So, I didn’t end up eating any traditional food in Seoul but that’s not to say I avoided Korean cuisine altogether. I just went a little fancy with it. Mingles, though, is the funniest name for a restaurant freshly Michelin starred, South Korea’s first inclusion in the guide. It screams swinging singles a la Regal Beagle, and also makes me think of Mumbles, a fern bar-ish restaurant that was in Gramercy up until a year ago. Put those thoughts out of your head, though.
I didn’t have any urge to try a tasting menu type restaurant in Tokyo, but somehow it made sense in Seoul because it’s so modern and glitzy and status-y. I did a prix-fixe lunch, a pretty good value at 58,000 won ($50) even with multiple supplements. I went wild and added the 50,000 won beverage pairing because it was Thanksgiving and as the lone American I felt it necessary.
What follows isn’t going to be insightful at all. The menu descriptions are minimal and my server verbally explained things to me like “baby pine tree sprouts,” so I had no idea what the original Korean words are for a lot of the ingredients. Sometimes I asked, but my notes are not helpful as I typed what I thought I heard i.e. “choeksak” which turned up zero hits on Google.
Amuses: omija kombucha, smoked eel, and fish cake with a mustard sauce. A lot of appreciation depends on your familiarity with Korean ingredients. Omija is “five-flavor berry” and commonly used in a tea. The corn and egg curd also contained cauliflower in the custard and chorizo hidden at the bottom of the shell.
The fish dish of the day was eel with sansho vinegar jelly. At least I did know that sansho is a Sichuan peppercorn relative.
Foie gras salad, described as autumn fruits and vegetables, herbs with a foie gras torchon and lobster. I do not know any of the fruits, vegetables, or herbs. I want to say there was a slight cherry flavor.
I chose the dry-aged duck as my main course because it was the only poultry, hence closest to turkey (which is always meh anyway). It was not totally un-Thanksgiving-like with a little dish of chestnut cream. Also, garlic leaves and that something that I noted as “choeksak.”
The autumn dessert was a fermented pineapple tart with “doen jang” chestnut, which I think is a fermented bean paste using chestnuts, and “makgeolli” ice cream. I’m not sure if the quotes around makgeolli meant that it was flavored with rice wine or something to mimic the effect.
There were a choice of teas (I guess technically tissanes) and I picked Jerusalem artichoke tea. Mignardises were chestnut choux and grape jello. It was a good thing that I love chestnuts.
A sochu made with “baby pine tree sprouts.” Thankfully, it was not piney at all, more bready and yeasty. Also, a 2004 Australian Chardonnay and 2014 Chinon.
Ok, if I ever return to South Korea I swear I’ll eat bibimbap (I did get that on Korean Air) and bbq and my favorite Korean thing ever, ddukboki.
Mingles * 94-9 Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea