor. For more info/reservations you can call them on +82 2 517 4654, or visit their website. Reservations are taken up to one month in advance and are recommended.

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