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Friday, February 24, 2012

Bien Etre (Seoul)

A priori:
- my idea of "bien-etre" ('well being' for us froggies) is certainly not the Dosandae-ro / Yeongdongdae-ro intersection, a pack of tangled highways where Yeongdong Bridge and Olympicdae-ro also meet.
- and when I think "top restaurant", the first image summoned into mind is not one single, tiny room with only 2 basic tables of four, the restrooms in the next building, at the feet of tall appartment blocks next to the above mentioned noodle mess*.

But a posteriori: Bien-Etre fully deserves its name, and it's much more than just a top restaurant.

To start with, I don't mind sharing a tiny room with a Cordon Bleu chef when he's cooking. PARK Min-jae worked with Pierre Gagnaire and ran Le Carre in Apgujeong-dong. Here, the Master is not in some distant kitchen, ruling over an army of assistants: he's preparing every single amuse bouche for you, as if if were for a close relative, and you can experience the finest meal with the full show on the plate (and the palate), but sans the boring decorum that usually comes with it. The ultimate table d'hote for a happy few, a festival from the entrees to the souffle**. Every bite makes some Bien to your Etre.

In Paris, the 'neo-bistro' trend also puts food first under the motto small is beautiful, but this is probably the World's Plus Petit Grand Restaurant.

Needless to say, you have to book in advance for this not so hidden gem (Bien-Etre's reputation already crossed many borders).

Bien Etre / 비앙 에트르 (restaurant)
130 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, ROK
Tel: +82.2.543.3288

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* I know it sounds a little bit too Dickensian for such an expensive neighborhood (Cheongdam-dong), but come on, there are nicer surroundings in Seoul. And I'm the biased, "Gangbuk" kind of Seoulite (make that "Gangcheon", for 'north of Seoul's original waterway, Cheonggyecheon').
** a la vanille, le souffle. Perfect taste, temperature, and texture. I loved it. But if you want me to melt down, cook me a good souffle au fromage.

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