중앙데일리

Chic Itaewon lounge deserves more customers

Jan 09,2009
The salty-and-sweet prosciutto con melone; Noxa’s insalata con tonno
Noxa Lounge looks totally out of place on its corner of the street. Located near such casual Haebangchon/Itaewon staples as Istanbul, Buddha’s Belly and Taco Chili Chili, Noxa looks like it belongs in one of the more affluent neighborhoods of Seoul, like Garuso-gil in Sinsa-dong, or at least a spot on the main Itaewon drag.

Which comes topped with overcooked tuna
With huge, plate glass windows revealing a dark, clean and modern interior, Noxa tries to cross into the “lounge” world, but is really more a nice restaurant than anything else. The menu is impressively extensive for a place that touts itself as a lounge, but the restaurant lacks the loud music and clubby vibe of a true nightspot. Its ambience, however, is decidedly pleasant.

The rosa Noxa, a pasta dish with a seafood and citrus kick. By Roshni Lal
The soundtrack during my visit consisted of some smooth bossa nova sung in dulcet tones, and the dining room is quiet, despite the exposed floor and table surfaces. Logistically, the place could reach stentorian decibel levels, but it’s simply never full enough.

As someone who lives within close proximity of Noxa, I’ve seen it largely empty since its opening two months ago. That’s a shame, too, because the food is actually quite good.

The exterior of Noxa. By Hannah Bae
I headed down to Noxa after a long day of self-imposed vegetation, and the food was a comfort to my empty belly, while the atmosphere did much to maintain my calm mood.

The only mediocre dish among the many we ordered was the insalata con tonno (7,000 won, $5.25), or salad with tuna, which surprisingly came with the fish fully cooked rather than seared. One would think that it’d come raw when in a salad. The rest of our order, however, was delicious.

Particularly notable was the gnocchi di magro (15,000 won), stuffed with ricotta and topped with cream sauce and a few shreds of real, fresh Parmesan - not that disgusting powdered trash. Pillow-soft to the bite and steaming hot, the dish was incredibly filling with its rich flavor. It’d probably best be split with a friend, Korean-style, since it’s so dense.

Noxa’s pasta dishes come cooked al dente, as we saw from the rosa Noxa (15,000 won), Amatriciana (13,000 won), carbonara (13,000 won) and pesto alla Genovese (13,000 won). Thankfully, none of the sauces that include tomato tend toward the sickening sweet flavor that poison too many red sauces here in Korea.

The rosa Noxa is the most inventive of the dishes, with a zesty blush cream sauce with a citrus punch. The pasta comes with shrimp, salmon and tomatoes mixed in, creating a nice medley of flavors.

The Amatriciana, a penne with a spicy tomato sauce and smoked bacon, was not too fiery on the tongue, and the carbonara came with a nice dusting of fresh ground black pepper. The latter, made with fresh cream and eggs, was a bit quick to coagulate, although it was tasty.

A good starter for all these carb-loaded plates was the prosciutto con melone (8,000 won), which is light and fruity with a splash of salt. The melon also brought out the fruity tones of the house red, which was an affordable 5,000 won. It’s not the finest house red to touch my lips, but it’s cheaper than most and above average. Plus, it comes in a stemless glass!

Of course, like many Western restaurants here in Seoul, dishes come out in weirdly timed spurts. Perhaps they expect diners to share everything.

The pesto was the last to come out, and despite being a glorious green, my friend’s enjoyment of the dish was surely dampened by the fact that she got it a good 10 minutes after the first entree. Not to mention, despite the lack of a crowd, the kitchen takes a long time to work its magic.

Flaws in timing aside, Noxa is a nice addition to the strip outside Noksapyeong Station. It’s about time the street took a step up in eateries, even though I do enjoy some Thai takeaway every now and then.

While I don’t think Noxa is going to turn into Seoul’s hippest nightspot anytime soon, I do hope that it does see a slew of diners soon. With food this good in such a relaxing setting, and at such a decent price, the restaurant deserves some good business.


By Hannah Bae Contributing Writer [hannahbae@gmail.com]



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