In order to truly appreciate La Cave du Cochon, one must first understand what charcuterie is and then examine the general lack thereof in Korea. “Sure, there’s my touch in the dishes that go out, but I haven’t done anything new. I just respect French tradition and do my best to recreate the original taste as well as I can,” says La Cave du Cochon’s chef Lim Ki-hak (sometimes referred to as “Korea’s Father of French Bistro Cuisine”). The restaurant, which opened last year, boasts a reputation of serving an array of well-made pâtés, cheeses, high-quality meats (including a particularly exceptional Lucullus de Valenciennes [beef tongue]) on top of more commonplace dishes such as pomme frites, burgers and hot dogs.
Not only does Lim personally select all the pigs from which the pork dishes will be made, he’s sampled everything from Jeju-do to Jeollado to ensure he has the nation’s best. (After researching fat thickness and muscle-to-bone ratio among other components of meat yield, the restaurant currently uses Jirisan’s Berkshire black pigs.) “In Korea, people usually don’t enjoy
cold meat. Most of them prefer warm dishes. I thought it was my duty as a chef to recreate and introduce French cuisine, in order to set a standard.” At the posh second floor location of Cheongdam-dong, pair any of the dishes with La Cave du Cochon’s extensive wine list for a better understanding of how that standard’s been set. While La Cave du Cochon is often thought of as Lim’s second restaurant (with the first being L’espoir du Hibou in 2008), some could argue that his real kitchen experience began in his childhood. From 1948, Lim’s grandfather specialized in yakiniku and his family’s worked in the restaurant industry ever since then. Lim
studied music as a baritone in high school, but says he always had plans to work in the dining industry. “One day, it struck me that a restaurant isn’t something that ‘just happens’ as you get older and make money.” His studies extended beyond attending the International Culinary Center in New York, working with various chef legends and visiting charcuteries around the world. At one point, he lived in Rhode Island and traveled to New York every weekend in order to intern with Daniel Boulud (renowned chef and 1992 winner of the James Beard Award for Best Chef of New York City)—a man Lim still lists as one of his role models.