Eat your way around Asia: Seoul

Time Out Seoul chooses the Korean capital's best dining spots

Much more than kimchi, fried chicken and Korean barbecue – although there’s plenty of that, too – Seoul has some truly exciting offerings.

Cheap eat

Kimbap

During the early ’90s, Seoul’s Café Street was teeming with young people, but two decades on its allure has waned somewhat. While you may be hard-pressed to find a decent café here today, this hole-in-the-wall stands out right away. The tuna gimbap – colourful, bite-sized rice rolls stuffed with tuna and vegetables held together by a strip of seaweed (pictured above) – are popular amongst the light-lunch crowds who happily queue to get their order in. Alternatively, the traditional Korean noodle soup sujebi (pictured below) with kimchi is ideal for a rainy day: it’s a steaming bowl of hand-torn noodles and vegetables in a fish-flavoured broth, served with tangy kimchi.
Meal for two, 20,000KRW.

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WATCH IT The early days of Seoho Gimbap can be re-visited in scenes from the 1993 film Two Cops; lead actors Ahn Sung-ki and Park Joong-hoon walk past here on their way to ambush the black market record seller.

Casual dining

Maple Tree House(2)

Walking along the street behind Itaewon Hamilton Hotel, you’ll see a row of wide-open windows, behind which groups of diners wile away the evenings grilling chunks of meat over individual barbecues. In a city full of barbecue joints, Maple Tree House stands out thanks to its high-quality cuts and flavoursome marinades. The signature Maple Tree House dish is the aged hanwoo (Korean premium beef) sirloin. And while you’re probably here for the barbecue, the bibimbap rice and veg bowl is a nice break from all the meat. On a warm summer evening, when the breeze blows through the open windows, we can’t think of many better places to enjoy some barbecue and a few cold beers.
Meal for two, 70,000KRW.

Maple Tree House(3)

ORDER THIS The Jeju heuk dwaeji ogyeopsal (black pork belly; 16,900KRW per 150g). The Jeju pork belly is just as it should be: tender, fatty and full of flavour.

Fine dining

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In Seoul, fusion Korean food has up until recently been viewed as a pretty name with nothing concrete backing it up. Mingles is finally bringing substance to the term. One of the most interesting and innovative fusion Korean dining experiences in Gangnam, Mingles earned itself the 15th spot on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016. The menu consists of Korean as its backbone with Japanese, Spanish and French influences applied in various ways.The focus is on quality ingredients and recipes that defy and further pre-existing concepts of Korean food. Chef and mastermind Kang Min-goo plays with the food, making particularly excellent use of jang (fermented sauces), which are at the heart of traditional Korean cuisine, to offer your palate incredible new flavours. It’s a tasting-menu affair here (lunch 55,000KRW; dinner 110,000KRW), so prepare yourself for a world of flavours.
Meal for two from 220,000KRW.

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EAT THIS The Jang Trio, Mingles’ signature dessert. Vanilla ice cream, bean paste crème brulée, soy-marinated pecans, red pepper paste and whisky foam come together in a beautiful and balanced harmony.
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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