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Jungsik: A Korean Debut on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List

Korean food is some of the best in the world. At least in my humble opinion. From Buddhist temple cuisine to royal court cuisine to street food to the food that ์—„๋งˆ makes, there’s a huge variety of dishes, tastes and presentations on offer.

Unfortunately though, unless you’ve spent a lot of time in the Korea Towns of the world, or have Korean friends, your exposure to “Hansik,” or Korean cuisine isn’t going to be much more than kimchi and grilled meats. Sadly, despite the recent “trendiness” of certain Korean ingredients, chefs and food, the country has been largely overlooked on the world stage.

While Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore have long been “foodie” destinations, with a number of restaurants both affordable and expensive winning awards, or making top 10 lists, Korea has been conspicuously absent.

But that seems to be changing now, because last year, Seoul’s Jungsik was the first Korean restaurant to appear on San Pellegrino’s prestigious Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List. EVER. Debuting at number 20, the restaurant was also honoured with the “Highest New Entry” award.

Now, I definitely wouldn’t call myself a foodie, and I’m definitely not a food critic. And I can’t say that I know much about fancy food preparation methods or flavour palates, but I do enjoy a good meal, and was certainly curious about trying out Chef Jung Sik Yim’s “molecular Korean” meals.

At Jungsik, there is no a la carte menu, but a number of course menus to choose from. There’s a 4 – 5 course Choice Menu, and a more extensive 7 – 8 course Tasting Menu, which can be paired with wine.

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On our lunch visit to Jungsik’s Cheongdam restaurant, we selected the 4 course Choice Menu, which can be made into a 5 course meal, if you opt to eat both the land AND sea courses.

Amuse Bouche
Lunch began with a series of free amuse bouche to open our palates. Using traditional Korean ingredients like dotorimuk (acorn jelly), gochujang (red pepper sauce) and seaweed in new ways, these little morsels were the perfect precursor to the rest of our meal. Is it wrong that out of all the complicated amuse bouche on display, my favourite was the simple fried chicken bite? ๐Ÿ˜‰

For the Appetizer course, we could choose between Egg Salad, Tuna or Octopus (for an additional 5000krw). I chose the Tuna, which came out dotted with kimchi glaze and little bits of puffed rice. Delicious and fun to eat! Hubby chose the Octopus, and spent all of 5 minutes demolishing what he said was an extremely tender and well cooked piece of tentacle.

To me, the Rice course, was essentially an extravagant bibimbap, topped with either shrimp, tripe or sea urchin. We selected the shrimp and the tripe. Hubby enjoyed the tripe version, but for me, it was the dish I enjoyed the least, because the shrimp, while tasty, had a somewhat gooey texture I couldn’t get past.

Sea or Land
In a witty play on Korean ssam, ingredients were laid out on the plate like paint on an artist’s palette, with perilla leaf for wrapping, if desired. For me, the pork belly, was the standout dish of the mains, not just in taste, but presentation. Koreans sure know their pork belly, and this was no exception. Crispy on the outside, extremely moist on the inside and super flavourful, I was sad when my 6 pieces were finished.

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Hubby’s Sea Bass was also masterfully prepared, with crunchy skin and tender meat. His only complaint was that the piece offered was much too small.

Though all of the courses had been beautifully presented, the desserts were really delightful. Each one was whimsical, playful and most importantly, delicious. They were so exquisite in fact, that it felt like a real shame to destroy them with our cutlery. Of course, it didn’t stop us, and I’m happy to report that each dessert was as unique and delectable as it looked. We were offered complimentary petit fours, and coffee or tea at the end of our feast.

A flawless finish for a marvelous meal.

Jungsik’s debut in 2014, seems to have heralded in a new era for the Korean food scene, globally. Just a few weeks ago, 2015’s winners were announced and not 1, but 3 Seoul-based restaurants made the cut: Jungsik at #10, Ryunique at #27, and the Shilla Hotel’s La Yeon at #38. La Yeon received the added honour of being the “One to Watch.”

