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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Annus Horribilis

The Gaon will close.

One of the World's best restaurants will die because it dared subliming Korean food in Korea.

Even nowadays, Koreans don't mind paying KRW 3,000 for a tasteless coffee, nor 30,000 for pastas even Yours Truly would cook infinitely better, and socialites commonly accept being ripped off in trendy Western / fusion restaurants... but they find indecent to pay five times less for Korean food1. Not because the low price is an insult to Korean cuisine, but because they find it too high for a Korean restaurant.

Incredibly enough, there is no such thing as a high end Korean restaurant in a Seoul five star hotel. Not anymore : the Shilla closed its own, causing a legitimate uproar. Since I majored in economics, I get the picture... but this is about cultural heritage, about how the World sees Korea.

Like any Korean food lover, I'm glad I can enjoy delicious food for a few thousand wons almost anywhere (for 5 euros in Seoul, you generally eat much better than for 20 in Paris), but I cherished The Gaon experience.

And I know many other Westerners did. Actually, over the past few years I could even tell which big US / European / Asian company would be paying a visit before the restaurant received the call : I only had to check who visited the small
review I wrote about The Gaon.

To add insult to injury, my favorite bulgogi in Paris (see "
Korean Barbecue") is moving from Rue du Dragon.

Speaking of "bul" (fire)... Remember last February's arson in Namdaemun2 ? The restoration is well under way, and they just selected the pine trees to be fallen - from the same forest where they collected the timber for the previous construction over 6 centuries ago.

I almost forgot : this annus horribilis happens to be also the year of Hope3.

1 - they accept a $500 tag per person in a Western restaurant, but not $100 in a Korean restaurant (see today's Chosun - in Korean : '
A bitter "Korean Globalization"' (20081211)

2 - sad year for Korean National Treasures indeed... see "

3 - see "
America is a great country"

UPDATE 20101215

Korean Barbecue reopens today in Paris : 7 rue de Ponthieu 75008 Paris (Tel : +33.1.4225.3541)

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