Seven restaurants earn their first star from Michelin Guide Seoul
Seven restaurants earned their first Michelin star at the sixth edition of the Michelin Guide Seoul. At the ceremony Thursday, just one restaurant earned another star while four were stripped of the honor.
This year's event was held under the theme “World in Seoul,” highlighting the diversity offered by restaurants in the Korean capital.
In total, 24 restaurants earned or retained a single Michelin star, seven won two stars, and two earned three stars, the highest honor.
“It was important for us to highlight how the restaurants are keeping their doors open at a time when international traveling is limited,” said the Miichelin Guide's international director Gwendal Poullennec, during the live streaming of the Michelin Guide Seoul’s Star Revelation event online.
“Thanks to the accessibility and warm hospitality of restaurants, guests were able to enjoy amazing dinners, the joy of gastronomy and claim new experiences.”
Of the seven restaurants earning a star for the first time, three serve sushi — Sushi Matsumoto, Sushi Sanghyeon, and Hane. Two other first-timers also take inspiration from Japanese cuisine. Goryori Ken offers a contemporary menu that makes use of Japanese ingredients while Kojacha incorporates Korea, Japan and China into both its name and its dishes.
Two Korean restaurants, Soseoul Hannam and Yun, won their first stars.
“I think guests find it interesting that I used to cook Japanese food, but now present dishes that look like they could be French or Italian,” said chef Kim Geon of Goryori Ken, who previously served classic Japanese food.
“To find some fun in cooking, and to better entertain the guests who return to experience what I have to offer, I wanted to do something different. I’m still looking for ways to present new flavors while using the same ingredients I have already been using."
Kim added that after Japan, Seoul could be the place that best presents Japanese food and hopes that more restaurants serving Japanese food are recognized by the guide.
“Ever since the guide arrived in Seoul and (sushi restaurant) Kojima earned a star, many of the chefs who specialize in Japanese food have been dreaming of becoming a starred chef,” said chef Choi Yoo-yong of Hane.
Korean restaurant Joo Ok was the only eatery to earn another star, going from one star to two.
The guide cited that Joo Ok showcases how the culinary heritage of the city is deeply rooted in Korean cuisine. Joo Ok's chef Shin Chang-ho uses over 30 different vinegars, fermented sauces called jang and oil made from seeds at his family's farm in South Gyeongsang’s Jinju in the dishes he serves. Located inside The Plaza hotel facing the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the restaurant is also loved for its view.
“Of course there were times we wanted to give up," Shin said in a video released by the Michelin Guide Seoul during the ceremony. "I asked myself whether there is anything else that I can do better. When you keep working on it, you can make it work.”
The six other two-star restaurants maintained their rankings, except L’Impression, which closed its doors after its executive chef Suh Hyun-min, also known by his English name Allen Suh, left and opened his own restaurant, Restaurant Allen, earlier this month.
There were no changes among restaurants with three stars. Korean restaurants Gaon and The Shilla Seoul’s La Yeon were awarded three stars when the Seoul guide was first published in 2016 and have kept their status since then.
Among one star restaurants, four lost their status — Votre Maison and Poom Seoul and hotel restaurants Signiel Seoul’s Stay, directed by French chef Yannick Alleno of three-starred Alleno Paris, as well as Four Seasons Hotel Seoul’s Yu Yuan, which serves Chinese food. Hansikgonggan was off the list because it closed in August.
It was the second year the guide held its Star Revelation event online. To heighten emotions for viewers at home, the team behind the event filmed the moments the newly-starred chefs learned of their achievements and played the heartwarming clips during the stream.
In order to encourage restaurants to think more about sustainability and food waste, the local guide presented its Green Star award to two restaurants, Hwanggeum Kongbat and A Flower Blossom on the Rice. The Green Star is a relatively new concept, introduced last year.
The Michelin Young Chef Award and The Michelin Mentor Chef Award, which were also first introduced last year, were given to chef Kim Bo-mi of one-star restaurant Mitou and Jang Myoung-sik of one-star restaurant L’Amitie, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Michelin Guide Seoul's Bib Gourmand list was unveiled last week. It recognizes eateries that exemplify value for money, where patrons can dine for under 45,000 won ($37.80) per person. A total of 61 restaurants were named, four of which were included for the first time. The new additions are barbecue restaurant Ggupdang, Japanese style ramen restaurant Menten, casual Italian restaurant Egg & Flour, and dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wan, originally from Hong Kong.
Twenty-five of the 61 specialize in noodle dishes, ranging from Korean style kalguksu (knife-cut noodles) and naengmyeon (noodles in cold broth), as well as Japanese style ramen, udon and soba, alongside noodles popular in Thai, Taiwan and Italy.
Information on the restaurants ranked on the Michelin Guide Seoul can be found online at https://guide.michelin.com/kr/ko, as well as the guide’s mobile application.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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