The tables are grander, but the food less pricey

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The tables are grander, but the food less pricey

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For decades, New York City’s “Restaurant Week” has helped put the city on the global map of fine dining by offering low-price lunch specials. Now it’s Seoul’s turn.
Twenty-five fine restaurants in the city’s trendy district of Cheongdam-dong, known collectively as The Grand Tables, are starting their own Restaurant Week for six days, from April 24 through 29.
“We needed these kind of events more than New York City does,” said H. K. Kim, inaugural president of The Grand Tables association. Mr. Kim is the successful restaurateur behind Tani and other restaurants in Seoul, and is considered one of the “first-generation” restaurateurs who pioneered the growth of the domestic dining industry. The first goal for their joint effort promoting Cheongdam-dong restaurants had more to do with a local issue than a global one. “We wanted to improve the image of Cheongdam-dong restaurants, which are often seen as exclusive playgrounds for some people. By offering attractive packages, we wanted to promote our restaurants as places where anyone can come and enjoy,” Mr. Kim said.
During the six-day period, most of the participating restaurants in The Grand Tables offer flat rates: 15,000 won ($15) for lunch and 25,000 won for dinner (The price does not include a 10-percent VAT); several restaurants, including Tani, Xian and Pazin, will also prepare special course meals.
The lower price won’t mean the meals are of lesser quality, Mr. Kim stressed. “The point is for diners to experience various cuisines at different places,” he said.
Xian, one of the first fusion restaurants in Seoul, will offer two choices of brunches, at 10,000 won and 15,000 won, four-course dinners at 20,000 won, or five-course dinners at 25,000 won. Both meals feature the restaurant’s best-selling dishes, such as spicy bulgogi spring rolls with vinegarette dressing, softshell crab topped with honey mustard sauce and red prawn curry with mushroom fried rice.
For its lunch set menu, Tani will offer choices such as apple caramel and cream cheese salad, sirloin or pan-fried halibut with lemon butter sauce, yaki udon or rainbow rolls. For dinner, calamari salad or garlic-infused prawn salad, sauteed lobster with cream wasabi sauce or ribeye steak, yaki udon or rainbow rolls. Both meals end with coffee.
Duchamp, which specializes in European desserts, will offer a dessert set at a flat rate of 8,000 won; Qian Zai Xiang, which specializes in fine Chinese tea, has a rate of 10,000 won.
Last year The Grand Tables members started their joint effort by first publishing a restaurant guide, “Directory 2006 Restaurants & Bars 29+1 Seoul,” distributed mainly in hotels and foreign companies. Written in Korean, English and Japanese, the book was designed to appeal to travelers as well as expatriates. After the book came out, though, five restaurants ― Buon Posto, Marrakesh, Table, Bloom and Mitaya ― pulled out from the Restaurant Week event.
Mr. Kim says The Grand Tables plans to organize Restaurant Week twice a year, and soon, a monthly Restaurant Day as well.
Coinciding with Restaurant Week, The Grand Tables is also hosting a wine-tasting event. On April 25 and 26, 18 brand representatives from the Napa Valley Vintners Association will showcase their selections to local wine lovers and critics: “Nightlife Napa Valley” on April 25 at Casa del Vino from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.; a trade event for professionals on April 26 at the Park Hyatt Seoul from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the charity auction at the restaurant Kan in Samseong-dong on the same day, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.


by Ines Cho

For details on The Grand Table, visit the Web site, www.grandtable(s).co.kr, or call (02) 3443-5959; for more information on the wine event, visit the Web site, www.bestwine.co.kr, or call (02) 541-9020.
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