What’s the approach? Now that Korean-style fermentation is receiving international attention, chef Shin Chang-ho wants to show how humble ingredients can be cooked and combined in unusual ways, putting a twist on what people generally recognise as Korean food. As a result, his recipes are both appealing to foreigners and new to his compatriots.
An unusual start: A sip of something acidic may make you wince, but it will also make your mouth water and get your stomach ready for savoury flavours. That’s the approach Joo Ok takes by serving a welcome drink mixed with its house-made vinegar, with chef Shin keeping a dozen different types of the condiment always in stock. He chooses to make this unusual first impression in hopes of making Korean food more approachable to foreign palates.
Any signature dishes? The epitome of the tasting menu comes in the form of Shin’s signature bowl of perilla seed oil (deulgireum in Korean). The oil isn’t just drizzled around a quail egg and abalone slices – rather, it is the main ingredient of the dish, while the other elements simply accompany it. You will find yourself wishing to drink another bowl of pure oil, probably for the first time ever.
Eye-catcher: Out of all the must-visit restaurants in South Korea’s capital city, Joo Ok enjoys the best views on Seoul’s past and present. Located inside The Plaza hotel, it overlooks not only gardens and palaces from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), but also several modern skyscrapers, before the edges of the city embrace the mountain ranges in the distance.