Phum Baitang – Cooking Class

Whenever I take a trip to another country, I always make a point of booking myself and TFB in for a cooking class. As well as tasting the national dishes, I also love to see the ingredients and cooking techniques that are used in making them. I always feel that I learn so much from these experience, as well as getting a chance to add a couple of new dishes to my repertoire. In Siem Reap we were lucky enough to be invited to take part in the cooking class operated by the stunningly beautiful Phum Baitang resort. (more…)

Korea Travel Expo 2017

For the past few weeks I have been off on my holidays globe trotting around the majestic lands of Cambodia, but now I’m back and it’s time to get excited about all things Korean again. This month sees the hosting of the 2017 Korea Travel Expo, which showcases everything related to tourism within Korea. This exhilarating expo is free to those who pre-register, and takes place at COEX in Samseongdong, Seoul from February 16th (Thur) to February 19th (Sun). Some of the hosts this year include the  Ministry of Magic Culture, Sports, and Tourism, as well as the Korea Tourism Association. At this year’s event there will be over 650 booths hosted by a mix of local governments and nationwide organizations, making this the largest tourism exhibition in Korea.

So what can one expect to see at such an event? The main theme of the Korea Travel Expo is New Discovery about My Country. As it’s name implies, little-known great restaurants, beautiful spots, and streets will be introduced with a concept of “taste the beauty of ROK.” This is the perfect chance to find out about Korea’s hidden gems. Visitors will also be treated to cultural experiences from throughout the nation as well as being able to purchase locally produced food items not currently available in Seoul. Plus all kinds of travel information will be provided by tourist service businesses such as hotels, travel agencies, resorts, theme parks and transportation companies.

There will also be lectures by popular travel writers as well as the opportunity to buy souvenirs from all over Korea. Storytellers, culture, and tour guides from the regions of Korea will be waiting for guests at booths which will be spread throughout the hall allowing visitors to get firsthand information to help them plan their next Korean getaway. The “experience zone” will introduce various performances and cultural insight giving not only pleasure but also valuable experience to guests. So if you are at a loose end this February why not sign up and visit this exciting expo, there will a be a whole host of things to see and do, plus its free and not outside.

The Korea Travel Expo is being held at COEX exhibition center from February 16th (Thur) to February 19th (Sun). You can can preregister for FREE tickets here! For more information you can visit the Travel Expo website (Korean only) or visit their facebook page.

10 must eats in Siem Reap

If you have been following my Instagram account then you will know that for the past week or so I’ve been living in up in Cambodia. I have have spent the past week and half eating everything in site while sunning myself in the gorgeous Pavillion D’Orient Hotel in Siem Reap. If you’ve never visited the home of Angkor Wat before, then you should know that this place is filled to the brim with all kinds of delicious treats and that Khmer cuisine has been seriously over looked in favour of its neighbours’. The best part about Cambodian food is that it is insanely affordable, everything is at most a third of the price that it is in Seoul, if not cheaper. So for that alone it makes the perfect holiday destination.

1 – Fire Ants – When researching what to eat in Siem Reap, I came across many recommendations for Marum Restaurant which is a profit free place dedicated to helping the local community by training their staff how to cook. One of their most famous dishes is the Spicy Beef with Fire Ants ($6.60), a delicious stir fried beef dish which is strewn with crispy ants. This dish was scrumptious and I wasn’t at all creeped out eating ants, you can have it by itself or add a side of rice to make it a meal. They also have a fab happy hour from 4pm-7pm which we took full advantage of while enjoying their lovely garden setting.

2 – Noodle Soup – I adore a big bowl of noodle soup which regular readers will know about from my tonkotsu ramen obsession. The Khmer noodle soup is slightly different from its other Asian counterparts but no less delicious.  A huge bowl of tasty broth is filled with thick handmade noodles and garnished with fresh herbs, chillies and lime. This particular bowl was served as  part of the breakfast at the  60s inspired Viroth Hotel. The meatballs inside were a bit on the strange side, but he noodles were incredible and I happily scarfed down a bowl each morning.

