Mr Kim and I love eating. If I were to summarize our marriage life it would be, asking each other “what would you like to eat” for hours every single day. We have probably been to almost all “맛집 / matjibs” (“delicious restaurants”) in Seoul, Daegu, Busan, Ansan, and elsewhere in Korea. Eating is our hobby, our life. That is the bond that holds our marriage together! Haha. Just kidding. :p
For the past few years, Korea has been obsessed with food. In fact, most television channels (including cable channels) have their own take on food-related TV programs. The popularity of these TV programs stemmed from online broadcast called “먹방/mukbang”. “Mukbang” is a combination of two Korean words: 먹다 (“meokta” meaning “to eat”) and 방송 (“bangsong” or broadcast). Simply put, the hosts of the shows eat in front of their web cameras while interacting with their audiences (usually through chatrooms). Koreans’ fascination with food can also be seen from the number of Korean food bloggers flooding the internet. These trends have influenced the food scene in Korea as more and more Koreans are exploring different types of cuisine. As a matter of fact, you can find more diverse culinary selections in Korea compared 10 years ago. (I can attest to this since I’ve been living here since 2006 and back then the only good pizza I had was Pizza Hut.) However, while Koreans have been developing the local food scene through their traditional Korean food, fusion food items, and even expanding to cater international cuisines, Korea was never granted a Michelin star until November last year (2016) when Michelin finally recognize some Seoul’s upscale restaurants. After hearing the news that they are finally sprinkling the coveted Michelin stars in Seoul, Mr Kim and I were eager to explore more matjibs! Plus it was just in time for Mr Kim’s birthday month – just the right time to splurge a little for some gastronomical adventures. Yey!
A quick throwback, the first time we had a Michelin star restaurant experience is when we visited Japan last year. We went to Unagiya-Hirokawa, a restaurant in Kyoto that serves grilled eel. We had to wait a good 2 hours to get a taste of “unagi donbori.” The line was really long but it was worth the wait. The eel was cooked to perfection, truly deserving of the Michelin one star. We would have explored more Michelin starred restaurant but it was way out of our budget so we had to settle with Unagiya-Hirokawa.
Back in Seoul, we were happy to know that a lot of the Michelin starred restaurants are located in Jongno, where Mr Kim works. The very first Michelin restaurant we tried was Yu Yuan.
Yu Yuan is a Chinese restaurant inside Four Seasons Hotel in Gwanghwamun, Seoul. As soon as you walk in, you can feel the opulence, elegance and glamour of the place. No one can deny the sophistication of its interior design. Tiny touches of gold everywhere creates a luminous yet subtle elegance which fits Four Seasons Hotel’s image. I love the marbled tables and chic turquoise cushions – something that you won’t associate with Chinese cuisine but it definitely embodies the grandeur of the place.
It boasts of its signature dish, Beijing duck and other Cantonese cuisine. However, Mr Kim and I decided to not to go for the Beijing duck and instead we opted to try out several dishes such as the deep fried shrimp shumai, meat platter, beef noodle soup, crispy chicken and the mango dessert platter.
We especially love the crispy chicken dish. Everything was delicious and is deserving of the Michelin Star. However, we made two mistakes: one, we should have ordered the peking duck set. Mr Kim thought it would be too much food for dinner as it was a course dish. Wrong. Their servings are quite small by Korean standards. We had to order the crispy chicken last minute because we thought 4 dishes (appetizer, main dish, noodle dish and dessert) were enough. Our second mistake was ordering the mango dessert platter. It was delicious, one of the best desserts I’ve had in Korea. Hands down. But it was too much. There were too many desserts on the plate and the pudding (which I love and Mr Kim hated) was a bit too heavy, so in the end we were overwhelmingly pumped with sugar. Don’t get us wrong, we loved the whole dining experience. We probably just need to put more thought to ordering the right dishes.
Overall, we rate them 95/100. Not only was their food delicious, their service was superb too. Their servers were always attentive but not in an intrusive way. I also appreciate that they have two sets of chopsticks for each guest. One set is for eating and the other one serves as a “serving chopsticks”. This departs from the Korean food (table manners) culture, where serving spoons are not common and everyone gets to share food using their own chopsticks and spoons. (Even for soups or stews).
In short, we believe that it was the ultimate Chinese dining experience in Seoul. The whole experience was divine. To be honest, it was actually a bit too fancy for us as we would love to think of ourselves as more of a relax couple, where we can dine like pigs. Hahaha. Nevertheless, it was a romantic and memorable dining experience.
We will definitely come back! ^^