First-time visitors to the vibrant, exhilarating city of Seoul can find the fast-paced capital of South Korea daunting yet highly addictive. Keeping up with the locals definitely needs to be fuelled by good food. Cheap-and-cheerful to worth-every-cent-expensive, there really is no excuse not to eat well when visiting Seoul.
1. Chef Mingoo Kang
From: Restaurant Mingles
Favourite restaurant: Louis Cinq (33, Seolleung-ro 157-gil, Gangnam-gu). An intimate and cosy bistro pub with French flair serving hearty dishes such as poached eggs with jamon, and onion soup.
“The concept is casual but the food is really tasty and goes really well with their wine selection. I recommend the terrine.”
Lunch pick: Hadongkwan (12, Myeongdong 9-gil, Jung-gu). A 70-year-old restaurant in Myeong-dong, Jongno-gu that first opened in the 1930s, it serves two delicious items: gomtang (beef bone soup) and suyuk (boiled beef) with two side dishes of radish kimchi and kimchi.
“It’s the best beef soup place in Korea.”
Food shopping: Gyeong-dong Market (147, Wangsan-ro, Dongdaemun-gu)
“At Gyeong-dong Market are the best seasonal local products you can find.”
2. Chef Bongsu Kim
From: Korean Bistro 21st Century Seoul (255-42, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu)
Favourite restaurant: Jungsik
“Jungsik is the first Korean restaurant to be listed in the Michelin Guide – two stars in the New York edition. [Jungsik has one star in the inaugural Michelin Guide for Seoul.] It serves a unique form of contemporary cooking; I worked there and have good memories. If you want something more local, try Table for Four in Taean (11 Sapyung-daero 14-gil, Seocho-gu).”
3. Chef Justin Lee
From: JL Dessert Bar
Favourite Restaurant: Lab24 by Edward Kwon. The sleek and tasteful setting here screams luxury, while its open kitchen makes the experience a feast for the eyes and taste buds with contemporary French cuisine on the menu. Truffle cappuccino, scallop foie gras and rib-eye, and that’s just on the lunch tasting menu.
“I highly recommend the Chef’s Signature course.”
Lunch pick: Mangwondong Instant Udong (83, Donggyo-Ro)
“I really like noodles, which can be enjoyed anytime, especially after a long day of working in my Dessert Bar – they open until midnight. I highly recommend the Korean-style noodles (with spice) and pairing it with a big, crispy, tonkatsu pork cutlet. ”
Food shopping: SSG Market (442 Dosan-daero, Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu)
“I used to live and work in Australia and New Zealand; my creations are inspired from there. I can find many Oceania ingredients in SSG Market.”
4. Chef Jisun Joung
From: Zhong Hua Fu Chun
Favourite restaurant: Orzo (229-55 Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu)
“I’ve really liked this restaurant since my first visit. It has a great atmosphere and the servers are friendly; it is very clean, which makes it perfect for a date too! It is very close to my restaurant and while I really enjoy eating Chinese food a lot, sometimes you want something a little different. I always order the Spicy Orzo pizza (with two poached eggs) but the pasta is just as good.”
Lunch pick: Okdongsik (385-6 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu)
“The pork soup is the best here – clean and fresh broth which seems so simple but has a rich and deep taste; it is also really affordable. It is starting to get a lot of recognition from food guides like the Michelin Bib Gourmand.”
Food shopping: Mangwon market (486-8 Mangwon-dong, Mapo-gu)
“Take subway line no. 6 to Mangwon station and look out for Mangwon market. It is one of the most traditional markets you can find in Korea and gives me a lot of good memories. On the streets, look for Basakmacha (crispy cart), selling fresh pork cutlet.”