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Jungsik. Perhaps itโ€™s time to visit Ryunique and La Yeon for a little taste comparison? I certainly wouldnโ€™t mindโ€ฆ

Have you had a meal at any of the restaurants on the San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best list? Where was it? Was it worthy of the accolades?

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thank you,I am hungry and it is just 6:30 in the morning here! Too bad that all those restaurants are basically always in the biggest cities / most likely they didn’t check out other cities and towns but I know that it would be too much effort and also that the best founders with the best chefs won’t go into some distant province :p
    Just saying as all those restaurants are located far off any place I have been so far ๐Ÿ™

    March 18, 2015
    • Lol…sorry. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yes, it’s true that they are usually in big cities, especially in Asia, and definitely in Korea. I think the European list is a bit different though, with some out of the way restaurants in Scandinavia and Spain, where the restaurant is a destination in and of itself.

      March 19, 2015
      • Hope they will make such kind of concept in Asia too someday soon. How great it would be to travel to some top restaurant in the middle of a bamboo forest, or in the mountain side!

        March 19, 2015
        • That WOULD be amazing. I’d totally make the effort to visit a resto in the middle of a bamboo forest!! ๐Ÿ˜€

          March 20, 2015
  2. I want all of these dishes! They look amazing!
    I have never even heard of the San Pellegrinos list… now I will look it up, I love to try new places!

    March 19, 2015
    • It was really, really good! and quite new for Korea…that kind of food scene has just started developing in recent years. Actually the #1 restaurant is in Thailand – Gaggan in Bangkok, and I think there are quite a few other Thai based restos on the list…you’ll have lots of options to choose from. ๐Ÿ™‚

      March 19, 2015
  3. Sha #

    Ooh, take me! Take me! Although I can’t really call myself a foodie. I have the taste of a child but I love to eat…hehe…totally awesome that the food scene is transforming, looks like korea is really developing fast…๐Ÿ˜„

    March 19, 2015
    • It was really delicious and not too expensive at all for the quantity and quality of dishes… It’s interesting what’s happening here right now – lots of new ingredients and experimentation and fusion – because of these new free trade agreements that were signed with the US and the EU over the last few years. I am seeing food that I never thought we’d see here…

      March 19, 2015
      • Sha #

        Yes, I can see that. I was watching one variety show the other day and they had korean chefs specialising in italian and thai cuisine which I thought was pretty good for them considering the international cuisine available there from korean chefs themselves can be quite limited. Good for you there!More choices for you now…๐Ÿ˜„

        March 19, 2015
        • It’s crazy! I went to Home Plus yesterday for the first time in a while, and I could not believe all the food on the shelves. Everything from Greek yogurt to coconut milk to frozen mangosteens…things totally unseen even 6 months ago! and the weirdest thing was that the Greek yogurt was being produced by Korean companies. Well, you know how it is here…they discover something, then they learn how to produce it, and it spreads like wildfire all over the country.

          March 20, 2015
          • Sha #

            Oh yes, there’s always a fad going for a period…haha…gotta love their resilience though, they are picking up on all these fast! Haha..๐Ÿ˜„

            March 22, 2015
  4. Wow they all look so yummy. I have to be honest, I never tried Korean food before, but it looks like I will have to try it, very soon ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for sharing!

    March 19, 2015
    • They were all yummy indeed, but this kind of food is not very common in Korea. If you’ve never tried Korean food, you really must! I suggest you start with a bibimbap. It’s a mixed rice bowl with spicy sauce that almost everybody loves. Or if you eat meat, you can have bulgogi, which is marinated beef. ๐Ÿ™‚

      March 20, 2015
      • Thank you for the suggestions. I’ll definitely try some ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a lovely day!

        March 20, 2015
  5. Yay!!!
    You got there! Looks terrific too ๐Ÿ˜€

    March 20, 2015
  6. Wow, the pork belly looks absolutely amazing!

    March 22, 2015
    • It was definitely the best of the mains on the lunch menu. I loved how unique the presentation was and how I could mix and match the different ingredients how I wanted to. ๐Ÿ™‚

      March 23, 2015

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