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Why no Korean restaurants on Asia top 50 list?

Food blogger Tom W., writes in the Wall Street Journal about why South Korea made no appearance on S.Pelligrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, held in Singapore recently.

Mr W. discredits the list as a marketing stunt and “flawed on its face” –none of Beijing’s lauded restaurants appear on the list, for example– but he does offer some interesting insight on the ROK’s absence from the list.

…having eaten at roughly half the restaurants included I find it unsurprising that Korea doesn’t feature at all. This is because the Korean restaurant scene is far behind its regional peers.

In Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and elsewhere there is a focus on authentic but progressive cooking with a respect for the ingredients. Here in Korea the choice at high-end restaurants is between reconstructions of bad Western, Chinese or Japanese food, or traditional Korean food where the emphasis is on the display of wealth and variety of ingredients rather than the quality of the food.

While I have had some decent ‘reconstructions’ of non-Korean food, the pickings are pretty paltry for foreign cuisine –and may the heaven’s open up and shower me in the glory of some good Thai or Vietnamese food someday down here in Busan.

You can read the rest here.

About the author: Founder/CEO of Meme Communications Korea – www.memecommunications.com

  • yangachibastardo

    Well the San Pellegrino (the water company ?) dudes are the same guys who awarded this crock of shit as the best restaurant in the world

  • cm

    I found the article spot on. The Korean culture itself is to blame for lack of quality in fine dining. Korean people’s ideal of fine dining is eating at samgyupsal house and drinking soju with the colleagues until stupor. Either it’s the tacky bells beside the tables or it’s the old familiar shout of “ajumma!” that calls the unattractive middle aged waitresses over for service. Korean people are not open minded when it comes to food, especially the older generation (it’s getting better with the younger generation but still..). They don’t want to try other cuisines other than Korean food, so I’m not surprised why there lacks variety and quality. There’s only so many ways you can make kimchi chigae. And I’m not surprised why the greatest variety of cuisines in Korea locate around Itaewon. Give it few more decades, and maybe things change with more immigrants who will bring their cuisine. But lack of affordable fresh produce is a serious problem that may hamper this.

  • http://twitter.com/TheRealTruth6 The Real Truth

    This is not surprising. Every Michellin starred Korean restaurant is located outside of Korea. So apparently, even if a Korean restaurant were good enough to be on the list, it would likely be located in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei etc.

  • Jinrohelium

    I don’t find this that surprising. Disappointingly, I don’t find the sense of entitlement the article title suggests surprising either.

    Before I went to Korea, I knew nothing of Korean food. Couldn’t name a single dish. When I was there, I enjoyed the food in general and now frequently visit my local Korean restaurant back home. But the idea that Korean food can compete with complex, balanced and genuinely rich, delicious and distinctive dishes from, say, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines is laughable.

  • http://twitter.com/Sinister_Seoul Sinister

    It’s pretty simple really. The food in Korea sucks, it’s really not good at all generally. There are a few good places around and about, but they’re like diamonds in the dust. The standards in food here are ridiculously low, so low that people consider eating at VIPs or Outback as ‘fine dining’.

    The only country that has worse food in Asia than Korea would have to be The Philippines. Filipino food in general is awful muck. The best food and best value would have to go to some of the restaurants in Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia. I’d probably rank Thailand at number 1 in Asia, with Malaysia coming in very close behind.

  • cm

    Never been a big fan of Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India. Only because their liberal use of southern Asian ingredients like coconuts, strong exotic herbs/spices, and curry, which I’m not a fan of. That doesn’t mean their food aren’t any good. It’s the matter of personal preference.

  • bumfromkorea

    I’m sure there are incredibly great restaurants in Korea. It’s just that none of those are probably what most people would define as “fine dining”.

    Not that I’m bashing that concept. But I would like to bash the concept that one country’s cuisine is inferior/superior to another country’s cuisine. It’s all about preference; one man’s culinary treasure is another’s “what the fuck is this shit? Ugh.” Someone on this board, on a similar topic to this, told me that Caribbean spices are so much spicier and flavorful than Korean food, and I finally tried it 2 months ago at a Caribbean restaurant ran by a Jamaican. Wasn’t impressed. Does that mean Korean cuisine beats Caribbean cuisine? Hell no, except for my palate.

  • Waka Waka Afrika

    This is just one of those things that will pass. Everyone has always been, excuse the term, “haters.” No one believed Korea could turn itself into a developed country. No one believed Hyundai and Kia cars would gain respect overseas. No one believed K-Pop would turn into the international moneymaking empire it is today. No one believed Gangnam Style would be the most watched youtube video of all time. No one believed Samsung could hold its own against Apple. Korea is the perennial underdog until it’s not. This will be just another thing in a long list of things that no one believed would happen but does in due time.

  • que337

    Your writing style (waka) is more of choka than tanka.

  • que337

    Genuinely curious how many Korean restaurants are in your hometown.

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    One thing Tom noted in his piece was that “here in Korea, Korean chefs cooking Korean food go largely unnoticed and Korean diners are unwilling to spend serious money on local food.” Edward Kwon said pretty much the same thing—Koreans needs to respect their own food. It’s a lot tougher to make good kimchi jjigae than it is to make spaghetti, but boil some noodles and dump some tomato sauce on it and you can charge 15,000 won, but charge over 5,000 won for kimchi jjigae and nobody will buy it.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    The whole idea of “fine dining” is pompous bullshit. Its a way to take as much cash out of you as possible on the non-essentials: everything but the food. I’ve eaten at plenty of expensive places on company dime, that I would never eat at on my own for the simple reason that the food essentially was not that much better than I would get at a place 1/3 or 1/6th the price offering the same sort of fare. But the non-essentials – the reputation, the pompous “atmosphere,” even the name-brand of the chef – are where they attempt, and succeed, to jack the price of a piece of beef from 20 bucks to 100. Fuck em.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Hear hear, Thai food is the most overrated tripe around.

