Dinner with whine: So very dull in this dark Bundang basement
Naturally, property prices are astronomical, and the realtors and merchants of the city are cashing in. Samsung Plaza here vies with Galleria Department Store, in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, as the peninsula’s richest hunting ground for international fashion brands, while Bundang’s precincts are packed with restaurants, microbreweries and wine bars.
As an example of the latter, look no further than “Diony Wine and Dine” in the fashionable area near Lotte Department Store. This is the kind of place that could neatly fill a slot in Apgujeong. The entrance leads down into a white walled and faux wood-floor basement dining room ― low lit, naturally. A bar with dangling wine glasses at the back offers a view into the kitchen, and the glass, walk-in cellar is well stocked.
The menu offers a very limited selection of a la carte. The set costs a hefty (but not unexpected) 38,000 won per head ($38), exclusive of 10 percent VAT. However, given that the skills of most wine bars “chefs” usually extend about as far as arranging a cheese platter, can it be any good?
If the first course was any indication ― yes. It took the form of oysters in vinegar, garnished with chopped onions, served in their shells on a bed of sea salt, with the obligatory lemon wedge. Bundang is not a coastal town, but these super-fresh little numbers won a thumbs up. Soup followed: Cream of pumpkin. There was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn’t particularly exciting, either.
The main course was the dullest choice you could imagine: Beef tenderloin. A considerable chunk of cow in a Port wine sauce, it came with a garnish of barley, cubed carrots and cubed spuds, plus a couple spears of asparagus. The meat quality was decent, and the sprig of garlic on top, plus the selection of French mustards on the side, were appropriate foils for the sweetness of the sauce.
Finally, a chocolate sponge cake, with vanilla ice cream and strawberries, followed by coffee, finished things off nicely, though I wish that ― this is a wine bar, is it not? ― they could have offered some cheese with, or instead of, dessert.
The wine list was 13 pages, featuring some pretty hair-raising prices. As is par for the course in Korea, it was strong on reds, weak on whites. There was a good range of both old and new worlds. The best selections were French and American ― although the most economical were Chilean. We opted for sunny Spain. A Campo Viejo 1998 (70,000 won) is a typically good Rioja: a big, busty madam of a wine, heavy, fruity and sensual. Too strong for the starter, it goes just fine with the main.
I should add that the service is very much on the ball, and our perm-haired, English-speaking waitress was one of the most striking serving staff members I have come across in many a moon.
Verdict: Tasteful decor, tasty waitress, decent wine list. As regards grub, the menu selection is about as dull as one can find anywhere - but in all fairness, is well executed, and regular visitors tell me it is consistent.
Diony Wine and Dine
Address: Bundang City, Sunae Dong 16-6, Kyobo Life Insurance Building, B1
Subway: Sunae Station: Take exit 2 to Chohung Bank, and you will see it
Hours: 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Dress: Business/smart casual
by Andrew Salmon