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Tony Yu: Twenty Four Seasons

From rural markets and temple food to Modern Korean

When you have a meal at Twenty Four Seasons, you’ll be surprised several times. To start with, they will serve you small, boiled sweet potatoes instead of bread before your meal starts. Then, There’s their snapper sashimi that is savory with a touch of cheonggukjang (fast-fermented bean paste). Chimchae, a Korean salad, is one of the best dishes at Twenty Four Seasons and it’s made of wild greens, enzymes and vinegar. Chef Tony Yu (Yu Hyun-su) learned to make traditional Korean dishes while studying temple food under Monk Seonjae. He often leaves Seoul to go to rural markets and buy ingredients that grow in the wild or heads to the mountains to collect them himself. It’s also important to note that they are reviving the traditional dishes of Korea. Yu got the recipe for his signature menu item, seolyamyukjeok, which is a type of Korean steak, from an ancient cookbook. On his bookshelf are books about Korean cuisines that do not exist anymore. “Not all old things are good. A lot of things are better now. But it’s important to take the good things from the past and try to develop them so that they fit the modern era. That’s the concept of my dishes,” say Yu. Although he uses traditional recipes and local wild ingredients, his food falls into a broad category of contemporary cuisine. But phrases like “contemporary cuisine” or “Modern Korean” fail to fully portray Twenty Four Season’s dishes. His unique plating, which is technically a Western method, reminds us of a Korean ink-and-wash painting. It also works as a connector between modern food culture and forgotten traditions of the past. He explains: “We look for Korean beauty. My dishes may look like contemporary cuisine but I seek to infuse them with the old tastes of Korea, although, I haven’t reached that point yet. But I can feel that I am getting closer and closer to that every year. I can’t wait to see where I’ll be in ten years. Maybe then, I’ll finally be satisfied with my food.”

Twenty Four Seasons

“Not all old things are good. A lot of things are better now. But it’s important to take the good things from the past and try to develop them so that they fit the modern era. That’s the concept of my dishes,” say Yu. Although he uses traditional recipes and local wild ingredients, his food falls into a broad category of contemporary cuisine. But phrases like “contemporary cuisine” or “modern Korean” fail to fully portray Twenty Four Season’s dishes. His unique plating, which is technically a Western method, reminds us of a Korean ink-and-wash painting. It also works as a connector between modern food culture and forgotten traditions of the past. He explains: “We look for Korean beauty. My dishes may look like contemporary cuisine but I seek to infuse them with the old tastes of Korea, although, I haven’t reached that point yet. But I can feel that I am getting closer and closer to that every year. I can’t wait to see where I’ll be in ten years. Maybe then, I’ll finally be satisfied with my food.” 

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San(Mountain)

San(Mountain)

You can have a taste of the autumn mountains of Korea by sampling wild pine mushrooms, Neungi mushrooms and pickled Japanese ginger. For plating that looks like a piece of Korean art, the restaurant uses Wasong flowers and lentils and they get the ingredients from rural organic markets and experts.

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