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Apgujeong, the Manhattan of Seoul, Part 2: Dinner and Dessert

July 18, 2010

While Apgujeong’s lighter, and cheaper, lunchtime options are well worth exploring — check out my last post for a whirlwind lunch tour — it wouldn’t be a complete trip to this haute land without a trip to at least one of the shi shi restaurants that make Apgujeong so lovably elitist, like Antonio’s, an Italian restaurant with truffle oil martinis and a mythical caviar pizza which, rumor has it, rings in at almost 100,000 W.

Apgujeong, as the cheaper eats in the last post proves, is actually a good neighborhood for any level of budget higher than “a McDonald’s night out.” And since I doubt any of you fine readers happen to be the CEO’s of Samsung, LG or Lotte, I decided to explore the restaurants that are a bit less likely to leave you an aching bank-balance hangover the next morning, but still have that crucial touch of class that gives you the real Apgujeong feel:

The Kitchen Salvatore Cuomo is just such a place. The Kitchen Salvatore is the only restaurant in Korea and one of only 300 in the world to be recognized by a special Naples pizza counsel (the “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana”) that has the authority to knight pizzas as authentically “Neapolitan” — Naples, of course, being the region where pizza was born.

You think I am kidding? Go to the restaurant, try the pizza, and tell me I am lying!

Look at that Italian-style decadence! We ordered several types of pizza when we were here, and this one was one of my favorites. A quattro formaggi or “four cheese” pizza, this one included *drum roll please!!* four different kinds of cheese! The texture was wonderful — velvety, succulent — and the cheese itself was a explosion of flavor cut with perfect balance by the sweet figs and pine nuts. Also excellent are the Genovese — pesto, potatoes, green beans and mozzarella — and the Pizza Jeju, a special menu item using Jeju Pork on a mozzarella pizza, a delicious, savory and fortunate meeting of two very different culinary worlds.

A short sampler menu:

The pizzas are between 18,000 and 23,000, but you can split 2 pizzas between 3 people easily, especially if you get a side, like the delicious sauteed mushrooms and eggplant. Wine is pricier, but again there are menu items that, if split between enough people, is completely within reason for a classy Friday night out. Seating and atmosphere are excellent with very helpful and friendly wait staff, outdoor patio seating and a smooth, softly lit interior in view of the fascinating pizza making process in the nearby kitchen.

A few other great restaurants can be found right in the same area. Zen Hideaway is a fantastic Thai restaurant that features a number of other fusion cuisines from Italian to Korean — their black rice risotto bibimbap, for example, is an outstanding — smooth, creamy and wallopingly flavorful — mix of the two.

Gorilla in the Kitchen is another excellent choice, featuring a range of health- and environment-conscious menu items that, however, by no means seem less delicious for it. Grilled free-range chicken and hormone-free beef, various whole wheat pastas, nut pizzas, a tantalizing array of salads and other diverse options at reasonable prices makes this place an excellent choice for any classy night out.

After such a fantastic dinner options, a good cup o’ joe really hits the spot and forestalls the food coma that’ll put a damper on your plans for the rest of the night.

Cafe Mou is one of your more enigmatic choices:

This place was so intensely classy that my camera actually exploded when I tried to take pictures inside (luckily I always carry two!). When you pay 10,000 for an Americano here, all that money is going to your experience of the hedonistic high-class Olympian grandeur that the place oozes with. It almost frightened me to be there — and no, I didn’t buy a coffee. Samsung CEO, this is for you!

A more down to earth choice, and one that attracted me immediately because of the sign, is Hansel and Gretel, the coffee shop of General Idea:

Isn’t that a lovely picture? Hansel and Gretel serves very reasonably priced, 3,000-5,000 won coffee, probably the cheapest in the area. The interior is cozy and concrete and the staff are exceptionally friendly. One, who nicknamed himself Gandalf after asking if I wrote books like J.R. Tolkein, whipped up a strange pancake concoction that he insisted I try for free when I visited the cafe. Made out of pancake batter, chocolate syrup, powdered sugar and… bacon?! Now that’s fusion!

If you aren’t looking for coffee, nearby both Cafe Mou and Gorilla in the Kitchen is the large Dosan Park, a lovely place to take a stroll and walk off that dinner.

The epoynmous Do-san, a Korean independence leader:

And if you are looking for good desserts (aside from the bacon pancake variety), the Bonnenouvelle is a fantastic bakery…

…featuring all different kinds of sweets, with a dining area and a cafe included for all those who want to sit and enjoy some good cake or pastries:

Bon appetite!

How to get there:

1.) Go to Apgujeong Station on line 3, exit 2.
2.) Walk out the exit and turn around (180 degrees)
3.) Walk straight and turn right at the corner
4.) Walk for 2-3 blocks before hitting a major intersection. Cross the road.
5.) Walk another 3-4 blocks (until you pass a large KB on the right), then turn right down the next major street
6.) Walk down and you will hit a fork in the road with a Starbucks on it.
7.) Keep right. You can find most of the attractions just by wandering around this area or using the map above. Kitchen Salvatore is 4 blocks after Starbucks, on the left corner; General Idea is down the same road . Zen Hideaway is three blocks past Starbucks, on a street to your right. Gorilla in the Kitchen is across from Dosan Park (see the map). Bonnenouvelle is one block past Starbucks, on the left.

The highlights of this review and subsequent reviews have been marked on the map so you can more conveniently find them (click through to see a bigger and clearer version).

(Special thanks to Seoul Selection for granting me use of their excellent maps)

Coming up next, a jazz show and the most fashionable bowling alley in the world!

This post was originally published at Painting the Passports Brown.


One Comment
  1. July 20, 2010 4:25 am

    Jesse, your blog gives me wanderlust. Also, how are you doing!?

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