Even though the current exchange rate is obliterating our entertainment fund, who says we can’t still have a good time?
Halloween was pretty much non-existent this year because we all were too busy on crucial school-related projects that–well, doing Halloween would have caused more harm than good in the long term. I mean, when we do Halloween at the school, we go all out. So this year, we just did the flea market and gave the kids packs of candy with Halloween decals.
On Thursday, I had noticed a new lamb restaurant had popped up near the school. Chris, Chris and I tried it out on Friday. Details are on the Food Journal.
After dinner, we grabbed some “walking beers” and explored the “Ajosshi Playground” of Indeogwon. It’s actually not so bad behind the seedy massage parlors. We ended up walking all the way down the main road that runs the east-west length of northern Anyang and landed at the barbeque place that serves turkey. We didn’t get any turkey but just had a couple of beers before heading home at a fairly decent hour.
On Saturday, I met Roboseyo, Evil Jennifer and Foreign/er Joy in Beomgye. They had just moved Joy to her new place close by in Sanbon–a former love motel room with no window. You gotta love how Korean schools take care of their imported teachers. Joy has a rundown of the day on her blog.
Joy seemed highly disoriented, and I tried to give everyone the quick Anyang tour, going around Beomgye, Central Park, having some coffee and Dr. Fish. Jennifer laughed uncontrollably for the full fifteen minutes.
(Taken by Joy and posted by Rob)
By then, Joy’s boyfriend, Bo Kwon, had shown up. He caught a few buses to Indeogwon to try the lamb restaurant (again). Another good time was had. Joy and Bo Kwon were tired, so they left early. Rob, Jennifer and I repeated the route I had walked with Chris and Chris the previous night.
We walked up to the stadium and did a quick stop at the sex shop. Both were disappointed. As we headed to the barbecue hof, we ran into Chris P. on his way to buy diapers. We hung out with him as he ran his errand.
Yeah, I know–looks a little funny to have four foreigners go into a tiny convenience store just to buy a pack of diapers.
I was dealing with the clash of worlds–my daily working day world meeting with my blogger world. Everything turned out fine. Chris couldn’t join us for beers, so we said goodbye.
At the hof, we had some smoked duck and maybe a couple of beers, and they both shared a taxi back to Seoul.
Sunday was another big one. Star Chef Kim and his friend Young-cheol invited us out to Chef Kim’s old cooking grounds, the Silla Hotel. Eun Jeong and I met with both their families, and Chef Kim treated us to a luxurious buffet (60,000 won a person).
I know, it’s a buffet. I normally say nasty things about buffets. Yet when the food is constantly being made fresh and with high quality, it can be good. The dining room was separated into sections: Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, French, Italian, Salad/Cheese, and Dessert/Espresso. The Japanese section had loads of steamed king crab, which was the most popular item by far. A sushi chef sliced some luxurious tuna, including fatty toro and loin, while making some melt-in-your-mouth nigiri. I personally was very happy with the salads, of all things.
They had a dressed Caesar using whole romaine leaves with a huge collection of condiments, including anchovies. The other salads were all impressive. Many used a lot of fresh basil. A particular favorite was roasted cherry tomatoes topped with nuggets of fresh mozzarella, pesto and a delicately balanced cheese frico chip–a finger food take on Insalata Caprese.
The Vietnamese section was cool, where you are presented with a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, meats and sauces to place in your bowl, where the station captain finishes off with noodles and pho broth.
The Chinese section had no Jja-jjangmyeong, thank goodness. It was a mix of Sichuan spicy duck, Singaporean crab and Hong Kong stir-fries with a little Indian thrown in there. I particularly liked the Singaporean crab with the light crunchy shell, the fried soft-shell crab and, surprisingly, fried shrimp with a lemon mayonnaise sauce.
They also had a Beijing Duck section with a station captain slicing portions of crispy duck.
Other than the crab, Eun Jeong’s favorite section was the Italian. She particularly liked the Spinach Ricotta Pizza, which Chef Kim said was made by a real Italian chef. Eun Jeong gave me a compliment by saying the lasagna (one of her all time favorite foods) tasted a lot like the gnocchi with pork ragout that I had made last week.
While she was gorging on her final plate, the Italian one, I had made myself a cheese course with bits of every single cheese they had on hand, olives, dried fruits, some bread and pecans.
With less than thirty minutes to go before we had to leave to make room for their second seating, we loaded up at the dessert bar. I’ll just list what we liked: Mango Pudding, Chestnut Pudding, Caramel Pudding, Cheesecake, double espresso (great barista there), Brownies and a Pecan Pie that had the same firm texture as my grandmother’s.
After dinner, we stood in the lobby. Chef Kim said that with all the getting up to load our plates, we didn’t ahve much time to talk.
“How about some sparkling wine at the restaurant?”
He meant his own restaurant. It didn’t take much arm twisting to get us to agree.
We loaded up in Young-cheol’s SUV and crossed the river through Apgujeong into Yangjae. The traffic was light, and we got there quickly. They opened up the restaurant, along with a bottle of sparkly and a bottle of red. Young-cheol went to a local market and picked up some fruit. Chef Kim put on some jazz and set up the projection TV for the kids. Eun Jeong said what I was thinking.
“It feels like Christmas.”
This was the life she and I have dreamed about. We had just finished an amazing dinner full of impressive surprises (I had tried stuff that I had never tried before). And we were sharing a couple bottles of wine with intelligent folks, talking about our philosophies on food. So yuppie, but so what?
I just couldn’t believe, again, the path my life has been taking. Who-da thought years ago that I’d come to Asia and immerse myself so deeply in this culture and meet such extraordinary people?
Oh, and if in case you’re wondering, Young-cheol didn’t drive home. He called a service to have a guy drive him and his family home in his SUV. Gotta love Korea!