It’s no secret that we largely have Korean Americans to thank for a revolution in the Seoul dining scene over the last few years. Young and talented culinary entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the expansion of Korean taste buds by combining their knowledge of Western cooking practices with their knowledge of Korean palates (mixed with dash of helpful visa regulations) to help make Seoul a unique dining haven.
A friend of mine recently returned from a long stint in the US to claim that the Seoul dining scene is much better than that of the major metropolitan area she was staying in. While it may not be true of some cities, I would assume that it is true for most. Koreans spend an inordinate amount of time searching for the new “matjip” (맛집), and it no doubt results in some of the best restaurants being rewarded with a steady stream of clientele.
One place that combines it all is The Beastro. Run by the sibling chef/owner team of Matthew and Catherine Chung, this place delivers on a creative dining experience with serious value for won. Dinner for two with an appetizer, two mains and dessert will run W50,000 – W70,000, comparable to what you’d pay at your average full-service restaurant. The food, however, is on another level.
I went for lunch so we got a ridiculous deal. For starters we had a Roasted Eggplant Caesar Salad (W9,000 lunch, W12,000 dinner) and Corn Soup (W7,000, not available for dinner). I initially couldn’t find the roasted eggplant in the caesar, which was obviously laid down on the plate with the lettuce piled on top. What I finally did find was cooked well, but on its own a tad bland. As part of the dish it worked though, thanks to the dressing, bacon, and anchovy ensuring that you had plenty of savory to combine it with. The corn soup was a huge hit, with a creamy, smoky flavor that you can only get from the abundant big chunks of bacon.
Our mains, which each came with a soft drink or coffee, blew me away. My dining companion arrived first and had already ordered the Roasted Beef & Brie Sandwich (W10,000 lunch, not offered for dinner), which I wholeheartedly agreed on. I had heard about this 24-hour 220g Hangar Steak (W20,000 lunch, 220g W23,000 at dinner) that they offer, so I was excited to try it.
And here is my big complaint; I wish the wait staff had warned me that they were the same thing packaged differently. The sandwich was truly awesome, with the meat slices as tender as beef can get, smothered in a delicious sauce with beautiful brie melted on top. The red onions on top really pulled it together as you crunched through the toasted heavy whole-grain bread and into the tender dressed beef. One of the best sandwiches in Seoul for sure.
When the steak came out, despite being amazing, it was almost a disappointment – almost. The succulent, tender beef was on top of a savory gravy and served with fries, but when you have just had an incredible sandwich with that beef, it gets a little excessive. I wish we had tried one of their other mains, which all looked amazing.
Opened in May of 2014, people have been buzzing about The Beastro for a while now, and I am now privy to the secret.