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August 30, 2016

Seodaemun: An Enchanting Journey Off-the-Beaten-Path

Korea may be one of the world’s leading economies and fastest developing nations, but its modern history is a turbulent one. To the outsider, it can be difficult to spot the signs of Seoul’s struggles and suffering through the glitz and glamour of the city’s sparkling facade. But if one looks in the right places, where the traumas of the not-too-distant past have yet to be concealed, its battle scars become more visible.

The area around Dongnimmun is one of these places and a visit here is most certainly one way to better understand the tenacious mentality and steadfastness of the nation’s people.

Tastes of the Past 

A walk down from Dongnimmun Station brings one to Daeseongjib, a hidden gem famous for its doganitang, or ox knee stew, that is hardly known to tourists. Sure, the dish’s name might not be all that appetizing, but this slow-cooked soup of beef and cartilage is just as delicious as it is nutritious.

Served with salt and chopped green onions on the side, it can be seasoned to taste, and pairs well with the restaurant’s spicy kimchi. The hole-in-the-wall atmosphere only adds to the appeal of Daeseongjib, which has been in operation for about 60 years now.

Cross the street and make your way to Yeongcheon Market, where covered stalls offer an abundance of colorful produce. Further down, an unexpectedly large market houses traditional fare: aromatic mountain herbs, jars of ginseng and an incalculable supply of pickled vegetables.

Photo Credit
There are also quite a few atypical wares like finches and goldfish, which make for some pretty interesting travel photos. Snack on the market’s famous kkwabaegi (twisted doughnuts) before exploring the rest of the area.

The Darker Side of Seoul 

Make your way to Independence Gate, from which Dongnimmun Station gets its name.

This triumphal arch was constructed in 1898 to replace Yeonggeun Gate, a symbol of the submissive diplomacy of Korea where foreign envoys had previously been received. The granite stones that comprise the monument, which is modeled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, remain a symbol of the nation’s strength and steadfastness through that harsh time in history. Near the gate stands a statue of renowned independence activist Dr. Seo Jae-pil, who initiated the construction of the gate.

Photo Credit
Past the arch is Independence Park, a green space with plenty of areas to rest, picnic or play badminton. It is also chock full of memorials and tributes to Korea’s fight for sovereignty. Seodaemun Prison History Hall is the largest and perhaps most important of these.

Once a jail for Korean independence activists during Japanese colonial rule, it's now both a history museum and a monument that celebrates Korea's vigorous fight for freedom, and is dedicated to the movement’s martyrs.

The red brick buildings seem charming enough at first glance, but not enough to hide the terrors that occurred inside them. The prison cells, which have been converted into expansive educational exhibits, display pictures of the torture methods used by the Japanese against the unwavering freedom fighters. A noose still hangs in the building where executions were held and from it emanates a palpable dark energy.

Even more unsettling than the execution building is the corpse removal tunnel near the structure's exit that was only just discovered in 1992. It was here that the Japanese attempted to cover up their horrendous actions. The museum is tragic, but enlightening in that it provides a unique glimpse into the troubles and triumphs the nation endured for their chance at independence.

A Shamanic Stroll

Just a short walk from the Seodaemun Prison is Inwangsan Mountain. It can be a bit tricky to find but the experience is well worth the effort. Follow the signs just outside exit 2 of Dongnimmun Station past the I’Park apartments to the wooden gate of the temple complex. Pass hand-painted murals of terrifying but beautiful tigers and guardians that are meant to ward off evil spirits to get to the main hiking path.

Inwangsan is a mountain not only known for its beauty, but also for its magnificently dressed shamanic inhabitants. Korean shamans, or mudang, are usually women and are seen as the intermediaries between humans and the heavenly gods and nature spirits.

They are easy to spot on the mountain, as they are often chanting or dancing to the cacophonous tunes of traditional instruments, performing gut. These services are held to bring luck, cure illnesses or exorcise evil spirits, and the place you’re most likely to experience one of these ceremonies is at Guksadang Shrine, not far from the complex entrance. The shrine is said to be the country’s most important shamanist structure, as it is believed to house the spirit of King Taejo, founder of the Joseon Dynasty.