3 – Lok Lak– Beef Lok lak is one of Cambodias most famous dishes,  and you will see it on virtually every menu in the city. The beef dish comes served with salad for you to eat alongside the meat. The meal is then either rounded our with rice or with french fries. This dish is from Our favourite cheap eatery The Red Angkor. A brother and sister team own the place and always give a warm welcome while serving incredibly tasty food at rock bottom prices. Nothing on the menu costs over $4 and this Lok Lak was a mere $2.50 they also offer 50 cent beers which pretty much guaranteed that we visited the place frequently throughout our trip.

4 – BBQ Skewers – Another dish that you must try in Cambodia is their BBQ. Not that different to the style we have here in Korea, but the meat selection is usually a wee bit more adventerous. We unfortunately didn’t have time to to make it a meal and have the full shebang but we did enjoy these fantastic Beef Skewers ($3) at the Khmer Grill. Yes, that’s right, they were a dollar a piece. The chunks of beef were sandwiched between slices of carrot, onion and paprika, cooked on the outdoor bbq and served with a lime and pepper dip. Suffice to say, it was three dollars very well spent!

5 – Amok Curry – The amok curry is probably the other most famed Cambodian dish. We tried a couple of varieties during the course of our trip, including one served in a coconut. The curry itself is very mild, and those who enjoy Thai curries may want to amp up the flavour a little. This is a version that we made in our cooking class at Phum Baitang which was filled with the snake fish we had bought at the local market. Again this is a dish you can expect to see on menus everywhere, there are also versions with chicken and pork if you don’t like fish.

6 – Fresh Juice & Smoothies – Cambodia is filled to the brim with delicious fresh fruits and veggies, you only need to take a look around the local markets to see the bounty of fresh produce available and many of the newer western restaurants are taking advantage of this to make refreshing fruit juices and smoothies. We came across several Balinese-type, healthy places which along with drinks had a variety of dishes catering to vegans, vegetarians and those with dietary restrictions. The juices at ARTillery Cafe were some of our favourites, and it was conveniently located right next to our hotel. Pictured is the Ginger Aid and Mango Madness ( both $3).

7 – Chicken cashew – We enjoyed this dish in virtually every restaurant we went to, as it is a pretty much a favourite of mine and TFBs in South East Asia. The cream of the crop of these cashew chicken dishes  was at the New Leaf Eatery for $6. Other than the Red Angkor this was probably our favourite place to eat. It’s another non profit restaurant and the food was just incredible. It was one of the few places we ate western food too, their steak baguette was knock out and well worth a try if you are in the mood for a sandwich.

8 – Frog – Kermit and his loved ones are a pretty popular dish on the menus of Khmer cuisine, and find them cooked in a variety of different ways. We tried this spicy stir fried version at the Khmer Grill ($3), but you can also get them deep fried. This was my first time eating frog, and I have to say it’s just a lot like a tiny chicken wing. If you really want to go crazy, some of the street stalls serve tarantula, cockroach, lizard, and snakes for 50 cents a piece. I couldn’t bring myself to try them though, it made be shudder every time I gazed upon those deep fried cockroaches. I know that’s lame as hell for a food blogger but I just didn’t have the stomach for it.

9 – Rice Soup (Bawbaw) –  Of all the new dishes that I tried the Bawbaw was probably top of my list. Similar to the Khmer noodles, the broth is full of rice, rice noodles, meal and veggies. It is a little similar to Vietnamese pho, but in a totally different way. The broth is so simple and clean, yet studded with flavour. If I was feeling sick this would be my absolute go to soup. At our beautiful hotel Pavillion D’Orient they served this bowl of magical goodness for breakfast though they also had it on their restaurant menu for ($5) and it is an absolute must try.

10 – Angkor Beer & Nuts – You cant leave Cambodia without trying the local beer and there are two varieties, Angkor beer and Cambodia beer, TFB preferred the Angkor and I tend to agree with him. The beers can be purchased for as little as 50 cents on draft and about 60 cents a can in the supermarket. When buying a beer in a bar you’ll also be given a bowl full of nuts that are seasoned with chili, lime leaves and garlic. Those babies are insanely addictive and I even took to buying extra beers just so I could eat the nuts. I am going to have to have a go at recreating these myself because I have already eaten my way through the humble supply I bought before I left. If anyone is in Cambodia right now, I’ll love you forever if you bring me back a bag or two!

