When it comes to nutrition and dining, the It-word right now has to be “superfood.” A term used to describe foods with that are rich in nutrients and that provide health benefits, the trend of superfood dining has hit all over cities in Europe and the U.S. In Seoul, you can find this trend happening at La Ferme, which opened less than three months ago. The menu includes several salads (with the chickpea and chicken quinoa being our favorites), while hot dishes like the seafood quinoa stew, oats risotto and chicken couscous offer slightly heartier options. Not only are the dishes filling, well balanced and healthy—they’re addictively good. The chicken is well seasoned, flavorful and tender, while the hummus (in the chickpea salad) is creamy and savory. Your mouth waters at the sight of these colorful dishes coming out of the kitchen and into the brightly lit jungle-like space. Director Park Ji-hye (who also owns the French restaurant Routine down the street) explains that she just wanted people to know that healthy food can also be delicious. La Ferme, one of our new favorite restaurants in Seoul, does not fail to disappoint.
Luckily for Seoulites, plant-heavy options are growing and one of the restaurants setting the bar for salads is Bad Farmers. Popular amongst many Korean celebrities (supposedly, rapper Beenizo is a regular), the restaurant offers a select number of cold salads, hot salads, fresh pressed juices and yogurts. One of the most popular items on the menu is the Avo Cobb salad, which is made with romaine lettuce topped with cherry tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, corn, olives, smoked salmon, roasted chicken and a choice of either the sesame doenjang or blue cheese dressing. As flavorful as it is colorful, this salad (like many others on the menu) is both hearty and filled with protein. All of the dishes come with a small bowl of soup on the side and a small slice of bread. It’s healthy food that won’t leave you hungry.
Being health-conscious in Seoul and trying to eat out with friends or coworkers isn't necessarily an easy process. Providing an "at-home" salad place right in the heart of this neighborhood is Salad Seller. Opened about three months ago, the owners (formerly artists who largely designed the space on their own) are humble and kind. The avocado salad comes with a generous helping of fresh avocado. "Isn't it expensive to buy fresh avocados all the time?" I ask and she nods knowingly. Indeed, chickpeas, quinoa, feta cheese and kale are not cheap or easy ingredients to come by. During the summer, the store's Kale Coco juice is cold and zesty, while their chipotle soup made with chipotle, pork, chicken, potatoes, onions, carrots, tomatoes, paprika and cheddar cheese is as hearty as it is healthy and warms you up during the long winter days. The so-called "diet-season" might start in the spring, but it's never the wrong season to make a good lifestyle change today.
If you didn't already love ciabatta bread, Buccella just might change your mind. Situated on a small alley off of Garosugil, this little place with a cheerful yellow façade always draws long lines. Owned by a Cordon Bleu-trained chef who spent years perfecting the "soft and chewy" recipe tailored to the Korean palate, this small restaurant soon managed to get funding from the food-loving owner of a leading conglomerate, resulting in the growth of several branches around the country. Sandwich fillings like chicken, smoked salmon, and cold ham may be plain but when coupled with the soft bread and their homemade sauce, it's something special. The smoked salmon with cream cheese sandwich is especially popular, and vegetarians will appreciate that the salad with its side of ciabatta is generously portioned and filling.
Cafe Sukkara is a haven from the bustle of Hongdae. Its owner, a Japanese-born Korean, is known for her comittment to organic agriculture and cofounded the local famers' market Marché. This philosophy is reflected in Sukkara's menu, which is reprinted seasonly and details the provenance of ingredients at the bottom of every page. The well-worn shelves are filled with jars of homemade fruit and vegetable preserves. The flavors at Sukkara tend to be less sweet and less salty—their vegetable soup and tofu cheesecake are subtler than most. Bolder palates will appreciate the sweet and bitter enzyme sodas, spicy chicken curry, and mulled white wine.