A hidden gem off Hongik’s strip

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A hidden gem off Hongik’s strip


Hongik, Hongik, Hongik. If you are a 20-something funkster with skinny-ass jeans, a well-moisturized mush, a fistful of electronic gadgetry and the urge to splurge, there ain’t no finer zone in Seoul: Dis is da place for shoppin’, pubbin’ and clubbin’.
But eatin’? Well now ― funny you should mention that.
Not everyone who washes up on the shores of this hedonistic neighborhood is skinny-assed or with a rave craze. Should you desire to escape the frenetic, youth-focused action of the main strip to look for nourishment, head down a little residential side street behind the drag to “Jenny’s Cafe ― Verde.”
This is a converted shop-front house with a wooden deck outside. Inside the large, front windows, the well-lit walls are green and adorned with original modern art ― highly appropriate considering that while the neighborhood is best known for its nightlife, the university after which it takes its name is, in fact, best know for fine arts.
We parked ourselves at a table next to the large, pallid bum of a nude climbing into a bathtub ― just the kind of masterpiece to get the appetite bubbling, I must say. Music is (need I say?) jazz, and an open kitchen looms at the back. All in all, it is airy, informal and pleasant, with just the right dash of understated style.

The menu is a simple, Italian-influenced affair. But this is not your common pasta-and-chianti house; there is a touch of originality, even idiosyncracy in the essentially light, summery dishes. The pizzas are based on foccacio bread, for example.
We started with spinach pie roll (9,500). This was close to a quiche, but came served in a superbly crisp and delicate golden-brown pastry. The filling, which included spinach, salami, black olives and fresh mozzarella, was as good. The supporting side salad was a workmanlike blend of green leaves, drizzled in warmed balsamic. Not bad at all.
The quatro stagioni foccacio pizza (10,500 won) was large, square and chunky. Topped with salad, anchovies and tomatoes, the cheese toppings included emmental, mozzarella and gruyere ― and some muscular gorgonzola for a bite. The base itself was light and fluffy ― a big improvement on the dense, doughy foccacios and baguettes many Seoul bakeries seem to delight in producing. Again, not bad.
But we saved the best for last: gorgonzola gnocchi (9,200 won). This was potato gnocchi, sprinkled with herbs, served in a cream sauce and dressed with tomatoes. Inside the dumplings, the gorgonzola was toned down with brie, but still exceptionally tasty and super-soft. This was the first time in quite a while that I have inadvertently ejaculated, “But ― good God! This is delicious!” in a Seoul restaurant.

On the liquid front, there are soft drinks, juices and espressos. There is also a page of reasonably priced vino, though the selection of whites is a little limited. The wine, alas, proved the only letdown to the meal. A Chilean Haciendea Del Rey Canata Chardonnay (27,000 won) was almost instantly forgettable ― and should have been served colder.
The wait staff are able to talk reasonably knowledgeably about the fare, and are charming and attentive ― a refreshing change from the clueless nimrods who inhabit many eateries these days, and who seem to interpret their duties as standing around staring vacantly in any direction except at the diners they are allegedly there to serve.

Verdict: A bit of a hidden gem, serving surprisingly good grub for minimal wallet damage. Not just for the young, the light and colorful dishes here should satisfy the most fashionably-attired meterosexual, without challenging the waistline of his designer jeans.

Jenny’s Cafe - Verde
English: On the menu, spoken.
Tel.: (02) 3141-7817
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m daily
Location: 1st Floor, Arden Bldg, Seogyo-dong; nearest subway station is Hapjeong, lines No. 2 and 6, exit 5.
Parking: Not available.
Dress code: Cool/casual.

by Andrew Salmon
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