What started as a bar conversation amongst foodies has became an internationally recognized list. Over 250 industry professionals curate the guide and they have been putting their list together since 2013.
While the Michelin guide focuses on specific cities and their print publication, the Asia’s Fifty Best focuses on the world and lives primarily on the Internet. The list has had its share of growing pains but its focus on curation by experts has made it an important and vested list among industry professionals. Plus being on the list brings customers and clients to the restaurants, which is the ultimate sign that the list does have clout.
In March 2015, Korea had its best showing. Three restaurants were added to the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant List.
Here is a profile on the restaurants that have made it on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant List.
Chef Yim Jung-sik is no stranger to the international spotlight. I believe his tour-de-force restaurant, Jungsikdang started the high-end restaurant trend outside of the hotels.
Prior to 2009, very few high-end restaurants could survive outside of the hotels. Plus, he is a leader that has encouraged young chefs to excel in the restaurant field and follow a career in culinary arts.
Chef Yim’s whimsical interpretations of Korean cuisine are breathtaking to see and to taste.
I have eaten at his restaurants at various times since 2010 and I have been witness to the evolution of his cuisine.
Standout dishes include his candied ginseng tree set in foie gras pate covered in green pistachio shavings, his grasshopper salad, his pork belly rice bowl, and seafood paella with poppy barley rice. Oh, his chocolate and hazelnut jangdok shaped to look like Korean kimchi pots in winter is a dish that will stay embedded in your mind long after the meal has finished.
This year, Chef Yim’s restaurant might even make it on the world’s list. Look for the awards in London, June 2015.
Jungsikdang _ Seolleung-ro 158 gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul / +82-2-517-4654
Chef/owner Ryu Tae-hwan’s fusion restaurant Ryunique offers his distinct perspective on cuisine from his experiences abroad and locally.
The chef himself classifies it as “fusion” or “hybrid.”
Each plate is beautifully presented and the chef creates menus based on the seasons and the availability of ingredients, so there is always something new at his restaurant. He emphasis is on “fresh” ingredients and he goes to the fish market and the vegetable market daily to get his ingredients. His flavor combinations are unique.
His dishes are mosaics of local and international ingredients. For an amuse bouche, you could get seared foie gras topped with anago eels, a confetti of tomato, dusted with lemongrass and drizzled with anago tsume sauce. His fish dishes are always a surprise, which is often presented by a chef in a glass pot, contained a brilliantly steamed fish served atop a rice cracker. He sometimes even does cheese macaroni but his macaroni has slowly poached salmon served on a cushion of white bechamel glazed macaroni and egg. Ryunique has been on the Korean food scene since 2012 and it has slowly gained a following among the gastronomic community of Korea.
We called the restaurant and asked if their inclusion on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants have helped them. They humbly answered, “We are busier now than before.”
Ryunique _ Gangnam-daero 162 gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
#38 La Yeon
Located in the Shilla Hotel, La Yeon offers high-end Korean cuisine in an elegant atmosphere with spectacular views of Namsan Mountain.
This restaurant opened in 2013 and is currently led by the learned hand of Chef Kim Sung-il.
This restaurant sticks to tradition and places great emphasis on sourcing of ingredients according to season. It’s standout dish is the Guljeolpan or the “10 Korean flavors made with the Best Seasonal Ingredients.” Other exemplary dishes include its Chargrilled pork belly and sea cucumber produced in Gadeok Island (located in Busan City), Galbijjim (braised beef) and their seafood cold salad with pine nut dressing. The restaurant has been garnering favorable reviews. One Tripadvisor reviewer, DoctorKim888 wrote, “Food is top notch. Ate at ultra high end Korean restaurant La Yeon for dinner one night. Worth it to try high end Korean.” When asked if the restaurant would change due to its inclusion on the list, the chef answered, “Hopefully not much. La Yeon perfects the delicate refinement of Korean haute Cuisine. We want to capture the elegance, propriety and dignity of traditional Korean cuisine. Providing our guests with a dining experience that can be considered a celebration of Korean culture and history. The La Yeon team and I will continue to work hard to be able to share this with as many people as possible.
La Yeon _ Shilla Hotel, Dongho-ro 249 gil, Jung-gu, Seoul / +82-2-2230-3367
Park Sung Eun firstname.lastname@example.org
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