It's something we always miss, no matter where we're from. Fortunately, some of the restaurants in Seoul are putting out good ole' homestyle cooking on their table. From creamy homemade gnocchi to savory Tibetan meat pies, down-homey options are quite plenty in Seoul.
Potala’s menu is quite large, encompassing various Tibetan, Nepalese and Indian dishes. While the restaurant manages to maintain a high quality for each type of cuisine, we recommend you to explore the Tibetan tastes which are truly authentic. If you’re looking to have home-style dishes, there are the thukpa, a spicy noodle dish with meat and vegetable broth, and the Tibetan chowmein with stir-fried vegetables and meat. The sha bhakle, fried bread with sautéed meat and vegetable filling, tastes wholesome and quite comforting. All of these traditional Tibetan dishes can be paired with the famous Tibetan butter tea, of course. While the experience here will be an “adventurous” journey for some, a visit to Potala, for many others, will bring a special type of comfort which they, possibly, have not known before.
Danish food—you don’t really hear much of it in Seoul. There are some open-sandwich restaurants that have gained some attention as of late, but not too many that complete a Danish experience. Seoulites, always ready for something new, will be glad to know that a 3 story restaurant located right in the middle of Hongdae is offering up food, drinks and an atmosphere that are refined, cozy and very much Nordic. With its frosty white interiors, rough wooden ceilings, frosted windows and burning candles, Hygge VEN Køkken located on the 2nd floor makes you feel as if you're in a Danish country home during a winter storm. You can find everyday Danish meals here, including the elaborate, 9 piece smørrebrød and the daily Special Tray. For their lunch menu, the Hygge chicken, served with grilled chicken and Gorgonzola cheese sauce on a Dutch baby pancake, is rich in flavor and with unexpected bits of pleasing texture. VEN's version of Dutch pancake is fluffy and just savory and sweet enough to go with the chicken. The Steamed Mushroom dish comes with 4 types of steamed hidden under thinly sliced quality jamón and poached eggs. Its combination of textures and flavors that the ingredients come to create in this dish was comforting and just familiar enough. With its own bar with a separate entrance and a very different décor on the first floor, there's a nice selection of To Øl and Mikkeller beers, both draft and bottles, served here.
The faces of Casa di Noa’s owners might seem familiar—and that’s because as they built their restaurant, they were filmed for a Korean TV show, to wide acclaim. Now open for several months and already quite popular, the fans don’t just come because of the couple (or their adorable little son, Noa, though he is very cute), but because Casa di Noa serves traditional Northern Italian cuisine made with dedication and old family recipes. Stringent about quality, chef Davide di Meo visits the market in person every morning to make produce selections himself. As Casa di Noa is a spaghetteria, where pasta is the main course, the pasta is all made fresh in-house. He also makes the sausage for his ragu sauce in-house as well.
Seoulites understand that, in Seoul, finding fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy is a rather special kind of pleasure—while Brotherhood Kitchen does offer that, its delightful menu includes a lot more, with the Chicken and Waffle as one of the specialties. Don’t worry, for those of you who’ve never had it before; quite humorously, illustrated instruction stickers are provided at each table, and of course, you can just dig in whichever way you want. The chicken is juicy and has a nice crust, while the waffle offers softness and sweetness to balance it all out in your mouth. If you’re looking for something homier, you can try their Grilled Chicken and Chili Rice. The combination of the saffron rice, chili sauce (which isn’t too spicy) and grilled chicken makes for a light but hearty meal. For those who are in need of a casual American meal besides the usual burgers and fries, Brotherhood Kitchen provides an experience worth paying for.
Shy Bana advertises itself as a soul food restaurant specialized in “true American home-style meals.” Its jambalaya is Creole style, with tomatoes in its recipe—indeed lots of tomatoes, and not much else besides that. The taste was one-dimensional, even with a good amount of seafood and meat in the dish. With the meatloaf, the problems were even more pronounced. Even by the look, it was obvious that cooking and serving was rushed; the sauce was way too sweet and the texture of the meat was rather unpleasant. “Homemade soul food?”—more like a TV dinner, perhaps. Unfortunately, and contrary to their branding, there was no sign of any soul present in the food. Given the demand I’ve been seeing, I certainly hope that there will be more authentic efforts in the Seoul food scene in terms of Southern American cuisine. Until then, “comfort” and “consolation” which Shy Bana claims to offer with its food should be sought elsewhere.
Tokkijung, created by a detail-oriented owner, is the second representative project from the creators of Mies Container. The restaurant is a stark contrast to the youthful, loud and dynamic feel of Mies Container, aiming instead for a lyrical, tranquil atmosphere to serve Japanese slow food. Curry and fried meats, Japanese beef stew, croquettes – all of the menu items would be familiar sight if visiting a Japanese friend’s house for a friendly meal. Coupling the food with Santori beer, Cassis Highball, Sawa, or other alcoholic beverages makes the place popular with local office workers as well.
Opening the green doors to my Beautiful Launderette, you will be welcomed by a scene of a small cottage in the Champagne region. The interior is quite simple but colorful; the tables are decorated with a small vase with flowers while small plants, books, dishes and mugs are neatly stacked on shelves. The handcrafted menu displays 3 French dishes: The Boeuf Bourguignon, Ratatouille and the Bolognese. My Beautiful Launderette is indeed Instagram-worthy, and great for couples to enjoy a nice meal and ambiance. Take note, however: unfortunately, they don’t take reservations.