Pavillion D’Orient Hotel – Siem Reap

I’m writing to you today, not from the grizzly cold and snowy weather of Seoul, but in the glorious sunshine of Seam Reap, Cambodia. Nice work if you can get it right? I was invited to stay at the beautiful boutique resort of Pavillion D’Orient Hotel. An absolute gem of a place in a tropical paradise of never ending sunshine. I sit writing upon one of their wonderfully comfortable sun loungers gazing across a tranquil blue pool, a cold Angkor beer sitting beside me along side a bowl of deliciously addictive lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf seasoned nuts. Honestly life couldn’t be better right now.

We began our stay by taking the overnight flight operated by Eastar Jet direct from Seoul, Incheon to Siem Reap airport. Due to a slight delay thanks to the snow we arrived late, but as we had booked our visas online we were swiftly through immigration and on to our awaiting driver, who was arranged on a complimentary basis for all guests making the process that much easier.

Knowing that our room was to be comped, we were eager to see our room, and were thrilled to find out that we had been upgraded to a suite which was absolutely fantastic. A huge king sized bed, day bed, seating area, larger balcony and gigantic rain shower. Everything about about the room was fantastic. Including a lovely basket of fresh fruit which was replenished daily, music to my fruit eating ears. The room prices start from $70 per night and include a one way airport transfer.

Our first breakfast we awoke quite early thanks to the 2 hour time difference. Breakfast runs from 6am-12pm, so no need to worry if you are a late riser or getting up bright and early to visit the temples. The breakfast is half buffet and half a la carte. Every morning we were delivered a glass of sweet and delicious tropical smoothie and a pot of homemade yogurt. We then helped ourselves to fruit, pastries, homemade jams and tea and coffee.

Our hot selections were brought to the table, the western breakfast was a particular favourite of ours with fried eggs, bacon, and toast, we were on holiday after all! However the real star of the show for me was the local cuisine, fried rice, and rice soup (bawbaw) which I fell in love with. The only way I could describe it is that it has similar flavours to pho but is also completely different. I had a bowl every day. The best thing about breakfast is that you could have it in bed for only an extra $2 per person! Most hotels charge you through the roof for this service so it was such a pleasant surprise.

The restaurant is open until 10pm each night and also serves lunch, dinner and plenty of cocktails. On our lazy days we took full advantage of it enjoying many a drink by the side of the pool. As with breakfast the food was again fantastic they had a nice mix of local dishes and western favourites with nothing costing more than $6 and all deliverable to your room for no extra charge. We tended to stick with the local cuisine and couldn’t get enough of their cashew chicken and fried noodles. The Pina Coladas weren’t bad either!

There are two pools in the hotel, so you should have no problems finding a shady sun lounger if you are looking to get out of the sun. There are also several large day beds and a communal seating area in which to enjoy a few drinks with the other guests if you want to socialize. There is also an in-house spa, the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing massage after trekking around the temples of Angkor Wat, and trust me you are going to need one.

The town center is just a short tuk tuk ride away, and drivers are always on stand by or can be booked and take you in for a mere $2. It was nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of the popular nightlife area and being slightly further out made sure our sleep was never interrupted. The hotel also provided us with a tuk tuk driver for the whole day to take us out to the temples for $18. He was very knowledgeable about all the best sots to hit and which order to best avoid the crowds. I don’t think we could have managed without him.

Honestly I could recommend this hotel enough, the staff and the food and the luxurious garden surroundings were fantastic. We have stayed in many luxurious resorts over the years but this one was hard to beat as it had such a personal touch. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again upon my return to Siem Reap, nothing was too much trouble for the staff and we were always greeted with a smile. If you are looking for 5 star service on a 3 star budget then this is the place to stay.

Pavillion D’Orient is located at Road no 60 (rd to Angkor), after Psah Leu market, Siem Reap, Kingdom Cambodia. Room rates start from $70 and include daily breakfast for 2 people, and a one way airport transfer when booked directly with the hotel. For more information please visit their website.

