Tag: Fine

Normal by Ryunique

Last week I was invited back to Normal in Sinsa to try their new quick and simple menu by Ryunique. If you read this blog religiously you will know that I enjoyed a sumptuous 16 course meal at Ryunique earlier this year, then another fabulous but slightly less grand meal at new sister restaurant Normal. The team behind the two restaurants are now offering patrons the chance to experience the magic of the food you’d enjoy at Ryunique at Normal, for those who have neither the time or money for the 16 or 22 course extravaganza at the original location.

The new menu offers a Quick Ryunique for 60,000 per person which includes 7 different courses, or a Keep Ryuinque for 80,000 that is 9 courses. As we were a pair, we decided to get one version of each. Personally I felt the quick menu was filling enough by itself and after enjoying all 7 courses I was stuffed. On the back of the menu is the list of ingredients used in each dish and where in Korea they can be sourced. I really appreciated this extra level of care, and it clear that Chef Ryu and his team are incredibly passionate about what they do. Since it was a special occasion and the meal was on the house we split a bottle of Biblia Chora (60,000), a Greek sauvignon blanc. I’m not really an oenophile but I know what I like and this was delicious and paired perfectly with the first five courses.

We started off as you do with any classy dinner with an amuse bouche, or three in the case of the larger meal. The first of which was my favourite a Jerusalem artichoke soup with a sous vide egg, artichoke chips, shavings of aged chicken breast and beetroot powder. As well as looking stunning and incredibly beautiful, the soup itself was like silk running down my throat, and it got even more lustrous when we found a sous vide egg yolk in the middle of the bowl. The shavings of chicken added a saltiness while the artichoke chips provided the crunch. All in all an incredible dish and a wonderful way to use the in season and overlooked ‘pig potatoes’.

After one or two more amuse dishes we moved on to the Fois Gras Blini. It was described to us as a mini take on the BLT sandwich. Fois gras was piled upon prosciutto, tomato, cucumber and a sweet brioche style bread and served with a lemon sour cream. This was such a delightful and playful dish, that was as tasty as it was cute and was one of the extra courses we received on the larger 80,000 menu.

One of the main draws of eating at Ryunique is the fact that every dish has a  theatrical element that is administered by your server. One of the dishes that stood out most to me was the Butternut Squash soup with Confit Duck Leg. We were brought our bowls while our server told us what we were eating then she then poured out our rich and creamy soup, then added a few drops of anti ageing oil (toasted duck fat). This gave the dish a wonderful  nuttiness, which balanced with the salty and gamey flavour of the duck, and the richness of the cream cheese filled ravioli was just heavenly. Personally I couldn’t get enough of this soup and would eat it for the rest of my days. However my companion said it could be considered to be a bit on the sweet side by some but we both enjoyed it immensely.

The first and star player of our main courses was the Pork Jowl with Apple and Dashi. Pork and apple is such a classic combination but this version was elevated by the peppery and slightly bitter mustard leaves, and the addition of dashi and crushed peanuts. The pork itself was was raised in Jirisan, and had the most wonderful flavour. It was in some ways a very simple dish that let the ingredients speak for themselves without adding any extra bells and whistles.

If I talked about every dish we enjoyed that night, we would be here all night but here is a little amalgamation of the best of the rest. From top left Roast duck with orange sauce, Tomatoes bubble salad, beef tartar and cream cheese ravioli, all of which I ate and wrote about on my last visit. So please take a look at that review if you would like to know more about those courses.

For dessert we were presented an enchanting woodland scene. The star of which was a chocolate ball filled with the most sumptuous raspberry sorbet. A small chocolate log, and candy floss cloud were also served on a specially made wood like plate.  After dessert came a round of tea and coffee which is included in the set meal, along with a chocolate truffle which I’m not sure how we finished after eating so much but I guess we found room somewhere.

Once again I was bowled over by the tastes and flavours that Chef Ryu presented in the most fabulous way. Some of the dishes I’d tried before but they still astounded me and I always feel in awe by the Chef and his team’s talent. I also want to mention that the service was attentive and knowledgeable from the outset and throughout. Good service in this city is a rarity, at least in the places I can afford to eat in. Personally I’ve always though that good service is the easiest way to turn a good meal into a great one so they deserve some recognition for that too. If you are looking for a place to eat that is going to impress without breaking the bank you’d be hard pushed to find better than Normal and if you really want to dazzle your date for a one off experience that could only be described as magical then head to Ryuinque.

Normal is located at 520-8, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Sinsa Station (line 3) and come out of exit 8. Walk straight then take the second left, walk to the end then take the next left street which is diagonal and runs parallel to Garosugil. normal is about half way down just before the 4th left turn. For more information you can call them on 02-6405-9279 or check out their facebook page.

Ryunique

Occasionally my life is very charmed, and last week was one of those occasions as I was invited to try the tasting menu at Ryunique in Sinsa. The name rang a bell as it was where the In-N-Out Burger pop up had been located but I had no idea about the restaurant itself. A quick search revealed that it had been voted one of Asia’s 50 best restaurants in 2015, in fact it was voted 27th. So after a quick peruse of the menu, I said they could count me in, and as an extra special treat they let me drag TFB along with me.

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Kitchen Loading Urban Farmers

As you know Valentine’s day passed last week and despite having a number of favourite restaurants to dine at I still felt compelled to try somewhere new. I had heard great things about Kitchen Loading, so after doing a bit more research I thought it would make the perfect location for a romantic dinner. Located in Tteokseom the restaurant is a bit further away than I generally like to travel, but after seeing the beautiful pictures of the food and finding out a three course dinner is only 38,000 won, I felt it was worth a ride in a taxi.

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OKitchen

okitchen

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.