  • jk641

    Perhaps this is because I’m a Korean, but Korean food is the only cuisine that I could eat every single day and not get sick of.
    Sure I like other cuisines too, and I like to mix things up, but I couldn’t eat any of them everyday.
    They’re either too greasy or too flavorful or too mild, etc etc.
    Who cares what other people think about your country’s cuisine. Ranking cuisines is just plain dumb. As long as you like it, that’s all that matters.

  • bumfromkorea

    The best chef in the world is your own mother.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    And that’s because home cooked food is the best not because its of any particular cuisine. I love Korean food, its delicious, fills me up, and it reasonably priced. Under no circumstances should dishes cost over 50 bucks. That a Korean dish costs 6 dollars is a PLUS, it shows places here are not out to cheat you out of your money. The WSJ piece is plain wrong. I want to eat good food at a reasonable price instead of marginally better food at 5x the price. Sorry, no amount of “keeping up with world trends” means that a steak should cost 55 dollars of that kimchi jiggae should cost 30 bucks. Foodies will rot in hell, even fire wont touch them, being as despicable as they are.

  • jk641

    Absolutely! Nothing beats wholesome home cooked food.

  • jk641

    Meanwhile, the Danish Food Administration authorities have downgraded
    Noma’s “smiley rating” — its food safety inspection ratings — from a
    broad smiley to a smaller smiley.

    I think a barfing smiley would’ve been more appropriate? kk

  • LocaLoca

    Spaghetti is made from scratch at real Italian fine dinning restaurants and served with meatballs, try it sometime. Kimchi jjigae, where’s the beef?

  • weiguk

    Except for hanoo BBQ restaurants where they are willing to pay like 50,000won or higher per portion for something only worth about 10% of that.

  • weiguk

    No, that’s a fairly average dinner. Korean’s idea of fine dining is some of the traditional table restaurants that you get where there are so many side dishes you simply can’t see the table, and they aren’t BBQ restaurants. Going on your logic, America’s idea of fine dining is either McDonald’s or Applebees. Average people don’t go to restaurants they’d consider “fine dining” on a daily or even weekly basis.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    I ate in Dallas where the 60 dollar steak was so bad I couldn’t finish it. This is Texas where the supply of cows should make steak cheap as bread. But being in a location with many corporate types willing to fork over corporate money, they priced steak at 60 bucks. It has shit all to do with quality, and all to do with charging as much as they possibly can. But the idiot foodies love it, those reprehensible morons see some French words and a high price and they go ape shit over what is essentially average food.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Not even some idiot with 3 Michelin stars.

  • http://twitter.com/Sinister_Seoul Sinister

    You haven’t eaten my mother’s food. As much as I love her, it has to be said that she’s an awful cook. Really bad. I think my mother has the unique skill of being able to make mashed potato have the consistency of latex, I don’t know how she manages it.

  • Cloudfive

    Same here. My mom was good at spare ribs and apple pie, but I grew up on canned string beans and mashed potatoes from a box.

  • felddog13

    I’ve been to some fairly spectacular high-end 한정식 places, mostly out in the countryside, with mostly fresh 산채 ingredients. I think food guide writers would have a hard time writing about .the 한정식 concept –what’s the “main dish”? What do you focus on? What should you order? That being said, a simple Korean BBQ with good quality cuts of pork or beef and a bit of care given to the 반찬 in my opinion can be absolutely sublime.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Good, I would refuse to go to any Michelin starred restaurant, the whole thing is one massive scheme for scalping stupid people with excess cash.

  • bumfromkorea

    I guess I’m the lucky few. My mom makes such awesome 갓김치, 바지락국, 아귀찜, and anything involving 메생이, she doesn’t have to call me and ask me to visit.

    And yes, she’s from 전라남도.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    I think Robert meant that many Italian restaurants in Korea basically just dump tomato sauce on boxed noodles and customers are happy with that. Sadly, I think that if there was really good made-from-scratch Italian food in Korea, most Koreans wouldn’t care… They would still rather overpay at mediocre restaurants with expensive decor.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    They don’t do Michelin guides for Korea (yet, anyway).

  • http://www.facebook.com/bobbymc Bobby McGill

    Over the past few weeks I have interviewed a few high-end Italian chefs for an
    article. They all say the same: Make the finest Italian cuisine
    available, but Koreans will, more often than not, choose cream spaghetti over everything
    else on the menu. Go with what you know, I guess.

  • http://profiles.google.com/dcmusicfreak DC Musicfreak

    Mongolian food is awful, too.

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Mongolian cuisine is the tastiest, healthiest, most beautifully presented cuisine in the whole wide world and anyone who says different is a dirty liar and probably a Chinese agent.

  • pawikirogii

    somebody on this board said that korean food can’t compete with thai or vietnamese food but that just depends on where you’re talking about and such a view held by so many expats is just an example of their ethno-centrism. korean food seems to be popular in asia specially japan.
    btw, mexican food is delicious and yet uses very few ingrdients. you don’t need lots of ingredients to make good food. you need balance of the five flavors and in so many korean dishes, that’s what’s happening no matter whether the yahoo can taste it or not. i tire of the yahoo thinking that whatever he thinks is what is.

  • http://twitter.com/Sinister_Seoul Sinister
  • http://twitter.com/Sinister_Seoul Sinister

    Standards are important, and the Michelin guides track standards. How many restaurants even have hot water and soap (preferably liquid) in the bathroom? Many don’t. How many Korean restaurants are filthy? I’ve been in a few kitchens and the filth is really quite disturbing. A kitchen needs to be clean. I rarely eat out these days, not because I can’t afford to, I’m just worried about getting food poisoning. I cook at home 99% of the time. My father in law (a Korean) doesn’t eat out much either, we’re both very fussy about our food being prepared in a clean environment.