 

 

NY Burger & Bagel

As you may know my search for a good burger in this city has been relentless, and I tried dozens of places before finally finding my favourite  at Itaewon the Burger. If you ever think that my blog is always on the positive side and never offers bad reviews, that is because it is carefully curated and I only share my favourites or those I find to have value in their uniqueness or locations . After expressing my disappointment with so many of the burger joints that I tried and didn’t blog about on my Instagram account I was reached out to by many other burger aficionados who felt the same way I did. One of these was NY Burger and Bagel in Gangnam, which the owner Mark declared to be the best burger in Seoul, I snorted with derision as I had heard that plenty of times before, but when he kindly invited me and a few friends to give them a try with no obligation to write a review, I figured why not. The restaurant is located right by Gangnam station, which is really a bit of a black hole when it comes to good eating, as the exorbitant rents have pretty much left us with a load of old crap, so for that alone I figured it would make an interesting post if the claims were true.

The restaurant is located a couple of streets back from the main drag, just far enough to get away from the hustle and bustle of Gangnam life. The restaurant is adorably cute with a white facade, faux grass and some tables outside. Once the spring comes around this will be a prime piece of real estate to brunch in, but since it was -6 we favoured a table indoors. The Inside is fairly small with a large semi open kitchen taking up a good third of the space but was still ample enough for me and my crew and a large table of office workers.

As we were guests of the proprietor he kindly asked if he could select his favourite items for us to try. Being a pretty agreeable bunch we were cool and the gang with that and we kindly accepted a delicious glass of mulled wine while we waited. Unfortunately the mulled wine is a season item but I was assured that it is going to be replaced by a cocktail that is equally delicious.  The first burger to arrive was the Once in a Bleu Moon (11,500). I’m a blue cheese queen so couldn’t resist the lure of a burger topped with blue cheese and crispy bacon. The beef burger was cooked to medium, and was well seasoned, while the bun was soft and and buttery. The burgers here don’t come served with anything, which is kind of a pet peeve of mine (fries are mandatory in a burger experience, not optional) so we ordered a portion of parmesan garlic fries (8,000). This was a large portion that we shared between four of us. It also came with a fresh herb ranchy type dip called the green goddess which we were all fighting over until it it was gone. Like most burger places in Korea they also do 1/2 sets of fries with a drink for 5,500.

 

The second burger we tried was the The Wasaaabi??? (11,500). A beef burger topped with pepperjack cheese, grilled onion, shiitake mushroom, and wasabi mayo. As much as I love wasabi I was first a little skeptical about this meaty treat but it ended up being the unanimous favourite of the day. Beef and wasabi is surprisingly a match made in heaven, and after consideration, it being so close to mustard, I can see why. The wasabi was mixed with mayo so it wasn’t at all overbearing and you could still taste the flavour of the beef, and the shiitake mushrooms cheese and grilled onions. It was a total Mmm experience. My only regret was that I was sharing it with three other people.

 

The last burger we tried was the Bubba Gump (22,000). The Forrest Gump namesake is topped with blackened cajun shrimp, american cheese, salad and cajun mayo. It’s pretty steep at 22,000 but hey it’s Gangnam and there are plenty of more reasonably priced options on the menu. I really liked this one, as I was loving the cajun mayo. Honestly I don’t know if I really needed the shrimp, I was more than happy to eat them but I think the same burger without them would have been just as tasty and a hell of a lot cheaper. We finished up with a drinkable dessert in the form of their Peanut Butter Milkshake(5,500). This was indescribably rich and ice- creamy and every sip was totally nutillicious. This was the thick shake that I have been longing for, for quite some time and we all agreed it was the perfect way to end the meal.

Overall I really enjoyed the burgers at NY Burger and Bagel, the Wasabi burgers gave me the Mmm factor I was looking for and I’m thrilled to have a good place to eat near Gangnam station. The menu is quite large so if burgers aren’t your bag there is also a breakfast menu and some other popular NY style lunch items that the owner missed from living in New York. When the weather turns warmer than this will be an ideal spot for a weekend brunch and I’ll certainly be giving them another try once spring rolls around.

NY Bagel & Burger is located at 827-37 Yeoksamdong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Gangnam station and come out of exit 4. Turn back on yourself and walk straight, then take the next right. Walk along this street for four blocks then take the right after that. You will see NY Burger and Bagel a little way ahead. For more information you can call them on 02-553-7792 or check out their facebook page. They are open everyday from 10am-10pm.

