Seoul, June 2016 – Our trips to Seoul usually entail heavy consumption of Korean BBQ beef or bibimbap (Korean mixed rice with beef and vegetables). I first read about JUNGSIK on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant list (#10 in 2015 & sister restaurant of the Two Michelin stars Jungsik in New York), so molecular Korean cuisine was totally foreign to me. Mr. King and I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out that Jungsik was our best fine dining experience in Seoul. We always enjoy a good surprise!
“Jungsik is New Hansik with flair. The restaurant combines Korean culinary techniques with those from all over the world, adding in local, seasonal ingredients and flavours…While expressing Korea’s rice or bap culture, it enhances the diner’s expectations of the coming meal.” (Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016)
The dinner menu was simple; it was a choice of 4-course (90,000 Won or US$90), 5-course (120,000 won or US$120) and an 8-course dinner (180,000 Won or US$180), with wine pairing (105,000 Won or US$105). The prices were reasonable, and we believe it is one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants with the “best value for money”. Being light eaters, we opted for a 4-course dinner.
Amuse-Bouche – “The amuse bouche here is quite unique. It reinterprets Korean banchan (side dishes served with plain rice) with five to six finger foods.” (Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants) We enjoyed a medley of scallop with jelly, sweet potato with soya sauce, salmon mousse in crispy shell, beef tartare, bugolgi beef croquet, foie gras mousse with apple sauce and cilantro and wild berry juice.
Appetizer – Pan-fried Abalone in yuzu sauce topping, kombu (seaweed) and foie gras at the bottom. The yuzu balanced off the rich flavors of the foie gras.
Rice – Sea Urchin, seaweed rice with fried mullet. “Main dishes include hoedeopbap or rice topped with fresh raw fish, and sea urchin bibimbap made with rice mixed with popped millet and dried laver, topped with a generous serving of sea urchin.” (Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016)
Jungsik’s sea urchin rice was the standout dish for me. There were a lot happening inside this bowl of rice! Texture – The fried mullet was crunchy, and the shredded vegetables were zesty. Flavors – The seaweed was the perfect seasoning for the rice, and complimented the creamy sea urchin. Together, this was the winning formula.
Rice – Kim Bob, tuna with crispy seaweed rice. This rice bowl was tasty too, but the Sea Urchin rice bowl definitely was without doubt, much more complicated on the palate.
Sea – Ok Dom, steamed snapper with crispy skin and Korean vegetables. The fish was beautifully cooked, but almost felt like western cuisine.
Land – Tenderloin with mushrooms, potatoes and grated ginseng. The beef was grilled to perfection – very tender. Since we were in Korea, we expected top quality beef, and that we got. The grated ginseng was so light that the flavors didn’t overwhelm the dish.
Pre-Dessert – Pannocotta, cinnamon syrup and pear sorbet. The pre-dessert or palette cleanser reminded me of Sujeonggwa, a traditional soup or punch made from dried persimmons, cinnamon and ginger, that is served at the end of a Korean meal.
Rose of Versailles – Blueberry mousse, foam, meringue and blue berry sauce. The presentation of this dessert was exquisite. The entire rose was edible, and every petal was soft and delicate.
Dolhareubang – The dark grey figure was inspired by the Dol hareubangs or large rock statues found on Jeju Island in South Korea. The Koreans believed that these volcanic rock statues were gods that protected them from demons. Jungsik’s interpretation was made of green tea mousse, and accompanied by sorbet.
Since Mr. King and I prefer less formal restaurants, Jungsik was ideal for us. Every course was exquisite. Décor was minimalistic chic, and the service staff was very friendly.
Reservations are highly recommended. The best way to get a table is through the hotel concierge. Chef Jung Sik Yim first established his restaurant in New York, prior to opening Jungsik in Seoul. So it would be interesting to compare the two.
If you are interested in the lunch menu, please take a look at Daniel Food Diary’s blog – “Jungsik Seoul – Best Restaurant in Korea, And Surprisingly Not That Expensive”.
JUNGSIK – 11 SEOLLEUNGRO 158GI GANGNAMGU SEOUL. Tel: +82 2 517 4654
All photos were taken by Mrs. King.