    It is no wonder that Korean restaurants abroad can be appealing whilst many of the ones in Korea are simply appalling. Korean food done properly can be very good, unfortunately the vast majority of Korean restaurants are awful. Korean cooks are generally lazy.

  • jinrohelium

    I’d say the implied sense of entitlement is evidence of ethno-centrism. Why should Korean restaurants be in the top 50? Because Koreans tell each other how Korean food is so good.

    I don’t hear members of other countries winging about how their cuisine being overlooked in favour of other countries is proof of ‘ethno-centrism’. Whether you like or not, certain foods are going to have a wider appeal. If the food you eat is not one of them, too bad, but don’t start throwing your toys out of the pram and shouting about it as if you’ve been the victim of some heinous plot.

  • ChuckRamone

    Have you been to Japan? It’s also very common there to find public restrooms with only cold water. No soap or paper towels. On average, that’s the way it is in East Asia. Nicer places usually have hot water and soap.

  • ChuckRamone

    What sense of entitlement? I think any country left off the list is wondering the same thing: why? It’s natural to try to find out the reasons. Because one person said “ethno-centrism” doesn’t mean every Korean is thinking the same thing.

    Why are there so many assholes on the Internet who feel it’s their job to put Koreans in their place? It’s unavoidable. You’d think Koreans had colonized other countries and oppressed Tibetans, but that’s not the case.

  • jinrohelium

    There are approx. 196 countries in the world. The vast majority of these did not make it into this competition.

    I would guess few believe their cuisine has any right to be there simply because they think it’s good, even less.

    A fair point about the ehtno-centrism. I should have realised Pawi’s rants are representative only of his sexual frustration.

  • http://twitter.com/Sinister_Seoul Sinister

    Of course I’ve been to Japan. Silly question. The fact that some Korean kitchens are dangerous to your health should be a bigger concern if you live in Korea. Dirty is not good.

  • Arghaeri

    The only place I’ve never seen a “dinning” restaurant in Italy fine or otherwise, only in Korea and despite numerous attempts struggled to find even average Italian food in those.

  • Cloudfive

    First comment on his post:

    The bigger food crime is a “Foodie” going to VIPS

    ^ This about sums it up. Zenkimchi lost all credibility with me when he dedicated a whole post to mocking people for condiment salad at Costco, complete with spy cam pictures and blurred out faces. It’s like a “food writer” going to Denny’s and making fun of fat people.

  • Cloudfive

    Any place that serves pickles with everything, except on an antipasto plate, just hasn’t got a handle on Italian food.

  • http://twitter.com/Sinister_Seoul Sinister

    It was funny! Taking the piss out of idiots is always good sport.

  • Arghaeri

    Not even to fatten it for the pot?

  • Arghaeri

    By especially popular you mean not even 1% of Asians eat it, and 95% of those are Korean. GoGogo Korea!

  • Arghaeri

    Pawi’s not Korean.

  • yangachibastardo

    Any place that is not owned by a Cantonese ajummah screaming at young, scrawny, scene kids-type Chinese gangbanger wannabees waiting the tables and that is not offering a menu made of the usual selection of trite pizzas (quattro stagioni etc.) and the usual sticky carbonara, bought in bulk from some ‘ndrangheta-owned catering company, while forcing down the throat of the customers the same shitty limoncello…any place that is not like that, it ain’t authentic, modern Italian.

    There, fixed it for you

  • jk641

    I’ll take your word for it.
    I wish I had the dough to spurge on those places though.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    If hygiene is an issue, avoid the Chinese-style (중화요리,중국집) restaurants in Korea. Time and time, they are the main and the worst culprits of sub-standard hygiene in Korea, and this infamous tradition dates back to the times when they were owned by Chinese immigrants.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Il Mare (one in Chungdam, owned by Lee Jungjae or some actor who was in the movie of the same name) was not so bad, what happened to that?

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Not that I think these lists matter at all, it’s not so much the character of Korean food itself, it’s more the way things are “mimicked” or “go with the fad” that seems to pervade through different professions/commercial enterprise including food industry which prevents a long-lasting high quality joint to exist. If something is successful, it soon gets lots of competition and have to close down, or usually a big boom happens with some publicity and dies down.
    People are not taught to be in the frame of mind to appreciate value and quality at their own pace and most importantly, carry it on. Well, I guess there’s good and bad to that side.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Hey, you know which has good Italian food? Italy. Go there for good Italian food, and shut the hell up about Italian food in Korea.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Your ideal of fine dining =/= Korean people’s ideal of fine dining.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Apparently, you still know nothing of Korean food.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    On the up-side we have lots of Korean extreme films which get lauded at la-di-da film festivals which people don’t watch at all. It’s good to have songs people actually listen to, and food people eat and films people watch rather than just the high-nosed critics.

  • pipokun

    best korean food is in japan. seriously.

  • yangachibastardo

    Yeah i agree, Pieta really sucked big time, like pretty much each piece of Kim Ki Duk work in the past decade

  • pawikirogii

    i did not write about the top fifty list and did not reference said list. i wrote ‘somebody on this board said’….did you learn english as your second language? i don’t give a sheit about some list comprised by some pompous westerner.

    i think korean is the number one or two ethinic food in japan. korean food is popular in asia and that’s nice but not needed for me to enjoy a nice bowl of stinking twenjangjjige!

  • Mr. Yu

    You have learned well, Grasshopper! I agree that “fine dining” is mostly about presenting/buying an image, rather than taste or value.

