Suji’s all-day breakfast: Sign of national vigor?

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Suji’s all-day breakfast: Sign of national vigor?

In modern Korea, national pride and national strength are topics of the day virtually every day. As an Englishman, I am not infrequently asked what happened to Britain’s erstwhile vigor. My answer ignores history, politics, sociology and other academic nonsense and gets directly to the crux of the matter: Breakfast.
Victorian records tell us what banquets these once were. Legs of ham, oysters, poached eggs, blood sausages, deviled kidneys, smoked kippers ― all washed down with a tankard or two of porter and a bottle of claret.
Such marvelous feasts have since been subsumed by the so-called “Great British Breakfast” ― bacon, eggs, sausages, fried mushrooms, fried bread, grilled tomatoes and baked beans, accompanied by a mug or three of tea. Not heroic, but robust.
Yet I read in a review of French journalist Agnes Christine Poirier’s book “Les Nouveaux Anglais” that said breakfasts are “?now reserved for passing tourists who want to rediscover a culture that no longer exists, or for British expats, 29 percent of whom, in a survey conducted by the Royal Society of Medicine, miss it every day of their lives.”
There you have it. With today’s Briton breaking his fast on a bowl of cardboard cereal and a slurp of instant coffee, should anyone be surprised that the sun has set on the Empire?
Now, who inherited the imperial mantle? Clearly, it is the Americans who have ― de facto if not de jure ― colonized today’s world. There is good reason for their neo-imperialistic tendencies: the U.S. breakfast. Ham, eggs, omelets, corned beef hash, grits, waffles, pancakes, juice, coffee ― admittedly, not quite up to Victorian standards, but still a meal fit for heroes.
Which brings me (finally) to the review. If you seek such trenchermanly refreshment, Itaewon’s “Suji’s Bar and Restaurant” is the place.
At first glance, this looks like a continental cafe: A bright sun deck, set with potted plants and smart tables.
Downstairs, in the restaurant proper, is a modernistic dining room and small bar. The menu, however, is no sophisticated continental document. What we have here are classic U.S. breakfast options: eggs any style, omelets, waffles, pancakes and corned beef hash. A couple of salads, chili and meat loaf round out the selections.
We begin with a cheese and bacon omelet (13,500 won, or $13). This is light and fluffy (why can’t even Korean hotel chefs produce these, rather than the rubbery roll omelets?), but well stuffed with both cheese and bacon. It is accompanied by sauteed spuds (“home fries”) nicely sprinkled with chopped peppers and black pepper. Great ― if pricey.
Corned beef hash (11,500 won) is a mass of pink, juicy corned beef, mixed with onion and peppers, served with home fries and topped off with two poached eggs. Superb stuff, and the only place in Seoul I have come across this outside the U.S. 8th Army base.
A spinach and cherry tomato salad (8,500 won) is a massive, colorful platter of fresh veggies. We also try blueberry pancakes with strawberries (12,500 won) ― a bit dry, stodgy and expensive ― and apple crumble, which, with ice cream and strawberries, is excellent. Drip coffee (3,500 won) comes with free refills, and there is plenty of booze available.
Suji herself is an interesting lass. She has an eye for service (“Are you guys OK there?”), a lightning grin and a booming, bawdy-house laugh. Having spent 12 years in New York and a couple in public relations, she opened Suji’s three weeks ago. She insists that all her ingredients are imported ― which could explain the hefty prices.
“I wanted to create something New York-style,” she said. “Coffee shop restaurants are coming back: I wanted to supply comfort food, but with good service, and make it trendy.”
On the service front, she has certainly succeeded. The staff is first-class: Observant and very friendly.
More sophisticated things are soon to come. The menu will expand and in the evenings, a martini bar will come online. This will serve, among other things, a “Viagra martini,” which should prove popular with an ajeossi clientele seeking personal vigor. (Though not, perhaps, as popular as “Viagra soju.” Damn, I should patent that idea now.)
Verdict: My only real moan here is that prices are steep for what you get. However, these rare breakfasts are served all day ― which means you don’t have to stagger out of bed for ’em. And that, friend, is reason enough to visit.

Suji’s Restaurant and Bar
English: Spoken
Tel: 797-3698
Address: 123-7 Itaewon-2-dong, Yongsan-gu
Hours: Weekdays, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; weekends, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Credit cards accepted
No parking
Dress: Come as you are

by Andrew Salmon
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