“Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”

Contributor: Nam Sang-so

It’s the definition for the three Michelin starred dining establishments – in French “Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage.”  For the hierarchy of two…

Topic: Food, Yongsan Legacy
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It’s the definition for the three Michelin starred dining establishments – in French “Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage.”  For the hierarchy of two stars, it is “Excellent cooking, worth a detour,” and for the one star, “A very good restaurant in its category.”

In my youth years of 40s, while I was pursuing to get architectural/engineering design services and evaluation of the construction biddings for Korean contractors in the Middle East countries, it was a good chance for me to nominate myself as a gourmet. And tasting fine food at different countries was, is, one of my favorite hobbies.  And I had to pay for the expensive hobby some exorbitant prices in less than an hour of dining pleasure in the Middle Eastern countries particularly in London, Rome and Paris.

Among the gourmets of the Londoners the name of Araki sushi bar in the city became famous for its good sushi since late 2014. It’s a small bar that had only 9 tables. It was well known because of the price of the Japanese food was so expensive that one full course meal cost 300 pounds ($376) excluding drinks, yet reservation must be made at least 3 weeks ahead. The owner Chef Araki explains that he gets the finest ingredients from all over the world – cuttlefish from Africa, Bluefin tuna from Ireland or Portugal, white truffle from Italy, so on. You have heard of the chef’s maxim that “fine food originates from good ingredients” yet you don’t want to spend 300 pounds just for a sushi lunch but there apparently are a lot of gourmets who would spend any amount for a good food.

The most expensive restaurant on earth is known “Sublimotion” located at Sant Josep de sa Talaia, Ibiza, Spain, run by Michelin 2-star Chef Paco Roncero who utilizes molecular gastronomy in cooking. In 2014, Sublimotion was awarded the prize for the Best Innovation Food & Beverage.  As of 2015, the restaurant on haute cuisine is considered the most expensive in the world with an average price at $2,000 per person. The course consists of 20 food tasting entrees and can seat only a maximum of 12 patrons. The waitresses wearing the uniform similar to that of the stewardess serve you, according to the December 2015 issue of Japanese Newsweek.

When Chef Roncero had boasted that his restaurant serves the most delicious and expensive foods in the world, the French Chef Paul Pairet of the Ultraviolet in Shanghai, China, refuted that it’s Ultraviolet, which charges $600 per serving, yet the taste of his cookeries exceeds the Roncero’s. The restaurant’s unique concept is based on Pairet’s theory of “psycho-taste,” or the psychology and emotions associated with food, and Pairet says “Food is ultimately about emotion, and emotion goes beyond taste.”

Now let’s look at the dining tables in Yongsan Garrison, Seoul. The U.S. Military personnel in Korea and their invited guests would find the recipes in the continental American culinary culture at “Greenstreet” or “Oasis” dining establishments at the Dragon Hill Lodge in the South Post at about the equal rating of the two Michelin stars “worth a detour,” if not the three starred “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey to Yongsan Garrison.” The American steak is soft and so tasty that one would feel like eating at the Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn, New York City.

The Dragon Hill Lodge fortunately will remain intact after Yongsan Garrison is relocated into Camp Humphreys in late 2018. The TAE had been partially involved in its early stage of the feasibility and site selection studies for the construction of a hotel for the U.S. Armed Forces personnel in down town Seoul.

Before the Dragon Hill was built, the U.S. Military had leased two existing Korean hotels – Naeja Hotel located near Gwangwhamun in Naeja-dong and Garden Hotel in Mapo-gu, Seoul. TAE also provided some architectural/engineering services for fire prevention, emergency escape planning and the interior designs for the hotels in 1970s.

I’m still trying to digest the Chef Pairet’s theory, “Food is about emotion which goes beyond taste.” Really?

By Nam Sang-so, Seoul, January 1st on the Rooster Year of the Moon calendar