  • Cloudfive

    New York City has great Italian food, better than food I tried in Italy. Granted, I was only there for days and lived for years in New York, so not really a fair comparison. Best coffee in the world – Rome. And don’t tell me to “shut the hell up” unless you want to meet in front of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin’s statue. -.-

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    There are approx. 196 countries in the world. The vast majority of these did not make it into this competition.

    Probably because the vast majority of those countries are not Asian.

  • pipokun

    you’re right though. ..and on the italian subject, best italian = japan.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    I’m seeing a pattern here.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Also lived in NYC for several years, and spent a summer in Italy. The only Italian restaurant in NY that can even hold the jockstrap of anything in Italy is Del Posto. But more to the point: why do people expect Korea to have good Italian food, or serviceable Italian food, or ANY Italian food at all? And why do people bitch about it so incessantly?

  • yangachibastardo

    Soon he’s gonna tell us to go to Japan for spacious, affordable real estate

  • Cloudfive

    Italian food is a staple of American life. There is Italian food at the school cafeteria, spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna for dinner once a week. We crave Italian food just as we crave a nice medium-rare piece of steak or a hamburger.

    It also doesn’t seem that complicated to make decent Italian food when you watch Mario Batali on TV.

    I was visiting an American friend in Rome and she said Romans don’t eat out a lot and mostly cooked for me at home.

  • Cloudfive

    I enjoyed “Spring, Summer….” and “Address Unknown”, but he’s become Korea’s Lars Von Trier. Neither can hold a candle to Aki Kaurismaki.

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    The rumour in the food industry is that Michelin came here as Korea’s economic prominence suggests it should feature in the guides but well.. they couldn’t find a single restaurant even worthy of one star status.

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    Because Seoul is the 5th biggest city in the world with some of the richest corporations headquartered here. The Korean government represents that this is an international city and wants it to be the hub of N East Asia trade and a multinational economic success pot.

    Look at equivalent cities here in Asia: BJ, Shanghai, Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong… they all feature good Italian, French etc.. It is just part of the rounded nature of being an international city.

    The surprise is that Korea doesn’t have this.

  • pipokun

    oh yeah. let me give you some recommendations.

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    As Robert notes below… one of my issues is that Korean food is being left as the cheap and dirty choice in Korea and all the money and status is going to Western sik dang. Awful Western sik dang. I would like to see Korean food evolve just as all other cuisines do when there is a focus on it and a status given to it. The French, Italian, Japanese etc. food you eat today is thoroughly different from what one ate 100 years ago. They have evolved. They have improved.

    Korean food could benefit from this but is locked out of the process due to cultural prejudices in Korea which favour non-Korean food.

    Check my Instagram if you are (very) bored. I eat a LOT of Korean food. However, it would be nice if you could go to a few places where the decor was nicer, they weren’t dumping dishes full of cheap ingredients (because diners pay cheap prices) and artifical flavourings, you could pair food with nice wine and you could avoid a bunch of soju perforated businessmen.

    Dadam in Cheongdam-dong is trying to do that but is a touch staid. The Bean Table remains the only restaurant which I think is really pushing stuff along and an 8 course menu there costs KRW 20,000. How much space is there in that for the chef to experiment and really use premium ingredients. Well… barely any as they are off to Los Angeles eventually where the diners are prepared to pay proper money for good Korean food.

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    It’s funny you should that. I’m told there are tourism-related officials who think Westerners should stop worrying about old stuff and talk more about Seoul’s fine French and Italian dining.

    Seriously. No joke.

    At any rate, the international cuisine situation in Seoul has improved beyond measure over the last decade. I had Bulgarian moussaka at Zelen on Sunday. Was it was good as moussaka served in Bulgaria? I have no idea. But at least I could get Bulgarian moussaka. Sure as shit wasn’t like that when I first came here, which, in the scheme of things, wasn’t really that long ago.

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    If Texas is your idea of fine dining I think that is the problem. Try a kaiseki meal in Kyoto. Or a traditional cantonese meal in Hong Kong and see if your views change.

    That said people have different priorities. You may (at a guess as a ‘salaryman in Seoul’) find it important and necessary to have a nice car. I cycle everywhere. People gain pleasure and value from different things.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Never been to PRC mainland, but Hong Kong’s Italian food was fucking dreadful (and unbelievably expensive,) and the “Italian” food in Japan, while tasty, could not possibly be considered Italian in any meaningful sense of the word.

    Am I the only one who finds it ludicrous that being an “international city” means having specific types of cuisine that has absolutely no bearing on the locality? At least NYC has millions of folks of Italian descent. Why on earth should Seoul have ANY Italian food?

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Apparently still there, although I still prefer casAntonio or Sortino’s for Italian.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    I’m sure you know how I feel about those officials. Those are the same assholes who insisted that I stop talking about dog meat on my blog.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Having a car and cycling needn’t be mutually exclusive. I take it you’re single, and I don’t know what your job is nor how far from work you live. I need a car because I have a family of 4 and we are not going to be cycling around to Costco, E-Mart, or to my in-laws down south. Nor am I going to cycle to work, I take the subway or bus and swim ion the morning at the gym. I do cycle on the weekends and take pleasure from that.

    My example was just one example of a food that is only marginally better (or actually worse) than something much cheaper. There are plenty of other examples of overpriced restaurants that really did not warrant the price.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Try East Village, which used to be in Itaewon but recently moved to Sinsa-dong. For a nicer option, Pilkyungjae in Suseo-dong is incredible.

  • felddog13

    Omigod, Il Mare–are you kiddin’ me?

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Speaking of which, I think Tom’s problem is that perhaps he hasn’t been to Ssarijip yet, or as I like to call it, “Korea’s The Fat Duck.”

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Ah, 싸리집… how I miss thee…

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Partial to Yongsusan myself.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    It’s not surprising as there is one Italian Restaurant themed Japanese drama almost every season.

