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Friday, March 16, 2012

Chataigne - A Table Bis (Seoul)

20 years ago, driving across Samcheong-dong by night meant following a dark road dotted with only a few lights - a quiet neighborhood with just a couple of shops and restaurants (rather close to the Gyeongbokgung), and maybe a mom and pop store before the last stretch to the tunnel. I won't say Samcheongdong-gil has turned into Las Veghanok's Strip but the change is radical: neons, shops and fancy eateries...

... And now this. Haechi, Seoul City's mascot, painted on US-style fire hydrants. I know Japanese tourists love the area but is this Gahoe-dong or Kawaii-dong?

That's it for my hypocrite Rant of the Day.

Because as you may know, even if I often criticize the extinction of friendly neighborhood Korean restaurants, I happen to enjoy some ov'em "fancy eateries".

Take Palpan-dong, for instance. That's a neighborhood just off main street, before the Prime Minister's residence when you come from downtown. Palpan-gil recently followed the boboization of Samcheong-dong, and is now lined with small fashion boutiques and cafes, preferably with a Frenchoid name. It all started with a tiny restaurant called 'A Table'. The owners opened 'A Table Bis' just around the corner, a bistrot which makes us Frogs feel just like home, in some nice little provincial restaurant (pommes de terre Sarladaise would be even better with the confit de canard, but that's probably because I've got too strong ties with Perigord Noir...).

This small alley has been hosting a second French restaurant for quite a while: facing the two-storey 'A Table Bis', 'Chataigne' proposes a more upscale menu (table d'hote) in a cute re-hanokized house seating no more than 12 people*. A well serviced place, but no pretensions, and a very kind Chef, who masters fine emulsions and sauces (delicious yam and snails). Merging dishes #3 and 4 (before today's main dishes: rainbow trout or ribeye) could make an even stronger statement, but that's not the positioning. What you enjoy is a soothing moment at a reasonable price.

Chataigne / 샤테뉴 (restaurant)
130-3 Palpan-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, ROK
Tel: +82.2.736.5385

A Table Bis (restaurant)
100-2 Palpan-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, ROK
Tel: +82.2.736.1049

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* an army on Bien Etre's scale (see "Bien Etre (Seoul)")

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