The otherworldliness of the chanting is only enhanced by the mountain’s eerie rock formations. Seonbawi, or “Zen Rocks,” take the appearance of meditating robed monks and are a popular spot for women praying to have children, as they are associated with fertility. Still other boulders further up along the path resemble skulls and bats.

Despite these rather creepy associations, the mountain offers phenomenal views of downtown Seoul, while the peace and quiet, which is only occasionally interrupted by the ring of a gong or beats of a drum, is refreshing.

From this point, you can turn around and head back to the station or continue along the Seoul Fortress Wall for more fresh air and city views. Just be sure that you wear decent walking shoes and bring along plenty of water, as the trek can get steep and uneven in some parts. Follow the signs labeled “Changuimun Gate” to get to Buam-dong, where mountainside cafes and quaint galleries await.

To Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Dongnimmun Station (Line 3, Exit 3).

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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August 22, 2016

Update Your Wardrobe at District Gal's Shop and Swap

Fall is just around the corner, which means it’s time to update your wardrobe and get ready for the cooler seasons of the year.

But rather than heading out to Seoul’s shopping districts to load up on expensive new fashion items, why not give your wallet a break and browse the gently used pieces up for grabs at Shop and Swap?

Hosted by Yvette Cruz of District Gal, this event gives you the chance to swap or sell your like-new, secondhand outfits and accessories, and/or browse what others have to offer. Don't have anything to swap? Drop by, meet and mingle with some new friends!

Following the success of a similar event earlier this summer in Haebangchon, the next Shop and Swap will be held on Monday, August 29 at Little Baja in Itaewon.

Seoul Searching talked to Yvette to get the deets of the event. Check out the interview below.

What brought you to Korea, and what do you do now? 

Six years ago I came to Korea to explore a new culture, teach and travel. I didn’t expect there would be any connection to my professional background in fashion, but then I discovered Korean fashion. Since then I started DistrictGal and have been working as a fashion pioneer. It has been an interesting adventure!

Tell us about your blog. 

My blog, District Gal, is where I share my personal style, street styles, fashion tips and the chic, interesting looks in popular fashion districts.

What is Swap and Shop?

The Shop and Swap event is a chance for both men and women to bring like-new or gently used clothing to sell or swap with others. It's a great way to find some “new-to-you” items for your wardrobe while participating in the eco-friendly fashion movement!

Why did you start the swap and shop event? 

Not only are these events much needed in Seoul due to the fact that foreigner-friendly sizes aren’t always the easiest to find in Korea, but eco-fashion is also an aspect I would like recognized on the DistrictGal platform. This concept is based on recycling and reusing clothing that already exists. The shop and swap event was created to promote and share DGal ideology, and start a community of like-minded people.

What kinds of items can people find at the event? 

They can find tops, skirts, pants, t-shirts, dresses, jewelry, and seasonal pieces that are like-new, which can be swapped or bought from others.

How do people get tickets to the event? 

People can RSVP on the event page on Facebook, and pay the 5,000 won cover fee in cash at the door.

How can people reserve a vendor space? 

If anyone has a lot of items (a suitcase/giant bag/box full of stuff) to sell or swap, they can contact me about reserving a space to set up and display their pieces.

Happy shopping!

Event Information

Date: Monday, August 29, 2016
Time: 6-10pm
Admission: 5,000 won
Location: Little Baja
Address: 549 Itaewon 2-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (용산구 이태원 2동 549)

Follow District Gal on social media via the links below:


Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Photos courtesy of Yvette Cruz. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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August 18, 2016

Get a Taste of America at Hard Rock Cafe Seoul

I’ve been living in Korea for over seven years now, so it pretty much feels like “home”—or close to it. But, every once in a while I do find myself missing home, the good ol US of A. These feelings of homesickness usually arise when I least expect them. They might spring up after a long day of work, or after a cultural misunderstanding.

Either way, I usually turn to food (or something a bit more intoxicating) for comfort.

So, earlier this week, feeling a bit homesick following a particularly gruelling business trip, I made my way to Hard Rock Cafe Seoul. Because let’s face it… what’s more American than fast casual dining, rock and roll memorabilia and gargantuan portions?