궈일교자

January is almost always a very bleak month. It’s cold and miserable, you’ve failed your new health kick after a week and a half, and everyone is broke after spending too much money at Christmas. Honestly there really isn’t a whole lot to look forward to unless you are going to Cambodia for a week like I am tomorrow (please don’t hate me!). Despite these rather depressing conditions, the restaurant scene around Itaewon is still popping, with a whole host of new restaurants  opening their doors in the past few weeks.

Now one such place that has opened up in Gyeongridan is 궈일교자 . This new restaurant popped up overnight in a spot that used to host a 7-11. It’s not surprising that the minuscule 7-11 bit the dust as there are much larger convenience stores in spitting distance. The front portion of the tiny store is made up of the kitchen which boasts big towers of steamers to help lure in the crowds looking for shelter from the biting cold. At the back of the store is some counter style seating for the best part of a dozen patrons.

The menu like the store itself is pretty simple. There are  half a dozen different types of mandu, along with a few large ones and two different typoes of noodles. Honestly it was the cheap prices that lured me in, as they agreed with my new frugal sensibilities. Being in desperate need of iron in my diet I went for the BBQ Dumplings (3,000 for 6). The dumplings were stuffed with galbi and galbi sauce, which I had never eaten in dumpling form before. The meat was sweet and tasty, and they paired nicely with the free pickled radish.

We also tried the meat dumplings (2,500 for 8). These were pretty much your bog standard gogi mandu that you could buy frozen and make yourself at home. They were possibly a touch fancier than that and did taste pretty great when dipped into the accompanying vinegar. If you don’t fancy cooking these are a nice cheap and cheerful option.

As it was so cold and I was in the mood for soup so we also got the Udon (4,000). This was alright, honestly the broth was fairly unmemorable but the noodles were filling. At least the price is right. There were some other dumplings on the menu that I’d be more likely to try over these if I came again.

Honestly I cant say that this place was that amazing and if you are looking for standout dumplings you’d be better going to Stacked. The bbq galbi dumplings were tasty enough though, and I would probably pick myself up a to go order from time to time as it’s right by my house. Its real draw is its prices, mandu plus some soup for about 6,000, you can’t say fairer than that, though of course you can find similar places in neighbourhoods all over Korea, just rarely in ours, and for that alone it is worth a mention.

궈일교자 is located at 225-68 Itaewon2-dong, yongsan-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Noksapyeong Station (line 6) and come out of exit 2. Walk straight until you reach the underpass, then go through and exit using the stairs on the left hand side. Follow the road around passing the church and Well Being mart. You will see 궈일교자 just up ahead on the right hand side after Cheese-a-lot. They don’t currently have a phone number so I can’t give any more information.

Cafe L’Assemblage

I love a good natter over a cake and a coffee. It’s one of life’s greatest joys. Luckily for us gossip girls, Seoul is filled to the brim with lovely coffee shops, and you are never more than a stones throw away from the nearest one. Before Christmas I was lucky enough to be invited to Cafe L’Assemblage for a meeting. I had walked past this Garosugil cafe dozens of times in the past and looked longingly at the beautiful pastries in the window, but always feared it was far too fancy for the likes of me so never ventured inside. If I had ever had the balls to walk in, I would have noted that the inside is just as fancy as the outside. The whole cafe exudes an opulence that is ten a penny in Europe but not so much in the ultra modern and sleek cafes in Korea.The cafe has been part of the local landscape since the 90s, but has changed hands several times over the last few years. It now belongs to the original owner’s daughter, which I thought to be an utterly enchanting story.

Since I was meeting with the owner on a separate project we decided to make the most of her generosity and try as many of their cakes as we could fit in our bellies. One of which was their signature Golden Cheese Tarts. My god are these babies addictively good. You may remember that towards the end of last year I had a give away of the golden cheese tarts, and this was where I was first lucky enough to try them. They are a touch pricier at (3,000) each rather than 2,800 for the take out stores, but I think you’ll agree it is certainly worth the 200 won extra to sit and enjoy your tart in such a beautiful cafe. If you have yet to try one yet, the cheese tart is made up of a very crumbly and biscuity pastry which melts in the mouth and has a very similar texture to a graham cracker crust you usually find on a cheesecake. The filling is rich and creamy thanks to the French soft cheese and has just a slightly sour note at the end. If you are a baked cheesecake fan then you need to try this delightful mini tart version asap because they are absolutely scrumptious.