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    Tried both the East Village and was at Yongsusan last Wednesday. They are ok/ good respectively but wouldn’t exactly trouble the top 50 (especially if the list was accurate).

  • awarren

    Could you name one MNC that bases even its regional HQ in Seoul, other than Korean companies? There simply isn’t demand here for find western food. For the most part, Korea is a junior expat posting for MNC foreigners, with the exception of some older consultants and those that did not rise up the corporate ranks. Seoul simply does not have the same profile as other major Asian cities, in terms of having a critical mass of sophisticated, wealthy, global minded restaurant goers.

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    I haven’t and the pictures on your blog look good… I have to admit though whereas two years ago I would have eaten dog meat… the recent acquisition of a cat has changed me.

    When combined with the fact that dog meat falls outside the relevant livestock standards… I’m probably out.

    Though it does combine with my underlying point… restaurants like Da Dong in Beijing have special farms to ensure the quality of their ducks. In Korea… well not so much and especially where it comes to dog meat. Elsewhere for ‘local’ food there is a re-emphasis on improving the fundamentals and elevating the cuisine. Korean food in Korea is still focused on price or status.

  • awarren

    Which goes to the crux of the matter. Korea is mostly a huge global exporter – foreigners here are just a nuisance. Why don’t they stay out – but keep buying our stuff, getting us rich, and shutting the f…. up! But of course, they should admire our country a lot too, and think we are the best at everything.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    “Seoul simply does not have the same profile as other major Asian cities, in terms of having a critical mass of sophisticated, wealthy, global minded restaurant goers.”

    Thank god, those kinds are the worst people in the world

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    As an aside why have so many Koreans never been to the Mainland…? It is one hour away and the source of some of the greatest food on the planet. If you haven’t and it is that easily accessible you aren’t a foodie. It is like someone from London not going to France.

    You are also plain wrong about Hong Kong’s Italian food. And Japan’s. You are obviously not eating in the right places or haven’t been for five years. I suggest 8 1/2 next time you go and see if you think that is fucking dreadful (and I don’t even think it is outstanding but it is far from dreadful)…

    International in a foodie sense means an understanding of and respect of food which inevitably means knowing the great cuisines in the world. I.e. Italian.

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    Well…. I can’t say I don’t think that is the attitude. I suppose I am conflating the propaganda (i.e. Seoul is a multinational dynamic hub in Asia) with my own hopes (i.e. Seoul is a multinational dynamic hub in Asia).

    I don’t know whether I have just got the usual expat tiredness but I increasingly doubt whether this stance can stay successful. However, as someone else said somewhere in the the thread… who thought Hyundai cars would be good. Korea keeps surprising.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    And Robert’s continued appetite for it leaves me no choice but to change my own avatar picture to my own life and joy, as a heavy-hearted yet feeble protest.
    I completely agree with you. There is simply no way that cats and dogs can be classified as livestock and raised so.

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    If your example of fine dining is a steak in Texas… you are commenting on things you aren’t the target market for.

    And my example wasn’t about mutual exclusivity. It was that people give importance to different things so you may not see the value in “slightly” better food at premium prices whereas I may not see the difference between a Sonata vs an Equus.

  • awarren

    Anyone else seeing a pattern here in the way postings of a certain inclination are getting the thumbs up?

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    - From where I live, the Mainland is 14 hours away, and I have not had the occasion to visit.

    - Funny, when I wrote “fucking dreadful,” I was envisioning in my head the tasteless pasta that I had at 8 1/2.

    - What makes Italian cuisine so “great”? Not to say that it is not delicious–it is incredibly delicious and I could eat it forever. But why is it so “great” (or more precisely, “greater” than other cuisines) that it becomes a measuring stick for cities around the world, regardless of their location and their tradition? If variety and sohistication is the answer, Spanish cuisine matches Italian cuisine step-by-step and then some–but no one complains about the lack of Spanish cuisine when they speak of the so-called “international” cities. So what is it?

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    - Mainland: Apologies as with your username I had guess you were living in Korea. Maybe it should read Korean in LA? Next time I would skip Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore etc. and have a tour through the Chinese provinces ending in one of the two major cities. Still general question applies… why have so few Koreans visited China?

    - 8 1/2: well both of us then don’t rate it that highly but you seem to have a rather exceptional view of it compared to most. Perhaps you are more used to American-Italian which is a substantially different thing even after one summer in Italy.

    - Spanish food: for some reason Spanish food is nearly impossible to export. No idea why and I really regret it (as I used to live in Spain and my goodbye trip to Europe was, inevitably Spain). In London there are probably sub 10 restaurants which cook halfway decent Spanish food and that is despite a substantial population base and the easy of importing the relevant ingredients

    - Italian food: I didn’t just mention Italian food in my original comment. I think intentional cities should have a range of cuisines. However, I think there are a number of fundamental cuisines that underlay and influence food and an understanding of them is important. This would be Cantonese food and possibly BJese food, French and Italian, Spanish, and possibly newer cuisines such as Mexican and Korean.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    You’re becoming boring.

    Whats your beef? That a restaurant with steak on the menu, among other thing, cannot be “fine dining”? Well,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Luger_Steak_House is a steak house with a Michelin Star.

    So is http://www.alexanderssteakhouse.com/sv_site/info_abo.html in Cupertino.

    Both as you may notice SPECIALIZE in steak, not merely have steak on their menu. Both have Michelin stars. Now, Michelin stars may not be the best way to judge “fine dining” restaurants, and they aren’t 3 star restaurants but do you seriously want to say that if I were to do some digging I would not find a French restaurant with the French version of steak somewhere on its menu with 2 or 3 stars?