Even though the restaurant has been open since 2014 at the glistening Lotte World Mall shopping complex, it was actually my first time dining there.

Hard Rock was super easy to find, thanks to the enormous, flashing neon guitar that drew a hungry crowd like moths to a flame. My friend Danielle and I were greeted by enthusiastic English-speaking staff and were seated at a table just in front of the Hard Rock stage.

After scanning the rather expansive menu, we ordered a few dishes at the recommendation of the waitress. We were both really impressed with how friendly and international the staff were. By the end of the night, we had talked to employees from just about all corners of the globe.

We unknowingly timed everything just right, as the live band took the stage just minutes after we placed our order.

For the hour or so the band played, it was quite loud. Hard Rock isn’t necessarily a place you’d want to take your crush for an intimate first date. That being said, it’s ideal for a group of friends looking to get a little rowdy or let loose after a busy week. Reserve a seat at the window if possible, as it offers great views of Seokchon Lake Park.

Even on a Monday night, the place was pretty packed and just about every diner in the spacious, two-floor venue (which boasts seating for 330!) was singing along with the band, who played a nice mix of music, from Sam Smith to Maroon 5.

Our drinks were brought out in a timely manner. We tried the Big Kablue-na (₩12,900), a tropical mix of Malibu rum, Blue Curacao, pina colida mix and lime juice that instantly made me want to go to the beach, and the boozy Triple Platinum Margarita (₩15,900). This perfectly sweet concoction of 1800 Resposado, Cointreau Orange Liqueur and Grand Marnier got me buzzed a few sips in and kept me there til the end of the night.

For those that don't drink alcohol, there's also an extensive menu of juices and smoothies that are just as delightful. We tried the non-alcoholic Strawberry Basil Lemonade (₩9,900m strawberries and basil, agave syrup muddled together with made-from-scratch lemonade) which was particularly refreshing on this hot summer evening.

As soon as the Jumbo Combo (₩39,000) arrived, I knew we over-ordered. The huge platter consisted of the restaurant’s most popular appetizers, including buffalo wings, onion rings, chicken tenders, potato skins and my personal favorite, spinach and artichoke dip with Parmesan flatbread. God I’ve missed that stuff! All of it was good—simple pub grub that instantly made me feel at home.

Hard Rock had just launched a new, limited-time “Smoke, Fire and Spice” menu on the day we arrived, so we decided to try it. Diners can select from four meat options and six sauce options for the dish, which includes two meat skewers, sesame slaw, Monterey jack cheese and roasted veggies. We selected Shrimp with Jack Mayo (₩29,900) and Chicken with Chimichurri (₩27,900).

The flat bread and slaw were okay, but the skewers were fantastic. Both were really nicely grilled and the sauces complemented the meat perfectly. The Jack Mayo was particularly yummy, with a nice kick of spice and creamy texture.

The real highlight of the meal was The Big Cheeseburger (₩24,900), an 8 oz premium grade Australian patty which was topped with Monterery Jack, Swiss, tomatoes, lettuce, red onion and braised mushrooms (₩4,900 extra). It was cooked perfectly to our liking, with just the right combination of juiciness and cheesiness. The bun was toasted, which is a must for me, and the fries, though fairly standard, were of a generous amount.

At this point, we were stuffed and sadly had no more room for dessert though I was really dying to try the Fresh Apple Cobbler. Oh well. Next time!

Throughout our dinner, things continued to pick up, which might have had something to do with happy hour, which is held nightly from 10 to midnight.

Just after the entire restaurant sang “Happy Birthday” to a diner (which I had never seen happen before outside America), Danielle and I watched a cocktail show at the bar. There was excitement in just about every corner of the place.

We took a walk around the restaurant to check out the memorabilia that hung on the walls—Joan Jett’s hand-written lyrics, Elvis’ jacket, Gene Simmons’ ax-shaped guitar were just a few of the items. (Not to mention Justin Timberlake’s super-sized shoes in the Rock Shop gift shop!) Danielle put together this great video of our walkabout. Check it out below:

We even found a karaoke room on the second floor, which we learned can be reserved by groups that order ₩200,000 worth of food/drinks. Not bad, especially considering the room could easily accommodate around 15-20 people.