As well as the exceptionally yummy golden cheese tarts, we also tried The Earl Gray Crepe Cake (7,000). I do love a good crepe cake, even more so when I haven’t had to spend hours over a hot stove making one myself. This English tea version was absolutely lighter than air with a delicious flavour of Earl Gray swirled in at the end. I always thought that crepe cakes would be too filling with their many layers but I’m always amazed by how many pieces I can eat. You can’t really tell from the picture, but this crepe cake was topped with a sweet and flavourful layer of earl grey frosting which really intensified the cakes overall flavour.

Lastly we tried the Orange and and White Chocolate Tart (8,500). Orange and chocolate is always a classic combination, just think about a Jaffa Cake or a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. But white chocolate and orange are a match made in heaven that often gets overlooked in favour of milk or dark. The tart itself was exquisite, in the way that only French pastries can be. The pastry was crisp and biscuity. While the orange topping was juicy and sweet with just a hint of citrus sour. It paired well with the rich and creamy filling underneath. I loved this tart so much and could eat a slice every day for the rest of my life, it was sinfully good.

Overall I found Cafe L’Assemblage to be the most delightful of spaces. It is the perfect spot to to fritter away an afternoon gossiping with your friends. The cakes and pastries were exceedingly good, and very well priced for the area. Unlike many dessert cafes in the city, they tasted as good as they looked, and I wouldn’t hesitate to pop in for another dessert next time I am in Sinsa.

Cafe L’Assemblage is located at 118 Apgujeong-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Apgujeong Station (line 3) and come out of exit 5. Walk straight along this road. its located on the corner just after you pass Garosugil. For more information you can call them on 02-3477-2046.

Jungsik Bar

Happy New Year one and all. I’ve started this year at rather a slow pace, quite frankly I have barely had the energy to get out of bed let alone write my blog, but we all deserve a break now and again and this post should make up for it.  Jungsik has been on my list of places to try for a number of years now, its modern Korean cuisine has been particularly well regarded and it recently even received a coveted Michelin star when the new Korean guide came out. While the list has been questioned by many, Jungsik seems to be hailed as one of the most deserving. However thanks to the extra boost of popularity the star has given it, the place is now rather hard to get a table at.

So when TFB offered to take me out on a little date night to celebrate our 8 year anniversary, Jungsik was one of my first suggestions, however at short notice the place was understandably fully booked on a Friday night. Luckily we were informed that the bar offers some of the same food, so after looking it up online we decided to give it a try. For those who can ill afford a pricey four course dinner, or just can’t seem to get a reservation, the bar on the first floor is a port in a storm. The bar menu is split into two parts, the bar menu, and the ‘classic menu’ which is made of up of  special vintage dishes that have been the restaurant’s signatures over the years. The dishes come in three sizes, bite size, small, and regular. I especially liked the idea of the bar offering the most popular dishes from the past few years, it’s the perfect way to keep the restaurant menu fresh and innovative while still giving regular patrons a chance to eat their favourites.

It being a bar and all we decided to get a drink. The emphasis here is on wine, they have a very large menu and a selection of wine machines which allow you to try as much or as little of the wine as you would like. At the very knowledgeable sommelier’s recommendation we decided to try a flight of Natural Wines (50,000). Natural wines are made without chemicals and as little technological processing as possible and Jung Sik has over 60 varieties. On the flight, there were two whites and two reds. Of the four wines included, my favourite was the Detorri Bianco, while TFB favoured the Il Frappato. The flight allowed wive novices such as ourselves to try more of a variety than if we had just had a glass each.

After browsing the bar menu we opted for the octopus dish Pulpo a la Gallega (20,000 Small). This was the medium sized plate which was perfect for us to share,  but they also have a larger or bite size portion available which you can pair with the wine sips if you are super into the wine pairing thing. I’m not sure if I’ve ever eaten proper octopus before and was shocked at how large the tentacles were. I’m sure I have only eaten the baby version so was pleasantly surprised at how it had such a meaty texture. With the paprika spiced potatoes this dish seemed to be very Spanish, probably due to the flavours and the tapas style serving size. For someone like myself, who is not really a huge seafood lover, this dish really impressed me, and I soon found myself fighting over the last bite.

