Broad choices for holiday dining will please last-minute planners

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Broad choices for holiday dining will please last-minute planners

So Christmas is suddenly here, and that means it is time to despair because you forgot to make plans. Sure, you were going to roast a turkey ― but your girlfriend could not wangle her GI buddy into getting one for you from the U.S. military base. You would have even settled for an inedible plastic bird, if only for the photo opportunities it would have made possible.
Now you are faced with the prospect of a Christmas without a Christmas dinner. But do not pout and panic and resort to one of those obscenely extravagant buffets at one of Seoul’s big, impersonal hotels. Just don your gay apparel and dash out to one of the restaurants or bars that are offering special menus for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Your best bets for a last-second yuletide meal are in Itaewon at the bar Geckos or its sister restaurant Geckos Garden. Geckos is offering an American-style Christmas dinner on Christmas Day, whereas Geckos Garden will serve gourmet holiday meals today and tomorrow. Call (02) 790-0540 for more information.
Geckos, across from the Hamilton Hotel, will have a buffet beginning at 6 p.m. tomorrow. A 35,000 won ($30) ticket gets you all the roast turkey, L.A. galbi and grilled salmon you can eat. Buy your ticket in advance if you can ― otherwise they will stick you at the bar.
Gecko’s Garden will be open from noon to 10 p.m. today and tomorrow, offering three holiday set menus. The 67,000 won choice features grilled sea bass in white wine sauce, rack of veal in blue cheese cream sauce and fresh strawberries with Grand Marnier sabayon.
The best meals to be had over the holidays will be at three European-style restaurants in Itaewon ― La Tavola, Le Saint-Ex and the newly-renovated La Cigale. All have special Christmas Eve dinners on tap for tonight. But if you have not made a reservation, do not expect to get a table. Pop in Le Saint-Ex at around 9 p.m. if you are feeling lucky ― they might be able to seat you. The French bistro’s set menus for the special night, at 50,000 won to 70,000 won, include many exotic choices, such as crispy braised pheasant with pear sauce and duck liver with grapes and port wine. Le Saint-Ex can be reached at (02) 795-2465.
For a more casual Christmas Eve celebration, Helios, a few steps east of the Hamilton Hotel, will have a happy-hour style buffet ― just in case you are craving Christmas nachos. The bar Bric-X, behind the Hamilton, will be blasting carols and pushing Irish coffee. Spy, the club in the basement of the building that houses La Tavola and La Cigale, promises be the merriest place ― guests are asked to wear red from head to toe.
If Itaewon is not really your speed, Once in a Blue Moon, a jazz bar and restaurant in Cheongdam-dong, has two special set menus that will be served tonight and next Wednesday for New Year’s Eve. Special Menu A, which comes with a main course of either sea bass and prawns or grilled beef tenderloin and Canadian lobster, costs 80,000 won; Special Menu B, with a ribeye steak main course, costs 75,000 won. Call (02) 549-5490 for more information and to make reservations.

by Mike Ferrin
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