Overall, our visit to Hard Rock Seoul was a great one. With good drinks, plenty of comfort food and live music (not to mention proximity to some of the best shopping in the city), there’s really no better place to spend a night with friends. Yes, the menu prices are a bit steep compared to your average restaurant in Korea, but keep in mind, you’re paying for the atmosphere. And, considering that there’s not really any other place in Seoul that offers such a fun vibe, the price is well worth it.

Rock on, folks!

More Information: Hard Rock Seoul

Address: 5F, Lotte World Mall, 300, Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul, 05551, Korea

Phone: 02-418-7625

Hours: Daily 10:30am-Midnight

Menu: Click here

Facebook: Click here

How to Get There: Take the Seoul Subway to Jamsil Station (Lines 2 and 8). From Exits 1, 2 or 3, follow the signs to Lotte World Mall. Go to the 5th floor and look for the big neon guitar.


Disclaimer: The meal mentioned above was provided in exchange for a honest review. The opinions are, of course, my own.

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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August 16, 2016

Meet Your Favorite Stars at the Grevin Seoul Museum

Ever dreamed of rubbing elbows with the likes of Brad Pitt, George Clooney or Angelina Jolie? What about K-star heartthrobs like Lee Min-ho, Hyun Bin or Kim Soo-hyun? Or, perhaps you’d prefer to get up close with historical figures like Leonardo Di Vinci and Ghandi, or world famous athletes such as Lionel Messi.

Well, now you can, as they’re all hanging out at Grévin Seoul, the city’s premiere wax museum. (OK… so maybe they aren’t really there but the lifelike figures are close enough.)

Opened last year, the museum, which was originally founded in Paris more than a hundred years ago, has quickly become a must-visit attraction for those visiting and living in Seoul.

I stopped by earlier this month to see for myself what everyone’s raving about and was not let down. Situated just outside of Myeongdong across from the Lotte Hotel Seoul, Grevin Seoul is easily accessible. I had no problem finding the museum, which is clearly marked by the big red sign. And, should you have any doubts, the figure of Michael Jackson which greets you upon entry will surely clear those up.

I purchased a ticket at the ticket office and was instructed to hold on to it, as I would be able to use it throughout the four floors of exhibits. I’d soon learn that unlike other museums of its kind, Grévin (which has four locations around the world) differentiates itself with interactive games and activities, along with engaging themed areas to better bring the wax figures to life. (In a non-creepy way, of course.)

This became apparent as soon as I arrived on the fourth floor, where I went for a walk on the red carpet, greeted by Korea’s first-generation Hallyu celebs. I followed the red carpet “Into the Movies” and was instantly transported to the sets of “The Godfather,” “Ocean's Thirteen” and even “ET.” This area made for some great photo ops, as I got the chance to experience being part of the movie magic… or at least as close to it as I’ll probably ever experience.

Next up was the “Great Men of Korea” where some of the nation’s most famous historical figures sat. In fact, these are all the faces you’ll find on the Korean currency, including the beloved King Sejong, as well as Shin Saimdang, the first woman to appear on a Korean bank note.

Inventors and figures who devoted their life to world peace like Ghandi and Pope Francis also made an appearance, as did modern political leaders such as Queen Elizabeth and President Obama.

As I went on the opening day of the Olympics, “The Great Champions” exhibit seemed to be a pretty popular space. “Ice Queen” Kim Yu-na was a highlight, as were the football, golf and basketball players that scattered the area. Guests could even play a virtual basketball game alongside Michael Jordan.

The “Discovery Atelier” was especially interesting, as I got to see how these impressive wax figures are created. I followed along the process by watching G-Dragon, Korea’s music idol and fashion icon, get molded and crafted into a figure while also participating in activities that turned me into a virtual 3D model.

I was surprised to learn that it can take a whopping SIX MONTHS for one of these figures to be completed. Up to 500,000 individual (natural!) hairs are used for each wax figure; eyes are made of glass and the teeth are created by a dental specialist. The more recent wax figures are usually dressed in an item by their favorite designer, or they themselves will lend the museum something out of their own wardrobe, which was the case for a lot of the Korean stars, like G-Dragon.

