Pan-Asian flavor served in styleEnter Park in Cheongdam-dong and opulence surrounds you.
Housed in a three-story residence and specializing in Asian fusion cuisine, Park boasts a myriad of private rooms: a dining room with Art Nouveau decor, a terrace covered with panther and zebra skins, a French hall perfumed with fresh orchid blossoms, an Asian bar behind a sheer silk screen and, finally, a candle-lit space that mixes Japanese and Indian styles in a truly luxurious fusion.
This is the latest concept restaurant created by the team of the fashion designer Park Ji-won and the architect Min Kyung-sik. The couple spent five years preparing their new home for entertainment. Their concept: a lounge.
“After 8 p.m., everything closes in Korea,” Ms. Park says. “We wanted a lounge ― not one of those conventional cafes or restaurants ― where people can come to relax and socialize, especially late in the evening over drinks or late-night supper.”
Mr. Min has designed a posh and cozy establishment that looks, although it is only a month old, as if it has passed through time.
It drips with European decor: plush carpeting, vintage furniture, candles, paintings, chandeliers and screens.
The interior incorporates Mr. Min’s signature details, such as a mirrored wall covered with black-steel grid panels. “Direct reflection from a mirror can look harsh,” he says. “With the grid panels covering the mirror, the room retains a soft image while giving the illusion of a larger space.”
Although the couple has traveled extensively, they find Asian cuisine most appealing to their taste. For Park’s kitchen, they hired three Chinese-Korean chefs and one Thai chef, who work closely with Ms. Park on the menu’s contemporary pan-Asian creations.
At Park, diners are greeted with complimentary lemongrass tea, served iced or hot. It provides a nice introduction to the Asian and Southeast Asian dishes that follow.
As starters, the Chinese-flavored beef salad (18,000 won, about $14, plus a 10 percent valued-added tax) with thousand-year-old eggs and green salad with balsamic dressing, as shown in the photograph, left, looks beautiful and tastes excellent. The Thai yam un sen salad (18,000 won) is a light, warm vermicelli noodle spiced with Thai dressing, red chili peppers and fresh cherry tomatoes.
For the taste of the sea, a dozen fresh oysters are served on crushed ice (10,000 won) with two dipping sauces, a vinegar-spiked soy sauce and a fiery chili-based sauce.
For people in groups of more than three, Ms. Park and Mr. Min recommend the hearty and healthful jim jum, a hot-pot of herb stock that is served with assorted fresh seafood and vegetables (30,000 won). This dish creates a festive mood as guests dip their favorite ingredients ― clams, mussels, prawns, squid, scallops, vermicelli, lettuce, endive, mushrooms and more ― in the boiling broth and then dip it in any of three Asian-inflected sauces.
For meat lovers, the pan-fried beef (25,000 won) arrives on a trolley, and then the beef and vegetables are mixed on a hot iron plate immediately before serving. An oyster sauce coats the bite-size beef morsels, crunchy onions and bell peppers.
Juicy clams sauteed in a black bean sauce (15,000 won) are so tasty that you would want a bowl of rice to wipe clean the plate.
Chicken (16,000 won) is prepared like Peking duck, but with ginger and herbs, and is light and savory. It is not, however, boned.
Slices of steamed pork and pumpkin are braised until extra tender in a sweet brown sauce (23,000 won).
The main dishes go wonderfully with wok-fried rice (10,000 won), made with garlic stems, chopped Japanese plums and a choice of shrimp or beef. Served on the side are fresh coriander leaves and slices of Chinese pickle.
For desserts, try mangosteen or pumpkin pudding filled with coconut milk (8,000 won).
Park has Asian beer, Japanese sake, Chinese liquors and Western spirits, but most diners drink Park’s select wines from all over the world. The house wine, a choice of Chilean Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or California Chardonnay, costs 7,000 won a glass.
Lingering over steamy, succulent clams and a deliciously fruity chardonnay, you will wish Park stayed open all day and all night.
by Ines Cho
Park is located at 117-13 Cheongdam-dong and is open daily from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. Valet parking is available. For reservations, call (02) 512-6333.