Milder it may be, but Korean fondue is just as cheesy as the Swiss originalFondue, perhaps Switzerland’s most renowned dish, has found its way to Seoul. More specifically, the area around the Galleria department store in Apgujeong-dong, where many of the city’s hippest eateries are concentrated.
The restaurant, Les Fondues, set out in May 2001 to introduce the gooey concoction to Korean palates. Along the way the manager, Seo Young-suk, and chef Pascal Schnyder have had to tweak some of the recipes a bit to suit local tastes. They have done away with some more traditional (and pungent) dishes, replacing them with milder tasting and smelling ones. But all of the cheeses used are authentic fondue cheeses.
The spacious dining room, complete with a fountain, feels cozy despite its size. There is a secluded area behind the fountain as well as an outdoor terrace.
Les Fondues offers seven kinds of cheese fondues, ranging from 17,000 won ($14) to 27,000 won. For a milder flavor, Mr. Seo recommends herb cheese or tomato cheese. For fondue connoisseurs or cheese lovers, the rose wine fondue and traditional cheese fondue are stronger tasting. For the milder fondues, emmental and gruyere cheeses are melted with other ingredients, like herbs or tomatoes. Wine, and if you like, a jigger of the Swiss liquor Kirsch, combines with the emmental, gruyere and appenzeller cheeses to give the rose and traditional fondues a stronger flavor.
The fondue is served in a ceramic pot with a plateful of apple, bread, salami and potato chunks for dipping. Pickles and hot peppers served on the side are for cleansing the palate if you overindulge in the cheese. For 3,000 won to 5,000 won more you can order some hearty extras like sausage, pasta or shrimp for dipping.
Oil fondue is also available for two or more people at 15,000 won per person. Rather than dipping meats, breads or potatoes in cheese, you deep fry them. It sounds greasy, but the sauces served with the meal give it a light taste. Also, for two or more, the restaurant serves shabu shabu fondue, thinly sliced beef and vegetables dipped and cooked in a Japanese-style beef stock.
If you are not in the mood to dip your food, try one of the other Swiss specialties on the menu, like the grilled sirloin steak with butter sauce, Zurich-style pork and mushrooms in cream sauce or roasted veal sausage.
Mr. Seo recommends making a reservation through www.fondue.co.kr to get a 10 percent discount.
Location: Sinsa-dong 637-13, Gangnam district, near Galleria department store
Hours: Noon to 11 p.m., last orders taken by 10:30 p.m.
Telephone: (02) 541-8066
Parking: Valet available
Credit cards: Accepted
by Eugine Oh