After passing through an exhibit of artists (Van Gough still has both ears!) and a salon of the world’s top beauties and fashionistas, I found myself in the Hall of Fame, the main hall of the Grevin Museum. Here, an eclectic mix of the world’s top stars like Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Madonna, Jeon Do-yeon and even Psy—Mr. Gangnam Style himself—were in attendance.

The tour ended in Hallyuwood, where I found myself on the set of a K-drama with Korea’s hunkiest guys. It was set up so that when you posed with the figures, you showed up on the TV screen that was projected across an entire wall. As a result, I experienced what it might be like to share the screen with K-hunks.

Once you’ve made your way through the museum, you’ll find yourself at the gift shop, which, unlike most museum shops, has some pretty cool Seoul souvenirs like notebooks and canvas bags. There are also items that are related to the museum’s figures, including K-celebs, with some of the products being exclusive to the shop.

If you’re hungry, there’s also a café that serves up coffee and tasty-looking dishes like pasta, risotto and pizza (dishes start at ₩9,000). Ticket holders can get a discount by presenting the coupon received with the ticket.

The Grevin Museum is a great place to spend a couple hours after shopping or checking out the nearby palaces. But it’s not just great for photos that will no doubt make your friends jealous (I totally faked out a few of mine). It’s also a good place to learn a bit more about Korean history and pop culture in a setting that’s far more interactive and engaging than a traditional museum.

So grab that selfie stick and get yourself down to the Grevin Museum!

Expert Tip 1: For an addition ₩1,000, you can pick up a Museum Guide, which explains each exhibit more in-depth. It also has some fun information about some of the featured celebrities and the museum, as well as interactive tips!

Expert Tip 2: The Grevin Museum holds fun and free activities throughout the year, such as its Christmas and Halloween themed events. Be sure to keep an eye on their website for more information about these seasonal activities.

More Information: Grevin Seoul

Hours: Mon - Sat 10am - 9 pm; Sun 10am - 6 pm (Last admission 45 minutes before closing time). Note: Hours may differ on holidays. Be sure to check the website for accuracy.

Admission: Adults (19 and older): ₩18,000 Youth (6-18 years) & Seniors (65 and older) ₩15,000; Free for children under 5 years

Address: 23 Euljiro-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Phone: 02.777.4700

Website: Click Here

Facebook: Click Here (Korean)

Instagram: Click Here

Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Euljiro 1-ga Station. From Exit 1, follow the sidewalk as it veers right for about 3 minutes. The Grevin museum will be on your right, across the street from the Lotte Hotel.


Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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August 8, 2016

Explore the World of Polish Vodka with Eat Polska

It’s a widely known fact that Poles love their vodka, a spirit with a history and culture that are as interesting and complex as Poland itself.

Which is exactly why sampling the national beverage was a main priority of mine when visiting Warsaw last month. But instead of braving the bars (which sources say there are more of than churches) by myself, I decided to enlist the services of a true expert to better understand what sets Polish vodkas apart from the rest.

That expert was Eliza, a tour guide from Eat Polska, a top-rated food tour organization that gives visitors a literal taste of Poland’s delectable cuisine and vodka. I met her and my fellow Vodka Tour tourmates at the designated meet-up spot just across from Warsaw's lone palm tree in the city center.

She escorted us to the first vodka bar, where we broke the ice and began our vodka escapades for the evening. Vokda bars like this, Eliza told, us were a somewhat new kind of establishment.

She recalled being a young girl in Poland during the 1990s, when American soap operas were all the rage. The actors, with their big hair and over-the-top styles, socialized at elegant parties and toasted with champagne.

Polish dramas, on the other hand, often portrayed the average Pole as one suffering from the effects of a society that had just bore the brunt of a few decades of communism. Sloppy and depressed, these alcoholic characters did little to portray vodka in a positive light.

It wasn’t until the 2000s that the opening of a stylish vodka bar, popular among Warsaw’s youth, made the drink trendy once again.

As I took a look around the bar, it was quite clear why. It was fairly small, but spacious enough to accommodate a few friend groups eager to start a night out on the town. Simple but modern décor and a hipster-esque bartender only made the place more appealing.