    Or, are you saying there can be no fine dining in Texas? That seems rather foolish a statement to make especially since there is a hell of a lot of money in Houston.

    Here is a long list from Austin and Houston, Of those I’m pretty sure one would fit your stringent criteria of “FINE DINING,” Monsieur

    http://www.urbanspoon.com/pr/11/4/Austin/Fine-Dining.html
    http://www.urbanspoon.com/pr/8/4/Houston/Fine-Dining.html

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    I know. I’ve been to Luger. As I have been to many good steak restaurants around the world. There is no debate about the fact that steak can be fine dining.

    But you are commenting on fine dining with your base point of reference as a bad steak in Texas. Now if you had eaten in one of the restaurants on the Asia top 50 list or even the World top 50 list and used that as your point of reference,,, well… it might have validity.

    Instead you are seriously saying a bad steak in Texas is justification for the statement that in fine dining restaurants “the food essentially was not that much better than I would get at a place 1/3 or 1/6th the price offering the same sort of fare”. That is worse than boring; it is wrong.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    I used the bad steak as a simple example of a food everyone knows, priced at 3 to 4 times above where it should be, being no better than something for 15 bucks instead of 60. My wider statement about fine dining is based on having eaten in dozens of high priced places, some with a Michelin star, or three, and not being impressed enough to ever want to go back on my own dime.

    Ive never eaten here http://www.latimes.com/features/food/dailydish/la-dd-food-fyi-norovirus-hits-noma-63-sickened-20130308,0,6794321.story but what would you say to those that got sick at this fine dining joint, supposedly the best restaurant in the world?

    BTW, Ive eaten at 4 on this list http://www.theworlds50best.com/globalselection/ and simply out, was not impressed by the food.

  • jinrohelium

    ‘i don’t give a sheit about some list comprised by some pompous westerner.’

    Evidently you do, or else you wouldn’t be commenting.

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    I find the steak example you have tried to draw out especially laughable (again). You can’t buy a good quality steak from a butcher for USD15 wholesale. You are embarrassing yourself now.

    And I don’t even need to click the link to know you are talking about Noma. I am not sure what the norovirus says about the quality of the food at a cutting edge restaurant. It is a virus which is going round and damn near impossible to prevent. Noma does, however, have a generous European health policy whereby any ill worker – cleaner or chef – is sent home immediately at the first sight of illness and told to stay there until 48 hours after symptoms subside. They are then paid for that time and don’t have to take it as holiday. Compared to US where 90% of food service workers lack paid sick leave or Korea where sick leave is considered the equivalent of punching your boss in the face and has to be taken as holiday…. and yeah, I don’t think that is too bad. So what I would say to those who got ill is bad luck hope you get a chance to enjoy the food sometime.

    You might want to read this article for some more information instead of ill judged speculation. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/evelyn-j-kim/nomavirus-is-everyones-vi_b_2853924.html

    You are obviously not a foodie as you have no clear love or appreciation for such things. I have no idea why you feel the need to comment on such things then. I don’t rain on your desire to own guns, vote Republican and have a picture of George W Bush in your bedroom.

  • http://www.rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    You are embarrassing yourself now.

    He does that a lot.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    It’s also to do with accessibility.

    As a kodoku no gurume (solitary diner) – to the point of the “Stick and Bowl” Cantonese lady-owner noticing my absence when I am away – when I say I miss food from London, I don’t mean Cornish Pasties and pub lunches or even dinner at some latest fancy hotel bar/restaurants or the 5th floor of Harvey Nichols.

    Actually I mean Indian and Chinese. Compared to Sweden or Germany or even the US, cheap Chinese and Indian food from London was the best in my memory. Of course uppity people from China or India get all het-up about such blasphemy.

    It was the same in N.Z. my weekly dining consisted of 3 times a week in Cambodian noodle house and the other 3 times in Tandoori Palace.

    I have no problem with Korean restaurants or Korean food not featuring high on people’s radar.

    In my opinion, countries with great cuisine produce too many offsprings drastically reducing the GNP per capita.

  • Bob Bobbs

    I agree with you about the Indian, but Vancouver stomps all over London for cheap Chinese food.

  • cm

    Interesting, I have a brother who spent a week in Italy. He and his family starved in Italy ironically. He said the Italian food was terrible. The pizza was horrible and there were no pizza sauce on pizzas. And all week, they ended up eating something which he would rather forget. He thanked god that he went home and was able to eat ‘real’ American style pizzas. lol… I’m not lying, he really said that.

  • Bob Bobbs

    ‘eating at samgyupsal house and drinking soju with the colleagues until stupor’

    - This is either race-baiting or a strikingly honest statement.

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    - Although increasing number of Koreans are visiting China, China is yet to develop the allure of being a premier tourist destination. Kind of like Korea 10 years ago.

    - I am quite aware of the difference between the American-Italian and Italian-Italian, thank you very much. My life literally depended on it, as our landlady at Spoleto (where my soon-to-be wife played a summer festival) would have murdered me if I did not learn the difference.

    - How many cities around the world fit your definition of “international city” in your estimation?

  • Bob Bobbs

    Because a lot of Koreans consider themselves to be excellent, world-class chefs who can make any style of food as well as anyone else and make a pretty penny doing it. Why are you putting down the aspirations of young professionals in the Korean restaurant industry?

  • Bob Bobbs

    When the person telling you to do the shutting-up isn’t actually a Korean, you’ve got to take it with a grain of salt. That is not how most Koreans feel.

  • wangkon936

    “[Insert East Asian Country Here] is mostly a huge global exporter – foreigners here are just a nuisance.”

    Same can be said of China and Japan.

  • wangkon936

    Sometimes development is lumpy. Give it some time.

  • wangkon936

    China’s air is terrible. Like Los Angeles 1982 or Seoul 1986.

