Friday, June 3, 2011

International Restaurant Street, Itaewon-ro 27-ga-gil, or Hong Seok-cheon-dae-ro?

It started over one year ago with a small 'villa', in backstage Itaewon. Then a second one got bulldozed, and finally the master plan emerged : an Westwards extension of Itaewon International Restaurant Street, one block away back then.

Now the junction has been completed, the pavement and sidewalk polished, and all houses gutted to make room for more eateries.

The extension radically transforms the perspective : the food alley behind Hamilton Hotel used to stop abruptly at the 'Joinau corner', but Le SaintEx and La Plancha are now almost at the center of a much wider and open street, and the small path leading to Itaewon main street (where Ecume restaurant completes the French cluster) has already evolved, with clothes shops somewhere between the Itaewon of yore and the trendier boutiques you can find at the Eastern end of Itaewon-ro, the Northern Garosugil.

Technically and following Korea's address system reform*, International Restaurant Street should be now known as Itaewon-ro 27-ga-gil. I highlighted this "IRS"
line on Seoul Village map, but I'm adding this snapshot from Daum Map : a satellite view taken before the destruction indicating the Saint Ex (or rather "르생덱스") and My China (마이차이나) restaurant at the former end of the street :

Note that "My China", "My Thai", and "My Chelsea", all located in this short stretch, belong to the same person : blacklisted as an actor following his coming out in 2002, Hong Seok-cheon proved he was bound to succeed anyway, prolonging his first statement in Itaewon ("Our Place", now "My Ex") with series of successes as a restaurateur. And it takes more than being a celeb' to succeed here : Jackie Chan's place in this food alley folded simply because the food wasn't up to it.

Twenty years ago, and even until quite recently, the dominant local flavor was Indo-Pakistanese, but all continents are now represented and IRS symbolizes culinar diversity in Seoul.

At the top of the Montmartrian path overlooking the new crossroads, Zelen perfectly illustrates this diversity : here's a Bulgarian restaurant filled with a 'bibim' of Korean and foreign patrons... some achievement for a community boasting fewer than 50 expats.

Seoul Village 2011
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* see "
The Great Korean Revolution : addresses with house numbers and street names", followed by "New address system in Korea : 2 more years".

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