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Monday, March 21, 2011

ONE THE FIVE BEST MEALS I'VE HAD IN MY LIFE

Before my culinary adventure, I must report that there was a major setback at reactors #2 and #3 at  Fukushima.  Grey smoke began emanating at the beginning of Day 11.  Worse, meteorological models show the ground level plume heading straight for Tokyo, but a little more than halfway there moving west, then north, therefore NOT getting to the city.  At several hundred meters, Tokyo is also the direction, but halfway there, it turns to the sea or east.  Yes, west AND east.  I'm still scheduled to fly to Narita tomorrow, which is located mostly east of Tokyo, and according to the above somewhat safer at the ground level.  Well, I must eat, anyway, so here is my epicurean indulgence today.

I had my best lunch in Korea, even better than brunch yesterday.  But my experience at Jung Sik-dang today was so fabulous that I rank it among the very best of meals ever.  I now only review lunches, and JSK compares well with Noma (Copenhagen), La Terrazza (Rome) and Konigshof Restaurant (Munich).  It is not a very large establishment, but is nicely appointed in modern high tech and is located facing Dosan Park.  Interestingly enough, my lunch two days ago, Zen Hideaway, is only a block away.

I was sent here by the W Seoul Concierge, Rachel, and joined by Professor Kiryun Choi, who made the experience all the better by paying for it.  The first photo above has Kiryun with Ms. Yim, our primary interface.  The key individual, of course, is Chef Yim Jung-sik, who started as a cook in the South Korean Army, then, against the wishes of his parents, went on to the Culinary Institute of America, learned from several top rated restaurants in New York City, then also spent time in San Sebastian, Spain.  This region around Barcelona has become the epicenter of fine cuisine, replacing Paris.  Anchored by El Buli, the Spanish specialize in foam, and the meal to come had it in many of the dishes.  Here I am with Chef Yim:


He is opening a new restaurant on Manhattan Island in June, and at 1PM came by to say hi and was to rush off to catch a 3PM flight to New York City.

We started this extravagance with a Kir Royale, then went on to an 2005 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir (14,1%) from Willamette Valley in Oregon.  The wine was a bit weak.  First came the Amuse Bouche, an apple foam with salmon, lemon and tomato.  A good start.

The first salad was a surprise.  There were leaves from 8 vegetables, really crisp, standing over a foam of canola with lemon and peanuts.  Your fingers are used as the utensil.  I love to eat with my bare hands.


The second salad was an artistic masterpiece:


And it also tasted great.  I should add that we did not order but selected the set menu on the whim of the chef.  Thus, for each course, we actually had three dishes, with one to be shared, as for example, the bibimbap in the middle of the following, where I had the clam curry noodles.


Then I enjoyed a Corvina, a kind of white bass, with bok choy and mushrooms.  The delicacy and tastefulness were exceptional.


The next course was his specialty, five senses satisfaction pork belly:


We finished with tea by selecting from these test tubes.


With a very functional ceramic tea bag:


I need to get a few sets of them.  The feast ended with sherberts:


Curiously enough, I was not super-stuffed after all this food.  I was eminently satisfied and comfortable.  The surprise at the end was that Chef Yim and his key staff stood in line to shake our hands as we left.  I suspect he stayed back to himself prepare this meal for us.  Perhaps he is leaving for New York tomorrow.  We talked about he someday opening a third in Honolulu...with Professor Choi as investor and Ms. Yim as the manager.

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There is no storm anymore in the Indian Ocean.

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