    I can’t see how anyone who is a foreign and a working professional would want to go there voluntary at this point in it’s development.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    We really shouldn’t be surprised by Italian food in Korea. There aren’t any Italians here worth speaking of. New York and Chicago have good Italian because they have large Italian populations who know good restaurants.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    I don’t know much about Noma, but if that is their health policy, then they clearly weren’t following it. Norovirus is very contagious, but it is possible to prevent: Don’t let infected people handle food. If someone has had vomiting / diarrhea symptoms within the last 72 hours, they shouldn’t touch food because it will definitely spread to the diners. At Noma there was probably someone who was recently ill and was preparing salads or other fresh food for all of the meals that night. Their illness should have been reported to whoever was in charge and that person should have been kept out of the kitchen.

    Food-borne illnesses are easily preventable. A three-star restaurant (or any restaurant) should know better. Sorry to get off topic :)

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Yes, you are right, I am not a foodie. Have you missed where I express my utter contempt for foodies holding them in the same regard as pond scum? To me food is functional: good food meets specific macronutrient specs for the right occasions, be that after a 100km bike ride, after a gym work out, during rest times, etc. taste is only a secondary bonus, and all the superfluous shit like being “on the cutting edge” is to me not worth a dime. I do get to eat at higher end places but such is the nature of my job. I do not vote, I am not republican and have zero love for W. I do however support gun rights. But, as long as we are getting into stereotypes gleamed from a superficial acquaintanceship on a blog, how does a lowly English teacher on 2.3 million a month go to expensive restaurants?

  • jinrohelium

    Why, because I don’t hold the same view of it as you?

    I can assure you I’ve eaten enough of it to have a good understanding of what Korean food is. But, don’t get your knickers in a twist, I feel the same about plenty of other countries’ cuisines.

  • Poop Terrorist

    I feel sorry for your wife. Fooled by a joyless, rice king.

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    I am not sure how enjoying food, having traveled and eaten widely would lead you to suspect that I am an English teacher? As you note how would an English teacher on 2.3 million a month manage to do so and also live in cities as diverse as London, Hong Kong, an unspecified city in Spain, and Seoul? The logical deduction would probably be that I am instead either Euro-trash or a well paid corporate citizen of the world.

    If you want we can meet and you can feel insecure at credit card limits as this is obviously the kind of thing which excites you?

    On the other hand your evident anger problem, avowed lack of understanding of food, living in Texas, love of guns, reference to Michelin starred restaurants like Luger where you haven’t eaten, shopping at Costco or E-Mart (it should be SSG, natch) and rice king marriage suggests a man who couldn’t quite make it elsewhere. Oh well.

  • yangachibastardo

    Well-paid corporate citizen of the world in Spain, aka a third world country sliding toward the fourth ?

    Sorry i’m not trying to bea n ass, in fact i have no reason to doubt any of your words and it’s none of my business, just genuine curiosity: the hell were you doing there ?

    By the way i would say the Noma thing is an absolute mismanagement DISASTER: it took 63 people getting sick over ENTIRE WEEKS, before sanitary authroties intervened. But i guess that’s the typical least pleasant side of a Scandinavian socety: rampant hypocrisy.

    BY the way dear Spanish citizens thank you for existing: you make me feel better about my countryi

  • yangachibastardo

    Hey guys i used to party my ass off at Nello’s when it was at the peak of its own Russian models and assorted eurotrash glory.

    Don’t remember much about the food, drinks were good

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Why, because I don’t hold the same view of it as you?

    No, because you make statements about Korean food that are obviously factually incorrect.

  • jinrohelium

    Please give me some correct facts about why my opinion is wrong.

    I’d love to be told why I haven’t enjoyed Korean food correctly, yet have enjoyed other countries food incorrectly.

    .

  • jinrohelium

    Would also love to be told what statements are ‘factually incorrect’.

    I think your post is pretty much symptomatic of the reactionary and nationalistic approach your kin has toward dissenting voices about anything that does not uphold Korea as the best at (insert XXX).

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    I think your post is pretty much symptomatic of the reactionary and nationalistic approach your kin

    Following up ignorance with racism. A winning strategy, that.

  • jinrohelium

    You do know ‘kin’ does not necessarily mean ‘race’, right?

  • http://www.askakorean.net/ The_Korean

    Ignorance–>racism–>backpedaling. I am eager to see what’s coming next.

  • yangachibastardo

    Yeah “I hired a contract killer” and “drifting clouds” are 2 of my favourite movies, on the other hand i think Leninagrad cowboys had its moments but was overall quite overrated

  • ChuckRamone

    Who said anything about Koreans being best? The top Korean restaurant didn’t even make last place on this list of 50 restaurants in the region. People are discussing why there is not even one Korean restaurant on this list, and you’re turning that curiosity into “All Koreans Are in a Huge Nationalistic Rage Because They Are Not Number One at Cooking.” Hyperbolic much? Projecting much?

  • Bob Bobbs

    I doubt he will. He refuses to deal in objective fact, and smears people without discussing the merits of their claims. Then he claims racism and ends discussions arbitrarily. If you’re lucky, he’ll swear at you or capitalize something to make it look like he’s shouting at you. I don’t know if this behaviour is more American than Korean- perhaps it’s a combination of the worst of the two.

  • bumfromkorea

    Oh he must have meant your relatives or clansman, TK. Of course, I had no idea jinro was acquainted with your family.

  • Cloudfive

    Leninagrad cowboys had its moments but was overall quite overrated

    Willis, I don’t know of what you speak. There’s a cameo by Jim Jarmusch….that alone makes it Awesome.

    As for “I Hired a Contract Killer”, watching a middle-aged, sad-sack Jean-Pierre Léaud is depressing on so many levels. Especially since “The 400 Blows” is the movie that turned me into a film buff.

