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Molecular Gastronomy at Lab XXIV

In 2017, for the first time, the Michelin Guide will publish a “foodies bible” for Seoul. It’s a sure sign of how much the food scene has changed and developed here in recent years.

As a long-time expat, I can attest to this fact. When we first moved to Seoul in early 2009, it was almost impossible to find a decent brunch, never mind a quality eggs benny. In the last 7 years though, I’ve happily witnessed an explosion of authentic international options – from Napoli certified pizza, to real cured Spanish jamรณn, to Vietnamese pho that doesn’t have red pepper paste as it’s dominant flavour, never mind all the homegrown trends and cutting-edge experimentation happening here.

From a culinary perspective, it’s a super exciting time to be living in this city.

And while it’s sometimes been frustrating to find unexpected corn kernels on my pizza, one big advantage of Seoul’s green foodie scene, is that it’s still possible to eat at a fine dining restaurant very, very affordably.

We’ve had the pleasure of feasting at Jungsik and Ryunique – 2 of San Pellegrino’s Top 50 Restaurants in Asia, world-renowned chef Pierre Gagnaire’s restaurant at the top of the Lotte Hotel, and now Edward Kwon-helmed Lab XXIV, for a fraction of what you would pay in any other modern developed country in the world.

Globally, Edward Kwon is nowhere near as famous as Pierre Gagnaire, but don’t tell that to all the Koreans that filled Lab XXIV when we visited last Sunday for lunch. It was busier than Jungsik, Ryunique and Pierre Gagnaire combined.

And after eating there, I can’t say I’m overly surprised.

The service was amazing, the food was gorgeous and it was insanely affordable, with a Lunch Course Menu ranging anywhere from 39,000 won to 60,000 won depending on which entree you chose, and including amuse bouche, appetizers, soup (TRUFFLE CAPPUCCINO!), entrees, dessert, petit fours and coffee or tea. Tax included and no tipping required.

OUR MEAL IN PICTURES

Everything was delicious, but taste-wise, the standouts for our meal were the sous-vide sea bream, which Agri demolished tout-suite, and the lemongrass ice cream dessert with white chocolate and a breakable mango jelly “yolk.”

We found the edible cigar filled with salmon tartare very clever, and tasty too, as was the Truffle Cappuccino which actually looked like a really large, really flavourful cappuccino (though it was a bit too much for me, and I had to pass it over to Agri to finish – can you imagine? Too much truffle!).

In the category of “how the heck did they do that,” was the salmon appetizer, where the fish had been transformed into pink salmon flavoured ice crystals. Huh?

Next time, I’ll be indulging in the full Tasting Menu. And there will be a next time.

Soon.

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Have you had a “molecular gastronomy” meal? What did you think of it? Do you live in Seoul? Which restaurants do you think will appear in the inaugural edition of it’s Michelin Guide?

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19 Comments Post a comment
  1. The food looks fantastic! ๐Ÿ™‚ I remember my dad visiting Seoul 10 years back and not liking the food. He warned me on my last visit. And strangely, I’ve enjoyed eating here. There are still many traditional dishes that I’d avoid – but looks like Seoul has changed. ๐Ÿ™‚

    April 22, 2016
    • 10 years in Seoul is like 100 years in any other country of the world – things change SO FAST around here, which is why it’s such an exciting place to live! ๐Ÿ™‚ But yeah, there’s a lot I definitely wouldn’t eat (bosingtang – dog soup, boendaegi – silkworm larvae EWW), and I think a lot of the new generations are the same – I have nieces and nephews in university that hardly even eat kimchi!! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

      April 23, 2016
  2. It certainly looks like there is so much variety of food in Seoul, and it’s nice to hear that is affordable. An affordable treat whenever you feel like it ๐Ÿ˜€ The truffle cuppaccino looks lightly whipped and actually quite fluffy. It must have made for a very sweet dessert! I don’t often dine out, but when I do, I like to try new foods that aren’t traditional…I really like surprising my tastebuds every time ๐Ÿ™‚

    April 22, 2016
    • Lab XXIV would definitely surprise your tastebuds, and for the quality of food, it was really incredibly cheap! I really wonder how they do some of the things they do in these restaurants. The salmon turned into little ice crystals was pretty crazy! The truffle cappuccino was actually a soup! made out of the mushroom truffle (not the chocolate one) infused milk and foam, black truffle sprinkles for the “cinnamon,” and even a few slices of real truffle as garnish. Honestly it was way too much flavour for me, but my hubby lapped up his AND mine, no problem. ๐Ÿ™‚

      April 23, 2016
  3. So hungry now! In China / xi’an I couldn’t find any international authentic food yet. Was in a few German establishments which were really horrible (was more Chinese than resembling any German food) and few steakhouses which were even worse, not to mention two Italian restaurants ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    April 22, 2016
    • Lol…I feel for you! I can only imagine how the Chinese version of German or Italian food must be there. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ And steakhouses. Yikes! I’ve had some of the worst steaks of my life in Asia…it seems that they don’t know how to cut the meat effectively for a steak. Even at Outback here (a huge international chain, I find tendons and chewy pieces that shouldn’t be there) Also, in Korea, the Italian food is always served with pickles. I always wonder if Korean people are surprised when they travel to Italy and no pickles are served with their meals. Haha.

      April 23, 2016
  4. All of your picture are looking so amazing and appealing, enough to grab a meal there.

    April 23, 2016
    • And the best part Priyanka, is that, in this case, the food tasted as good as it looked. And so affordable too! I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other options on the menu. ๐Ÿ™‚

      April 23, 2016
  5. Having lived for decades in Chicago, the city of Grant Achatz, one of the kings of molecular gastronomy, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never tried it! I should – at least once! Your review may prompt me to do so. (PS – are you willing to share an email address? I think I will have a few days in Seoul in August and would love some advice and recommendations. I’m at onefootoutthedoorblog@gmail.com if you get a spare moment in the coming months for a few questions!)

    April 24, 2016
    • Yes, you should! It’s an experience not just for the taste of the food, but for the surprising ways in which they’re presented. Always fun! ๐Ÿ™‚ I will definitely get in touch via email, and am happy to help. I’m only sad that we won’t be in Korea in August, so we could meet in person. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      April 25, 2016
      • Oh, yeah, that would have been fun! (Are you headed back to Canada or Europe?) But I’ll still pick your brain at some point if that’s OK!

        April 25, 2016
        • Yup absolutely…I will get in touch. We are off to Europe for 3 months – starting in Rome, and then the rest is a mystery for now, with a July wedding in Albania, the only certainty. ๐Ÿ™‚

          April 27, 2016
  6. Nice post! visit our blog!

    August 24, 2016

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