Three friends and the food they love


September 2016

Spicy Chicken. Fried Rice. Heaven.

When in Seoul, the thing to so it stuff yourself with meat. Grilled beef (another post), fried chicken, bone soup, raw meats, spicy sauces – it all makes for a wonderful assault on the digestive tract. Downed with sochu and beer. Go on, admit it. We all love it.

Exhibit #1: Dakuroga. Tender, marinated pieces of chicken barbecued at your table. Dakalbi, as it is known in Korean. With garlic, onion, chillies, special sauce and toppoki (Korean rice cakes). I challenge you to stop eating. Even when you are feeling full. And when you are close to bursting, you must order the Bokumbab. It’s cooked on the same grill using all the leftover goodness from the chicken. Again. I challenge you to stop eating.

In Korea, everything useful is shared on Kakao Talk. So I am taking the liberty of pasting a few images from my friends messages guiding me to the right place. Thanks June! And all of you can thank me later.

This is what you show the taxi uncle.
dakalbi 1
This is what it looks from the outside.

Mingles. Seoul.

Do not trust ‘world best’ lists. Turn up your nose at the thought of fusion. Or just say that fine dining means lots of frou frou, very little substance for a big fat bill. But if you went to Mingles, one of the world’s best restaurants, ‘mingling’ traditional Korean food with European techniques in undeniably fine dining setting, you will be forced to revisit your notions.

The menu changes every few weeks, every course is a surprise and every bite a delight. As someone who spends a fair bit of time in Seoul, it is delightful to see the boldness in thought and practise that is sweeping the Korean restaurant scene. Chef Mingoo Kang has boldly established himself at the forefront of New Korean cuisine. The European cuts of meat, presentation styles are unmistakeable. The use of fermented Korean sauces, vinegars, seasonal produce, weeds and herbs plants this restaurant firmly as true to its roots.

Mingles4Fine dining for me must belong to it’s physical surroundings. In what is served, in how it delights. Mingles checks all the boxes of an outstanding meal, and unchecks some notions.




I Dreamt. I Ate. I am Dreaming.

‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ is one of those must watch documentaries that explains the passion of one man to his craft. We know the strict codes that apply to guests who are lucky to find a seat at the high temple of sushi. There is a moment in the film where the father encourages the son to take wings and fly. A perhaps lesser known fact that is that they operate as two branches of the same establishment. The fish is sourced each morning by the two sons together.

Knowing that we had no chance of landing at the original in Ginza, we were lucky to score reservations at the Roppongi branch. So the inevitable question – was it worth it? How good can sushi get? My answer – never has my tongue felt like it was simultaneously in a temple and a decadent geisha house.

The set up is stark and immaculate. The service is quick. It is omakase. Around 15 pieces of sushi (please notify in advance if you want some sashimi). Each piece is customised so that the clientele can eat comfortably, not struggle with the size of the bite, feel full but not stuffed while alternating between silence, sighs and blabber.

Sukiyabashi Jiro in Roppongi is also foreigner friendly with English conversation, explanations around each fish, the rationale behind the flavouring or the cut.

When you leave with your heart filled with joy, your mind processing the incredible experience you’ve just had, you whole being feeling elevated at having experienced one of the great dining privileges on this planet, your watch will show that you were there for a mere 45 minutes. But time stops still at Jiro’s.

The Master. And his craftsmen. 

Whisper whisky

Apparently cocktails and mixologists are all the rage. Speakeasies have had a revival for so long that it can be called strictly mid life by now. As is the single malt. Airports seem to stock an ever increasing variety of impossible-to-pronounce Scottish distilleries. And the run on Japanese malts, or the populace who has declared Taiwan as the new Japan. All of these trends come home in one classy, trendy, cool bar in downtown Seoul. Language barriers are not a problem, all the bartenders speak in one tongue – that of knowing how to mix a good drink. Going off piste is not an exception, it is the norm. You have to try a little hard to find it. You cannot reserve a seat. You knock, and they let you in if they have space. But once you’re in, welcome to the world of drinks that delight, a relaxed vibe and crackers that you cannot stop eating.

As is my practise at all bars, I order an Old-Fashioned with rye whisky, less sugar. There are very few bars where bartenders do not bat an eyelid at the request and deliver an Old- Fashioned so perfectly balanced in taste, strength and colour. In my Old-Fashioned index, there is no bar that has touched the heights at this bar. All my friends who have been there rave about it. It features regularly as one of the worlds best bars. The only thing not discrete inside the bar – signs forbidding patrons from whipping out their phones to take pictures of the beautiful drinks.

The name?  Speakeasy Mortar. 

Try finding it. The rewards are many.

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