Lotte opens bar and restaurant with French, Italian cuisine

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Lotte opens bar and restaurant with French, Italian cuisine

When the French-American Francois Cnockaert arrived at the Lotte Hotel 10 months ago, he was the first Western general manager to run the Japanese-style operations in the Lotte Hotel group's history. But he wasn't concerned with fitting in; he wanted to shake things up.

His first project was to create a new kind of restaurant-bar. Vine, on the first floor of the downtown Lotte Hotel, is the realization of that ambition. Expect to find a unique experience custom-made porcelain plates, a modern interior and one of the widest wine selections in Korea.

Vine mixes the classic and the practical to satisfy the taste of contemporary urban diners. More than 350 wines are organized by taste rather than by region, and they are sold in three sizes: 5, 10 and 15 centiliters (the average bottle of wine is 75 centiliters). The Reserve List includes a monthly introduction of the world's rarest wines. Uncorked bottles are kept in a special wine storage area, called a "cruvinet." For an annual fee of 120,000 won ($92), a client can access a private wine cellar, where up to 12 bottles can be kept. Best of all for wine lovers: More than 70 wines are priced under 50,000 won.

To maintain the wine and to offer quality services to wine lovers, Kong Seung-sik, last year's winner of the National Contest of Sommeliers of French Wines and Spirits, leads a team of six sommeliers, all experienced hoteliers. Korea's first female chef in a major hotel, Lorraine Sinclair, was invited from the United Kingdom.

The selection of lunch and dinner menus is mostly classic French and Italian cuisine, and to simplify the choice, each food is matched with the most appropriate wines. "The dishes are not fusion," says Mr. Cnockaert. "Each dish remains authentic to its region. For example, our California salmon pizza sticks to the famous chef Wolfgang Puck's recipe. 'Gougeres' cheese puffs dishes have been around in the Burgundy region for 400 years."

Vine is an accommodating place: Customers at the bar and restaurant can order either light snacks or a full meal. Groups of six or more can reserve a private room. The Vine Restaurant is open 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30-10:30 p.m. The Vine Bar is open 11 a.m.-midnight. Sunday brunch is served 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. For reservations or information, call 02-317-7151,2.

by Inēs Cho

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