  • yangachibastardo

    That’s why i liked “I hired a contract killer” so much: i can relate.

    As for Leningrad cowboys, i don’t know: it seemed a bit cutsey at times, plus i’m not a big fan of road movies. Kaurismaki should stick to drama, that’s when he’s at his best.

    I completely agree with your view of Von Trier. The miserable bastard pretty much exhausted everything he had to say with The Kingdom. After that it has been a constant switch between unbearable boredom and unintentional comedy

  • http://twitter.com/TomEats Tom

    Yangachidbastardo – the failings of the European Union to manage the crisis at the moment make me want to cry. One of the world’s great countries which escaped dictatorship is now being destroyed by externally imposed austerity policies. 50% of Spain’s youth is currently unemployed… it is depressing beyond belief. You could actually make similar jokes about the UK at the moment given the way the Conservative government is managing things…

    And no problem… I’m here working as a lawyer in advance of the US and UK firms launching their putsch on the legal market now it has been liberalised (apparently with a sideline at writing controversial WSJ articles).

  • http://www.facebook.com/cactusmcharris Jeff Harris

    YB, I’m still going to drink their water until the well runs dry.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Wasn’t Franco Spanish? And I think Yanachi Bastardo meant what the hell were you doing in Spain, not what are you doing in Korea.

    SalaryManinSeoul tends not to beat about the bush, when it comes to things he hates. I can’t remember what it was about, oh yes I remember it was the actress Bae Doona and how he deemed her so ugly and untalented she evoked the Anti Christ or something.
    However, I sympathize with him somewhat on this one, because his view on food and food as art etc. coincides with my own husband whose bum breaks out in rashes when joints like Noma, Nobu and Japanese fine-dining are lauded by people. I get your point and I also get his point.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    China used to be one of South Korea’s mortal enemies. It always amazes me how we all have become so quickly used to people from the enemy countries in the MacGyver series.

  • Avaast

    Annabini is the best I’ve encountered, although the interior is a bit much. Right down near the Galleria department store.

  • felddog13

    TK has written often that Korean food DOES have the same varied richness and balance of, say, Thai food. And it probably does, if you are willing to go all-in and eat Korean food as much as possible and learn to see the differences. However, I think most foreigners just find a small handful of Korean dishes they like and stick to them without branching out, then dismiss Korean food as “gochujang-slathered sameness.” I admit I fall into this trap sometimes. I do think that Thai or Vietnamese have more varieties and balance that are MORE READILY APPARENT TO WESTERN PALATES. That doesn’t mean Korean food DOESN’T–it just means it takes more work for foreigners to see and taste it.

  • jinrohelium

    ‘No, because you make statements about Korean food that are obviously factually incorrect.’

    please tell me how my opinion of Korean food is ‘factually incorrect’.

  • jinrohelium

    Even better, please go back and quote the ‘statements’I have expressed about Korean food which don’t blatantly express personal opinion.

    Or, tell me the ‘facts’ about why anyone disagreeing that Korean is worthy of the top 50 is ‘wrong’

    Like many others, I love to be told what my opinion should be.

  • Cloudfive

    Arguing about this list is akin to arguing about the New Seven Wonders of Nature. Remember that? Jeju made it on that list- yay! http://www.goseewrite.com/2011/11/new-7-wonders-world-scam-behind-sham/#

  • http://www.facebook.com/cactusmcharris cactusmcharris

    Tom, I’ve enjoyed your comments here. I hope you don’t let our resident sociopath make you scarce – maybe if we get enough call-in votes you could be given a regular food column here….

    Anyway, for anyone going to or in Jasper, Alberta, there’s a little Korean restaurant in town there that was worthy of a top-ten, at least at the time. Imagine what the cook could do with access to regular trainloads of fresh ingredients. The Korean restaurants in Kamloops all have to do Japanese food, too, to stay open (my guess) and offer their Han hash. Vancouver, however, is another story entirely – there’s a place near Robson I found figuratively out of this world, and they had about 15 panchan dishes to pig out on.

  • yangachibastardo

    Oh thank you for the reply…again out of curiosity, what segment of the Korean law business has the highest growth potential ?

    Let me guess…shot in the dark: banking-related legal services

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    1. Never did I say I lived in Texas. I visited Texas on business numerous times, just as now Im visiting the UAE. Care to guess the industry I’m in? 2. Even an English teacher could afford to eat out at pricey restaurants if he was a genuine food lover and ready to make other sacrifices, and English teachers are transients and travellers like you. I would guess being called an English teacher would be an honor to a Spaniard since English teachers come from functioning states proving themselves to be superior to every Spaniard, aven an alleged “lawyer” like you, foodie. 3. Your view on guns is typical of a european weenie, and I say this as a European. Your view of Texans reveals an unjustified sense of superiority especially coming from someone whose country has been a European backwater for centuries and is now pretty much a failed state. At least the Texans are able to run their economy and keep it functional unlike you Spanish shits. 4. What is typical of Europeans and esopecilly subhuman Spaniards is also your deeply ingrained racism. Calling me a rice king? Does that mean that a European is somehow a loser because he marries an Asian, thereby making Asian in your eyes inferior and subhuman, or is it that you are against mixed marriages? Considering the state of Korea and state of your shithole country I would say your sense of superiority is not justified.

  • Horace Jeffery Hodges

    “Care to guess the industry I’m in?”

    Petroleum refining?

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://profiles.google.com/dcmusicfreak DC Musicfreak

    Nativist sentiment is arguably strongest in Korea. Even alleged “sophisticates” like The Korean constantly resort to the “if you don’t like it, leave” argument.

  • http://profiles.google.com/dcmusicfreak DC Musicfreak

    Multiply that by about 100.