Video: Bluefish

PREFACE: Bluefish invited me to check out their restaurant. I took pics and video. The plan was to put together the video with some narration. But as I edited the video and added music, I felt that narration would kill the atmosphere of the piece. So below is my–what–silent narration? Read it and keep it in the back of your head while watching the video.

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Hwe. Korean sashimi. It’s not just a way to prepare raw fish. It’s a dance of courses, textures, and flavors using every part of the fish.

Bluefish pushes to make it a more ethereal experience. Owned by the folks who brought us Yeontabal, it’s located in the Gangnam area north of Sinnonhyeon Station.

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Bubbly ceiling tile

The first impression is the style. The interior. The intent was to make it feel like the Greek coast, like Santorini. Bubbles and waves permeate each detail, even the ceiling tiles and drapery.

Bluefish has taken each part of the Korean hwe restaurant and has figured out ways to improve it. Starting at the beginning, they control each aspect of the production and delivery process. Very vertical integration. They emphasize to each member in their supply chain the importance of treating the fish gently from boat to kitchen. They also make sure that their fish come from unpolluted areas. The kitchen is given a lot of freedom to let their imaginations run wild. Creativity is encouraged and comes with tantalizing results.

Service is where they truly shine. When you order a fish–you can pick it out if you want from the tanks–they fish it out and weigh it. After a quick humane slaughter, it’s brought to the table and prepared. The waitstaff is populated by distinguished retired gentlemen that the restaurant refers to as “butlers.” They are pleasant, gentle, and they have a little debonair panache.

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Our meal started with a few outer samplings. One was segoshi, which is something I normally don’t like. They’re trimmings of the fish that include cartiliginious bone. But here they weren’t too tough. The flavor, like any freshly prepared fish, was of clean ocean. We also had some sea snails, sea squirts, and rare pickled leaves from the islands to wrap them in.

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Next came the actually hwe. Usually you get two dipping sauces, chojang (vinegared chili sauce) and soy sauce with wasabi. I was shown a way to do it from Pohang. Mix the chojang with wasabi, doenjang, garlic, and sesame oil. It’s a power dip for fish!

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Then the chef decided to have some fun. We were nearing the end of crab season, so out came crab leg mashed potatoes smothered in cheese. One of the best things I’ve eaten all year!

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Next came some grilled mero (sea bass). I still think that when butter dies, it’s reincarnated as mero.

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Then we had this nice presentation of fishies with balsamic reduction.

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As per tradition, the remains of the fish, including the bones, were used to make a spicy Maeuntang (literally, “spicy soup”). By this point, I was too stuffed to eat much of it.

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We finished in minimalist Korean style with some chilled yuja tea, fresh pineapple, and red bean jelly.

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Author: ZenKimchi

Joe McPherson founded ZenKimchi in 2004. He has been featured and sourced in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, CNN, KBS, MBC, SBS, Le Figaro, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, Harper’s Bazaar Korea, The Chosun Weekly, and other Korean and international media. He has consulted for The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” Lonely Planet, and the PBS documentary series “Kimchi Chronicles.” Mr. McPherson has written for multiple Korean and international publications, including SEOUL Magazine, JoongAng Daily, The Korea Herald, Newsweek Korea and wrote the feature article for U.S. National publication Plate magazine’s all-Korean food issue. He has acted as dining editor for 10 Magazine and was on the judging panel for Korea for the Miele Guide. He spoke at TEDx Seoul on Korean food globalization, at TED Worldwide Talent Search on the rise of Korean cuisine, and in New York City on Korean Buddhist temple cuisine. The company ZenKimchi International organizes food tours for tourists and corporations and acts as a media liaison for foreign and Korean media and local restaurants and producers.

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