Monday, February 23, 2009

Pierre Gagnaire a Seoul

I don't know whether "Pierre Gagnaire à Séoul" can help revive the very corny Lotte Hotel or not, but it had been ages since I last pushed its doors... and I guess I'm not the only customer to experience this weird feeling on his way to the 35th floor and to the first restaurant by a 3 Michelin Star Chef in Korea.

After Paris, Tokyo, Hong-Kong, and Dubai, the Pierre Gagnaire franchise opened shop in Seoul.

The timing couldn't be worse... or better for the Lotte Group : all luxury restaurants are struggling, but this chaebol is on an aggressive investing drive (purchasing food and beverage companies, building a new 555 m high Lotte World II...), and intends to gain ground as rivals struggle (most rivals : fellow retailer Shinsegae just opened a giant new complex in Busan, and purchased at a bargain price a key building near its headquarters in downtown Seoul).

Enough biz talk. And let's not waste time describing the curvy decor creating two niches with a view on the city center, enhanced by a smart system of mirrors.

Food, now. For this first encounter of the third kind in Seoul and after experiencing some overacted cuisine extravaganzas at "Gaya par Pierre Gagnaire" in Paris, I didn't dare taking too risky a path on the rather stimulating menu, and went for a simple and classic course. No surprise there (ie veal with eel and boletus), except for a few successful innovations maintained on the side (ie amuses-gueule and dessert), and at the right level.

My first impression : not a major disruption, but the possibility for Seoulites to enjoy the real Parisian-style, 3-star thing.

This fills a competitive gap with rival Asian neighbors, and could spark some positive competition at the national level. Eventually. And if Lotte can sustain the "caprice" until better times come.

Knowing that a much quicker and more positive way of putting definitely Seoul on the global culinar map would be to promote high end Korean restaurants : this courageous opening doesn't make for last year's tragic loss (see "Annus Horribilis").

Pierre Gagnaire à Séoul
Lotte Hotel Seoul 35F New Wing, Sogong-dong, Jung-gu, SEOUL, ROK
Tel +82.2.317.7181, 7182

Seoul Village 2009

see other restaurants in Seoul and Korea.

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