중앙데일리

Refreshment and comfort, flaws and all

CUP

Sept 28,2009
The white tile table at Palpandong Cafe. By Ser Myo-ja
The neighborhood near the presidential office is sequestered, although the main street of nearby Samcheong-dong is almost always bustling. During my lunchtime promenades through the quiet alleys near the journalists’ center of the Blue House, I noticed construction being done in the basement of a small building tucked among the houses in the area.

For weeks, it was a joy to observe the progress, anticipating the opening of what appeared to be a cafe. A few weeks ago, Palpandong Cafe quietly began its operations, and I was there on its first day of business. Since then, I have grown to love some of the items on the menu and have been back to the cafe several times.

The cafe is located in the basement of a Korean restaurant and has two entrances - one on the street and another through the restaurant’s garden. As I stepped through the main entrance, I was greeted by a flower shop within the cafe.

The place was quite spacious and the atmosphere, comfortable. A wall of photographs of a travel author caught my eye, as did a gigantic table covered in white tile.

On my first visit, I had a cranberry and pomegranate drink (7,000 won, $5.90) that was sweet and refreshing. The tart pomegranate taste was very subtle, and the smoothness of the icy drink went very well with the texture of the cranberry bits. There was no instant wow factor here, but whenever I felt tired or needed refreshment between media briefings by presidential aides, I stopped by the cafe for more of the rosy-pink drink.

Another of my favorites is the cafe’s tteokbokki (15,000 won), a dish of stir-fried rice cakes seasoned with spicy pepper paste. The casual street food is elevated into an elegant meal, and it comes beautifully garnished with basil leaves, Korean leeks and olives. The spiciness is just right and the Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top is a nice touch. The dish is served with two seasoned rice balls, making it more than a snack. It’s provided me with some indestructible carb comfort in the middle of tiring days.

The operation of the cafe is not exactly professional, and I have experienced a couple of disappointments. The menu features cakes made of organic ingredients and other desserts, but none have ever been ready on any of my visits. On my latest trip for an early lunch at around 11:45 a.m., the owner politely apologized that the kitchen was not ready.

However, I don’t think these experiences will stop me from going back for my midday snack and drink. After all, it’s the little flaws that make the cafe so comfortable.

Palpandong Cafe

Location: 128, Jongno-gu, Palpan-dong, Seoul

Phone: (02) 737-8485

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

by Seo myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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