As well as the octopus we got the 2009 Crispy Pork (30,000 Small). Belly pork when done right is one of my absolute favourite meals in the world and this one was exquisite. The meat was so juicy and tender, while the top side remained nice and crisp. On top were pickled chillies which added a nice heat without being in the slightest bit overbearing. The dish went to a whole new level of deliciousness when I tried the pork with the mash and the wilted Korean garlic leaf(명이나물). I’ve never had that particular leaf before but it went so perfectly with the pork in a truly subtle and heavenly way. I just wish their had been so much more of it.

Having had a really small taste of this place has only left me wanting more. There are so many more dishes i would have loved to have tried so I am definitely going to be going back. Their lunch menu is incredibly reasonable and almost half the price of the dinner menu despite the fact the food is the same so I think I’ll start there and save dinner for those who have deeper pockets than me. The restaurant only takes reservations up to a month in advance, so if you find due to the new starring the place is booked, you will not have to wait so long until you can give it a try, or you can always get a table at the bar like we did.

Jung Sik Bar 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 bar part is the first floor. For more info/reservations you can call them on +82 2 517 4654, or visit their website.

Gino’s Pizzeria

Almost a year ago to the day, Gino’s New York Style Pizza opened its doors here in Itaewon and a mere 365 days later later they are opening up a second location right across the street. The new location is set to be a slice shop and to help with their vast and numerous take out orders. The original location became wildly popular after featuring in a a bunch of TV spots which kept a steady queue of customers at its doors but made locals feel unwanted.  The new shop has seating / standing room for half a dozen or so customers but come springtime there will be outdoor seats available. The joint is the kind of eat and go place, if you want to have a leisurely lunch then head back to the original across the street.

After perusing the menu and the display case we ordered a Plain Cheese (4,000). Very simple, but hits the spot perfectly. A bit pricier than some of the other plain cheeses slices around but its certainly tastier, and almost as good as the full size pizza. I can imagine being very happy munching on one of these babies when I’ve had a few too many drinks on a Friday night. We also got the new Grandma Slice (6,000), a Sicilian style slice with a thicker more robust crust, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. This one was also delicious and a nice variation from the ultra thin slices.  Owner Euguene told me they still have a couple of kinks to work out to make sure customers are getting fresh slices and they aren’t throwing too many away but on the whole I think its perfect for anyone looking for a quick snack at this end of town.

Also new to the menu are a selection of  calzones. I couldn’t resist getting the Chicken Alfredo Calzone (12,000) as its one favourite pizza toppings across the street. The golden dough was stuffed with mozzarella, breaded chicken, spinach, mushrooms, red onion, alfredo sauce and ricotta. It was heavenly especially as it came with extra sauce on the side. A tad on the expensive side for lunch but nice for a treat.They also have a couple parmesan sandwiches on the menu which looked good but I didn’t have the room for.

Along with the slices, sandwiches, and calzones the store will also be serving Lala Milkmade’s delicious ice cream. I’ve been a huge fan of Jen and her frozen treats since when had a shop called Ellay’s in Seochon. She has since opened another store in Gyeongbukgong trading under the name LA LA Milkmaid. The ice cream we tried was the Jameson’s Bacon, and the Guinness & Chocolate (4,500). Both ice creams were deliciously rich and creamy, but I’d have to give the edge to the Jamesons & bacon just because it had the sweet and salty pairing I love so much. I believe there are also another couple of flavours on the menu too, well worth a try even if it is freezing outside.

 

Gino’s Pizzeria is having its grand opening today (December 31st) and to celebrate will be selling 1,000won plain cheese slices, 2,000won pepperoni slices, 1,000won cups of blue point toasted lager, 1,000won jarritos, and 1000won ice creams from Lala milkmaid (one slice per customer). The doors open at 12pm on December 31st, get there early or very late as I’m sure there will be one hell of a queue. What better way to ring in the new year than with a cheap, tasty slice of pizza.

Gino’s Pizzeria is located at 455-47 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan, Seoul. To get there take a train to Noksapyeong Station (line 6) and exit using the lift next to thew shop. Walk over the bridge and then take a right, follow the road around and you will see Gino’s Pizzeria just ahead on the corner above Nori Table. For more information you can call them on  02-790-2235 or check out their facebook page. Ginos will be open from 12:00pm – 10:00pm Tue-Sun. 

