She left her heart in an old DaewooWith tomorrow being Valentine’s Day, the most romantic day of the year, the most important thing to decide ― besides whom to be with ― is where to be.
For the girls at the hostess bar MMT, up an alley about 50 meters west of the Hamilton Hotel, that’s not an issue. They have to be at work.
Girls can dream, though. Asked where they would be if they had the night off, the several hostesses at MMT on a recent weeknight, plus the male DJ, gave responses ranging from a skyscraper to a mini-car.
Hana, who whips up the drinks and favors painted-on dresses, wishes she could be at some French candlelight restaurant whose name escapes her. “It’s up by the Hyatt hotel,” she explained. “When I used to go there I couldn’t take my eyes off my boyfriend ― that’s why I don’t remember what it’s called. It serves a great black pepper steak, though.” Mmm.
Chong, who’s a bit vixenish, would like to be at the local restaurant Thai Orchid. “It’s the most romantic place in Itaewon,” she said. “Maybe the only one.” Ouch.
Sunny ― demure, Korean-Chinese and a student at Seoul National University ― would like to be on the nighttime Han River tour. “Even though it’s cold now, it would be so lovely,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be kissing on the boat or anything, just talking and enjoying the scenery.” Yeah, right.
Hye-ra, a sweet, wholesome creature, wants to be in an old Daewoo Tiko. “Inside a car is the most romantic place for me,” she said. “And the smaller the better, like a Tiko! That way you have to be closer.” Beep.
Yu-mi, who’s burning with wanderlust ― though quite young, she’s already traveled to Thailand, India and Nepal, and is going to Vietnam and Cambodia next (on your money) ― wants to be surrounded by exotic sea life. “I would go to the aquarium restaurant at the COEX Center,” she said, referring to the southern Seoul shopping mall. “When you’re in the dining room there you can see fish and sharks swimming around and above you.” Splash.
The DJ, Dong-hoon, who’s always up for requests, wishes he could be atop downtown Seoul’s Jongno Tower, at an eatery called the Top Cloud cafe. “It’s the best place for dates,” he said. Noted.
Soh-hwa, the owner of MMT, yearns for a more domestic Valentine’s. “Oh, I know the place,” she said. “It’s really romantic. My home!” Cozy.
If you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with Soh-hwa and crew, walk west from Dunkin Donuts and turn right when you see the green sign out on the sidewalk that says “MMT,” which is short for “Magical Mystery Tour.” Then go up the rickety wooden stairs next to Bar Nana. Brace yourself for a good time ― MMT is Itaewon’s most easygoing and cordial hostess bar. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, feel free to bring a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates. But leave your heart at home, or Soh-hwa’s liable to steal it.
by Mike Ferrin