We were soon served up a shot of Wyborowa, a pure white rye vodka, which we drank neat—or by itself—in typical Polish fashion. It had a nice, clean flavor that was only enhanced by the pickled herring that was served with it.

As it turns out, Eliza told us, Poles never drink on an empty stomach, and typically chase their vodka with food. The best, she said, were fatty or sour—flavors that not only break the taste of vodka but also help to line the stomach. And, as we would soon learn, she was not kidding about the food. We ate A LOT throughout the course of the evening.

In spite of all of these precautionary measures, the Poles have an additional safety precaution for preventing a hangover. With each glass, they drink to health, she said. We would use this toastna zdrowie!continuously as the night progressed.

Next up was Żołądkowa Gorzka. Adhering to the standards of real Polish (multi-distilled, made in Poland and at least 37.5 percent alcohol), this one was strong but smooth, with a slight herbal flavor.

We followed it with a generous portion of bigos, a hearty stew of sauerkraut, mushrooms and meat. Each family has its own recipe, we were told, and is also consumed in copious amounts on Christmas Eve.

Only two shots in and I was already feeling a bit buzzed but was also having a great time. We moved to the next bar, which was another modern establishment that sold boutique vodkas and spirits of every imaginable flavor. Eliza mentioned one brand, Oddka, which sells flavors reminiscent of those crazy Harry Potter jellybeans, including varieties they call “Electricity,” “Wasabi” and “Freshly Cut Grass.”

We wasted no time in throwing back three distinctly different vodkas. They included J.A. Baczewski, Poland's oldest vodka, Pravda Espresso, a coffee flavored vodka, and Soplica pigwowa.

The latter was a fruity and super-smooth quince infused vodka and was my personal favorite of the evening... so much so that I made sure to buy a bottle before heading back to Korea. Poles, Eliza explained, love their infused vodkas. She spoke of how they often associate summer with cherry or lemon infused vodkas, and that each family usually makes a few bottles of their own every year to enjoy later in the cooler months. What better way to warm up?

Eliza waited until we tried our next snack to tell us what it was. Always up for an adventure, I delved right in and quickly found out that I couldn’t get enough of the chleb ze smalcem i ogórkiem kiszonym. Or, in pronounceable words, pig drippings and pickle on bread. Or, as Eliza lovingly referred to it... "Pig Nutella."

Next we ended up at a great little restaurant run by a chef from Texas for a special tasting. We started nibbling on a traditional Polish dish with a twist—white sausage over a bed of lentils topped with a nice heaping of a chalky mustard. This tasty concoction, which is commonly eaten on Easter, prepared us for our next shot.

Vestal, to put it simply, smelled of "mistake." But I threw it back and tried not to wince. Eliza noted that this one was considerably special, as it is actually produced by an expat from New Zeland and his Polish wife in very small batches. Unlike “real” Polish vodka, this one was only distilled once, which explained its strong taste. Despite this, she told us, it has become increasingly popular among Warsaw’s young foodies and vodka connoisseurs.

For our final stop on the tour, we ended up at an obscure but sophisticated joint with an impressive backlit bar and a speakeasy atmosphere. A dapper bartender in suspenders and a bowtie approached our table and inquired about our preferences in cocktails.

After giving him a few descriptors, he used his mixology skills to whip up delicious cocktails with Żubrówka—a vodka made with bison grass. On its own, the vodka was good—and tasted unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. But when our cocktails arrived, looking as beautiful as they were delicious (mine was topped with a mini macaron!), I was even more impressed with the powerful flavor combinations.

Our small but now familiar group (isn’t it funny how alcohol has that effect?) toasted na zdrowie a final time, to one another’s health… and in hopes that none of us would be hungover the next day.

As I made it back (read: stumbled) to my Airbnb that evening, I realized that vodka really doesn't get the attention it deserves. Eat Polska helped dispel the misconception that there are no discernible differences between vodkas—that they’re characterless and only good for mixing. I came to realize that vodka is a spirit of many unexpected attributes and flavors—a drink that has deep roots in Poland's history, holidays and traditions.

