Eaten, Barely Blogged: 48 Hours in Seoul
Gontran Cherrier This lovely matcha almond croissant prompted a Facebook friend to comment “Aren’t there any local delicacies you could eat?” Uh, no. Well, French pastry is practically Korean. Hello, Paris Baguette? I didn’t set out to eat absolutely no traditional Korean food (though I intentionally stayed in Itaewon, which has a lot of American and international influence) but traditional Korean food is extremely unfriendly to solo diners. The restaurant culture is super communal, social, and family-style, barring fast food and street food. I’d read stories of people being turned away at bbq joints even if they promised to order portions fit for two. Tokyo, was totally the opposite, thankfully.
I almost went to the Original Pancake House instead of Gontran Cherrier, just because it felt like my duty as a native Oregonian. Yes, the original Original Pancake House is headquartered in Portland.
I ate a Krispy Kreme doughnut at the airport because it was too early for Lotteria. There didn’t seem to be any localized flavors.
I probably should’ve eaten one of these wiener mummies at Tous Les Jours, another “French” bakery in Incheon, though.
Vatos Urban Tacos Yeah, so Tex-Mex and even real Mex (also, bbq and craft beer) have been having a moment for a few years in Seoul. I’m assuming it’s the Kogi influence as I imagine there’s a good deal of Seoul-LA travel. Chips and salsa were more like tostadas and salsa. At least there’s synergy between Korean and Mexican food i.e. the salsas were fresh and spicy. (And I guess ssam aren’t radically different from soft tacos.) I’m proud to say my first sit down meal in Korea was kimchi fries with carnitas.
Taco Bell A spur of the moment bulgogi taco eaten late on Thanksgiving. I had reserved at Southside Parlor, which was doing what looked to be an amazing Thanksgiving dinner, but just couldn’t keep my eyes open. (I felt sort of bad about not cancelling, but I’m sure I was seated at the bar so I didn’t prevent anyone from getting a table.) Jet-lag always hits right around early evening. I woke up and went to Rye Post down the street because I was curious about their Korean cheesesteak (I love kimchi and melted cheese) but it was closed inexplicably. So, why not pop into the tiny Taco Bell across the street from my hotel? The shredded texture of the sweet-soy beef was way better than the usual ground mystery meat.
Motor City So, I kind of get the Mexican adaptations, but Detroit-style pizza is just bonkers. No way around it. I doubt most Americans know what Detroit-style pizza is, despite a blip in Brooklyn where cross-cultural trends seem to originate (at least for Paris). Apparently, one of the owners first tried this style in Beijing, which adds a whole other level to this madness. Anyway, I started falling asleep at the bar (I never feel normal until day 3 in Asia) so I had to take my pizza to go. The Jackson 5 (pancetta, bacon, pepperoni, and ranch and jalapeño sauces) had maybe too much meat to distinguish each individual topping, though it had perfectly burnished molten cheese edges and a springy crust. Despite my love of pineapple and ham, I think this pizza had a slight edge over Emmy Squared’s Lou-Wow and compared favorably to the pie I ate at Buddy’s in Detroit.
Goraesa Fish Cake Probably the most traditional thing I ate. Crammed it just before I boarded the plane back to JFK.