Reilly's Taphouse & Restaurant
The beer renaissance I was talking about during my 7brau IPA review video is backed up by what’s going on in the Korean bar scene. Brewpubs have been around a bit and got a big leap when Craftworks opened in 2010. The beer conglomerate laws got relaxed a bit to enable small producers to sell their beer to other pubs. The import craze of summer 2012 has permanently changed the Korean landscape and palate. Now we’re seeing more serious beer pubs.
Reilly’s Taphouse & Restaurant is one of those beer pubs. Located in Itaewon, it’s the first to have a full-time certified cicerone. It provides a staggering array of beers–some very rare beers. And this is where they truly stand out. The food menu was designed with the beer in mind.
That’s what I think has always been the biggest weakness of Craftworks, even from way back when I reviewed it in 10 Magazine. I used to work in a brewpub myself in the States, and a brewpub’s food should compliment the beer. An all-you-can-eat pasta night does not scream, “Beer food.” And even after changing chefs and menus, they still serve those grease-dripping fried flour tortilla chips drizzled in even more oil. The beer at Craftworks is still amazing and gets better.
But we’re here to talk about Reilly’s.
FULL DISCLOSURE: We were guests of the pub and got complimentary food, though that has no influence on what I write here.
I had mentioned the beer selection was extensive. A glass will generally run you from W6,000 to W8,500. So pace yourself. These are to be savored. Some of those on tap, as well as in bottles, are unicorns in Korea’s beer scene. You’ll likely find some of them only there. They are also producing their own beers.
Those are a lot of beers to keep on tap.
The food matches the beer. The chef comes from North Carolina, and he not only thinks of the beers in prepping the food, uses the beers in cooking the food, he also plays with Korean cuisine itself. Whether he’s steaming mussels in makgeolli, soju, and gochujang (which I had later on another night) or tossing together a Jeyuk Bokkeum Sandwich, which is basically a spicy pork sandwich. I must mention that jeyuk bokkeum sandwiches were another of my usual bachelor days eats at home.
These mussels weren’t the makgeolli ones but the more conventional tomato sauce ones with hefeweizen thrown in. Suggested match–Weihenstephan Hefeweizen.
Beer battered thick-cut onion rings are a no-brainer in a brewpub. Surprised I haven’t really seen them at brewpubs. The beer used in these is Indica IPA, so these ain’t cheap to make. The roasted red pepper aioli dipping sauce is the star. We kept requesting more of this. I wanted it on everything. Suggested match–Indica IPA.
Speaking of stars, this is the star dish of Reilly’s. They are the first pub to really do Scotch eggs. If you’re not familiar with this dish, it’s a hardboiled egg covered in sage sausage then breadcrumbs. Deep fried. Here it’s slathered with a rosemary tomato sauce. Oh, this is so good! If the beers sucked I’d return for this. Suggested match–Full Moon Pale Ale.
Grilled pork tenderloin with spinach, sweet potato, and grilled mushroom ragout and bourbon cream sauce. Pork tenderloin is a risky dish to serve in a casual setting. It’s too easy to dry out and toughen. It was a little dry when it came to us, but the sauces made it. And it worked well with the beer, which was the point. Suggested match–Seorak Oatmeal Stout.
The burger. This had to be on the menu, considering ownership of the bar shares some DNA with The Wolfhound, who for the longest time made one of the best burgers in Seoul. This one’s called “The Grail.” It includes bacon, lettuce, tomato, spicy aioli, cheese, fried egg, and crispy onions. Suggested match–Magpie Porter.
They also have lamb shanks on the menu, which I haven’t had yet, but the word from friends is that it’s excellent. It’s also an indicator that lamb shanks may be on more menus in the future (fingers crossed).
Reilly’s Taphouse & Restaurant shows the direction that the Korean bar scene is going. It’s where the restaurant scene is going. Casual dining is actually getting a little smarter about ingredients and combinations. It’s getting a wider repertoire with Korean ingredients. And let’s hope this is where beer is going.