The best of Asia, served up in one spotSo you’re with two friends and debating about where to have lunch. You crave Chinese noodles, but one pal wants Vietnamese pho and the other Japanese soba. To please everybody, you’ll have to split up ― or go somewhere like the Oriental Spoon.
The Apgujeong-dong restaurant, specializing in “pan-Asian” noodle and rice dishes, was opened three months ago by Lee Do-hoon, who was a manager at one of Seoul’s first Vietnamese restaurants, Little Saigon, which is located nearby. Mr. Lee spent 18 months preparing to open the new eatery, hitting on the idea to serve both well-known and exotic Asian dishes at low prices. “Many Koreans are well-traveled these days, but they still only know about the most famous Asian dishes,” Mr. Lee says.
The interior of Oriental Spoon will catch your aesthetic eye ― the furniture and the decor are reminiscent of a hip New York cafe from the 1950s.
The favorite dishes so far have been the Chinese seafood noodle soup (8,500 won, or $7) and crab meat fried rice (9,000 won). The cream-colored soup is topped with clams, mussels, prawns, baby octopuses, sliced garlic and chives. Hot and zesty, it mingles seafood flavors with spices and chili peppers. The fried rice goes great with the soup ― if you and your friends order communally instead of individual dishes. It’s wok-fried hot with eggs, chopped chives and XO sauce. A light salad of iceberg lettuce complements the two dishes nicely.
One item on the menu you won’t find just anywhere is the Indonesian stir-fried noodles, or mie goreng (8,500 won). Noodles are stir-fried with chicken, bean sprouts, chives and vegetables, then topped with toasted garlic.
Mr. Lee and his two chefs add a Japanese flair as well. Although the yaki soba (8,500 won) tastes more Chinese than Japanese, the noodles are soft and delicious and heartied up with beef, garlic, cabbage and of course katsuo (dried tuna) flakes. Japanese-style pasta (9,000 won) ― spaghetti cooked with creamy pink sauce made with pollack caviar ― is also a great choice.
The beer is all Asian: Besides Cass and Lager (4,000 won), there’s Asahi and Sapporo (6,500 won), Tiger (6,000 won), San Miguel (5,500 won) and Tsingtao (5,000 won).
For dessert, try the sago sling (4,000 won) ― tapioca bubbles in coconut milk and Vietnamese coffee.
by Ines Cho