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It’s now legend how Suji Park almost singlehandedly started the brunch trend in Seoul a few years ago with her popular brunch spot Suji’s. She’s the reigning “Queen of Brunch.” And she’s not let me live it down that my team put her restaurant at 2nd place in 10 Magazines best brunch stops in Korea. I should note that since that listing, the #1 restaurant decided to not open on Sundays, which would have seriously brought down its ranking.

Sunday brunch? Never heard of the concept?

Suji is trying to make magic again by bringing New York deli style cured meats. She’s not the only one. Leo’s Deli has some pretty nice fixins too. (Just been informed they’re closed.) But Suji not only serves corned beef and pastrami in her restaurants. She’s selling her meats through Costco and has been opening a couple dedicated delis apart from her main restaurant.

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She invited EJ and me to the original Suji’s to try them. Yes, it was a complimentary meal. I’m always upfront about that. But the free meal and my relationship to Ms. Park never guarantee a free ride here. In fact, I’m more likely to give constructive criticism when the meal is free.

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Let’s start with the pastrami.

It’s hot, it’s big and the bread barely contains it, which is a prerequisite for a New York pastrami sandwich. It comes with only mustard as a condiment with a dill pickle slice, slaw and a killer potato salad. The meat is fall-apart tender, and it tastes like the real thing. She has a local operation cure her meats. This is way fun to eat. I always say the best food is the messiest food. Yet I think my sensitivity to salt has changed over the years. I found the pastrami a bit on the salty side. But when I went to New York last month, I found a lot of the food to be salty. EJ had the same comment, though, along with her favorite cop out, “I don’t know if this is good or not.”

I know it's three pastrami shots, but isn't that a gorgeous creature?

She says that when she tries a new food and doesn’t immediately like it. But she’s not a heavy meat eater, and you gotta admit that sandwich can be intimidating to someone who thinks of meat as a side dish.

Here’s the jewel. The Reuben. That and a fresh Italian sub are my two favorite foods in the world, so I’m a bit partial to this. Corned beef with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese (or a close cousin) and Russian dressing on toasted rye. Joshua “Wine Korea” Hall was with us, and we had all just eaten a whole entree each. But we ordered the Reuben for research purposes. After wolfing it down, we ordered another one. And the we considered ordering a third. Then it occurred to us that this meal was complimentary so that we could sample as many dishes as we could–not pig out on Reubens.

Obviously the Reuben was the hit at the table. All three of us have starkly different tastes, and we all loved it.

There were other great dishes we had, and we had some issues with some systematic flaws, particularly in the kitchen and behind the bar. But those are outside the scope of this post. It is my hope, though, that deli meats follow brunch as the next great imported trend in Seoul.

I really could go for a Reuben right now.

Go to Zenkimchi Dining for location and more details.

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