Boccalino – Brunch

Christmas is a time for giving and sharing, but its also a time to spoil yourself rotten. After slaving away in the kitchen and preparing a huge traditional feast on Christmas Eve I was ready for a break on Christmas Day. So what better way to relax than with a free flow prosecco brunch at Boccalino in the Four Seasons Hotel. Eating at Italian restaurant Boccalino earlier in the year was one of the best meals I’ve eaten in 2016, so I knew they’d come up with the goods for a special Christmas celebration.

Boccalino is on the second floor of the stunningly beautiful Four Seasons Hotel in Gwanghwamun. As soon as we walked through the doors it was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. The hotel was filled with elegant decorations and huge Christmas trees decorated with cute Cartier ornaments. The whole places exudes luxury in a very modern way, and each of the four restaurants inside are stunningly beautiful.

The brunch at Boccalino costs 125,000 if you are going free flow (and why the hell wouldn’t you!), or 90,000 with a single glass. You then are then given a menu which allows you to choose between a starter, main course and dessert. I believe the menu changes regularly but our choices were mushroom risotto or prawn linguine, hanwoo sirloin or half lobster, and apricot tart or raspberry vanilla mouse. You also have access to a very large and well stocked antipasto bar.

It being Christmas and all, the first thing we did after sitting down was chug a glass of prosecco each. The prosecco we were served was fantastic, crisp and clean and very easy to drink, possibly too easy. This was clearly not a cheap bottle, it was one of the nicest I’ve had in some time I only wish I’d taken a picture of the bottle so I could buy some for home. After a glass or 3 of bubbly we headed over to the anti pasto bar. This had a lot more than I had anticipated. There was a selection of seafood, (crab legs, oysters, mussels and scallops), a much smaller choice than what they offer downstairs at Market Kitchen but more than ample in my eyes. There was also a nice array of salads, including steak salad, caprese, tuna, couscous, and pasta. On the other side were cured meats, a big selection of cheese, dips, freshly baked bread and the softest focaccia I’ve had in a long time. The item that I could not get enough of was the truffle mushroom dip. It was my idea of food heaven and I honestly could not stop eating it. I think I almost considered filling my handbag with it so i could take it home it was so addictive. But luckily for the restaurant and my new handbag I refrained. We made more than a few trips to stock up on our favourite items throughout the meal and I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with the selection.

No sooner had we finished our antipasto and bubbly, when out came the pasta course. I went for the mushroom risotto, while TFB did the Shrimp linguine. Having only 2 choices made it perfect to decide as we each just got one of each course. Mushroom risotto is one of my favourite dishes, but honestly I found this one a touch bland which was slightly disappointing, the freshly made seafood linguine was much better. We were also given a bowl of pumpkin soup that I felt was too sweet and probably there to please to the Korean patrons.

For our main we had a steak and a lobster. The Boston half lobster which was served with herb butter and bread crumbs was plenty after the other courses. The lobster inside was very plump and tasty. The Hanwoo sirloin came a top pureed potato and was served with wild rocket, shaved parmesan, and a balsamic reduction. The steak was also tender and delicious. Not as good as the one we previously enjoyed here in the evening, but very nice and much better than the first course.

For dessert we enjoyed a raspberry and vanilla mousse with a forest berry sorbet and pistachio macaron, and an apricot and chocolate tart. It was hard to choose which of these was best, they were both delightful in their own way so just get both, you wont regret it.  We also finished with a round of coffee which I always think is necessary after a big meal. I enjoyed a lovely cappuccino and a peppermint tea to help me digest the epic meal I’d just consumed.

Overall I really enjoyed my brunch at Boccalino. The selection is probably a quarter of the size of what your’d get downstairs at Market Kitchen, but there are plenty of high end items on the anti pasto bar that will make up for that and the free flow option really swung it for me. The prosecco was delicious and I’m sure I had a good two bottles just to myself. As it was Christmas it was lovely for a treat and I’d certainly go again if I was celebrating something special. If you have made no plans for New Year’s Day it would be the perfect place to celebrate 2017.

Boccalino is located on the second floor of The Four Seasons Hotel, 97 Saemunan-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Gwanghwamun Station (line 5) and come out of exit 7.  Walk straight and cross over the street, you should see the hotel in front of you. For more information you can call them on 02-6388-5000, or check out their website