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Seoul | MM Travel Guide | 14

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I apologize for my slow pacing of posts as of late. I’ve been busy with both work and my private life, giving me limited free time to work on the blog. I have some exciting new posts on the way though, and will start posting new types of content in the new year that I think you guys will love. The past month has been a bit of a transformative and clearly reflective moment in my life and has inspired me to really jump-start some self initiated work. 

I just got back from a two week business trip to Seoul and wanted to share some of the more interesting places I had the chance to visit. I would have liked to share more places but I was too busy to document every place I went. Unfortunately, two of the locations will have to suffice with just Instagram photos.

Happy Holidays, and I'll see you in 2015.

 

★☆☆☆
Avoid, a waste of time.

★★☆☆
Good, but mediocre.

★★★☆
Great. Worth a visit.

★★★★
Exceptional. A spiritual experience.

 

$
Affordable

$$
Reasonable

$$$
Pricey

 

 

Sushi Matsumoto
Apgujeong-dong
★★★★
$$$

 

This is possibly the best sushi I’ve had in not just Seoul, but the world. Run by Mizuho, a Japanese chef, Matsumoto is impeccably run with a helplessly clean, Japanese attitude. Being at this place is a calming, therapeutic experience. The agility and dexterity of the chefs make great visual entertainment and the food can only be described as stunning. Matsumoto is the epitome of adroit Japanese artistry. Pricing is aggressive but not unusual for this quality - omakase starts at approximately $170 and heads north of $200 for longer courses. Something also worth noting is the kindness of the staff here. After seeing me take photos, the waitress laid a cloth on my table telling me it was to rest my camera on. I just can’t help but love this place. I miss it already.

 
 
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Sushi U
Daechi-dong
★★★★
$$$

 

Sushi U is a restaurant that I make sure I visit whenever I’m in Seoul. The quality of ingredients are always great and the experience consistent. The restaurant was once run by the sushi master Matsudo Toshio but is currently headed by Korean chef Noh Seung Gu. The quality has remained constant though, and Noh continues to experiment with new flavors and techniques just as Matsudo has. Make sure you sit at the bar and talk with the chef - he’ll try new things right in front of you and ask for your opinion. What I love about this restaurant is that it feels like a creative studio always willing to trying new things and stepping out of its comfort zone. I’ve certainly been to better places that fit into the classical definition of “sushi” but there’s something appealing about coming here as a designer that appreciates creativity. By the way, I don’t know how serious he was but Noh said that he’ll treat Minimally Minimal readers with extra care if they visit. 

 
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Park Hyatt Seoul
Daechi 2-dong
★★★★
$$$

 

As far as hotels go, this is pretty much as good as it gets. I hate the traditional, baroque aesthetics of most hotels but Park Hyatt has a modern, sophisticated ambiance that is truly refreshing. Helpful staff, comfortable rooms, a fantastic gym/sauna, delicious breakfast and convenient transit options makes this the best hotel in Seoul. The rooms are also stocked with Aesop products which is makes the stay even more enjoyable. The hotel overlooks Samseong Station, which provides an awesome view of the World Trade Center and its neighboring skyscrapers too. The only thing I can complain about is that the staff tries to be almost too helpful and makes you feel a bit uncomfortable. I really don’t need to be asked if I need anything everyday or have my elevator opened for me.

 
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누하의숲
Hyoja-dong
★★☆☆
$

 

A tiny and immensely tranquil Japanese comfort food restaurant, 누하의숲, or Nuha No Mori, feels like a precious existence in the harsh realities of Seoul. The restaurant revs their menu constantly and only offers two options at a time. I love this place conceptually and want to give it a high rating but I didn’t really enjoy what I was served at my visit. I’ve heard great things about this place so I’m going to give them the benefit of doubt and say that I picked the wrong dish.

 
 

 

제주항
Sinsa-dong
★★★★
$$

 

If I had to pick my top 10 favorite restaurants in the world, this would be in the list. 제주항 specializes in seafood with an emphasis on ingredients and dishes from Jeju Island (an island located just southwest of Korea). The abalone porridge and grilled/stewed mackerel are my personal favorites but I’ve honestly never had anything bad here. Most people think of Korean barbecue as the quintessential Korean cuisine but as someone that doesn’t really like meat, this embodies what I love most about the peninsula’s gastronomy.

 
 

 

Cha Cha
Apgujeong-dong
★★☆☆
$$

I like this place. Cha Cha is a casual, unpretentious wine bar with a decent selection. Unfortunately, the pricing seems a bit unreasonably high for an American and their cheese platter isn’t up to snuff. As a dog lover, I can’t help but say that my favorite thing about Cha Cha is the chef’s adorable dog, Tofu, who always hangs out by the register.

 
 

 

개화옥
Sinsa-dong
★★
$$

개화옥 does classic Korean dishes in a simple, clean fashion. They do a great job with meat entrees and also have a fantastc aged steak. Flavors are on the mild side but still pleasant, which is particularly apparent in their interpretation of doenjang jjigae. Overuse of seasoning and msg can get a bit tiring so this sets a nice tempo for your stay in the city. Something I also like about this place is their selection of silverware and diningware. Most Korean restaurants use generic, often times plastic ones but 개화옥 take a little bit more care.

 
 

 

Upper West
Sinsa-dong
★★★☆
$$

 

Upper West is clearly a simulation of a bar in NYC and has a largely nostalgic atmosphere. They are a cocktail focused bar located right by Garosugil, making it convenient to access. The drinks are generally on the sweeter side so if you’re a serious drinker, this may not be the place to go although I find it a great starting point for the night.

 
 

 

Deux Crème
Sinsa-dong
★☆☆☆
$$

 

This place is apparently insanely popular in Seoul right now. When I went, I had to get takeout as open seats weren’t even available. Overall, I wasn’t all that impressed and couldn’t fully understand the hype. The tarts were fine but nothing to write home about and don’t even operate on the same level as Lady M.

 
 

 

Bastille
Sinsa-dong
★★☆☆
$

 

Bastille specializes in soft-serve ice-cream topped with some unique toppings, which is then served on a bed of dry ice. I have a soft spot for visuals so I would actually go to this place again, just to marvel at their presentation. But overall, Bastille reminds me of Momofuku Milk Bar, not only because they sell cereal milk but because they exemplify acceptable mediocrity wrapped in an appeal package.

 
 

 

Gelati Gelati
Seogyo-dong
★★★☆
$

Despite it being -5 °C, I thoroughly enjoyed my two scoops from Gelati Gelati outside in the brutal Seoul winter. There’s definitely better gelato in the world but this place is worth notice for their rice gelato. I thought it sounded like a terrible idea but in practice, it’s delicious. Think gelato equivalent of mochi. If it were summer, I would have enjoyed it only more.

 

A photo posted by Andrew Kim (@mnmllymnml) on

 

 

Why Not?
Hannam-dong
★★★★
$$

One of my all-time favorite bars. Why Not? is serious about their drinks and don’t even have a menu, expecting their customers to have a basic knowledge about what they like. That’s not to say that they’re pretentious though; their bartending staff are knowledgeable, courteous and are willing to make thoughtful recommendations. My favorite drink is an old fashioned and Why Not? clearly has the best one in Seoul.

 

A photo posted by Andrew Kim (@mnmllymnml) on