And, thanks to Eliza's recommendations which she emailed to all of us following the tour, I was able to bring a few bottles back (which I may or may not have declared at customs) so I can relive my Poland memories at home.

For more information about Eat Polska, as well as their food and vodka tour, check out their website here.

More Information: Eat Polska Vodka Tour

Website: Click Here
Tour Times: Daily, 5pm
Duration: 3.5 hours
Group Size: 2 to 8 people
Reservations: Necessary; Click here to book your spot

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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August 7, 2016

Hongdae's The Beastro Wows with New Summer/Autumn 2016 Menu

This summer is, without a doubt, the hottest I can remember in all my years in Korea. The nights are sleepless, the cicadas are painstakingly loud and the air is immediately sweat-inducing upon contact. What better excuse to find a cool spot to eat, drink and chill while you wait for the dog days of summer to pass?

And, if you're in Hongdae, there's no better place to do so than The Beastro. Serving up inventive cocktails and contemporary American dishes with a twist since May 2014, The Beastro has long been on the radar of Seoul's foodies and a personal favorite of mine. (I have literally dreamed of their Roast Beef And Brie Sandwich in the past.)

But this past month, The Beastro's Executive Chef Matthew Chung and General Manager Catherine Chung really upped the ante with a new Summer/Autumn 2016 menu which features seasonal ingredients and flavors that are sure to satisfy just about every palate.

I recently dropped in with a friend to sample the new dishes and was, to put it simply, blown away.

Food aside, it's hard to find a restaurant in Seoul with such great service. From the get-go, our server, Angela, went above and beyond to make our dining experience exceptional. I really grilled her about the various ingredients and drinks; not only did she know the menu like the back of her hand, but she was extremely friendly and helpful.

Based on her recommendations, my friend and I started off our dinner with a few cocktails, which is a must-do at The Beastro. Not only do the drinks here incorporate a playful mix of quality ingredients, but their bartenders really know their stuff. In fact, bar manager Taeeun Yoon recently took home first prize for his cocktail at the Jameson Bartenders' Ball Korea.

As a fan of gin, I opted for the The Birds and the Bees (₩14,000), which is made with The Beastro's own basil-infused gin, lemon, pineapple and honey syrup and is topped with a soft rose and elderflower foam. It was fruity and floral and everything I wanted and then some. The flower garnish was also a nice, dainty touch.

My friend went for the Del Boca Vista (₩13,000), which combined the Beastro basil gin with strawberry shrubs, Aperol, pineapple and grapefruit. Served in an inflatable flamingo, this cocktail was summer in liquid form.

After nibbling on cornbread and yuja jam which were brought out with our drinks, we moved on to the Salmon Rillettes (₩11,000), a beautiful gourmet salmon spread of lemon curd, olives and preserved lemon. Light and citrusy, it was the perfect start. I could've easily eaten this stuff with a spoon, but the crunchy croutons it was served with made for a nice play on texture.

The Fried Brie (₩8,000) was just as delightful. I mean, give me a wheel of Brie any day and I'm a happy camper, but deep fry it to perfection and I'm in heaven. And perfection it was! Soft and gooey on the inside, crispy on the outside without being too oily. The sweet and acidic flavors of the orange tomato jam only made it that much better.

Like cheese, I also have a special spot for pasta, and the Farro Tagliatelle with Basil Pesto (₩18,000) didn't disappoint. Seasonal veggies, fresh Parmesan and an incredibly aromatic basil pesto topped a bed of whole wheat pasta, which I talked myself into thinking made this gluttonous feast a bit healthier.

But the dish that really caused our jaws to drop was the 24 Hour Hanger Steak for two (₩50,000). Bits of this ginormous slab of ultra-tender meat (600 grams of it!) melted in my mouth the second they left my fork. I really and truly can't remember the last time I had steak cooked so perfectly.

And, with a wide selection of sauces (onion mustard gravy, chimichurri, béarnaise, or tomato onion salsa), it can be customized to fit your taste. The steak and sauces paired perfectly with the Herbed Mashed Potatoes (₩7,000) that were full of flavor. (Should you opt for something a bit less American sized, there's also a 300g option for ₩27,000.)

Although we were more than full at this point, we couldn't walk away without dessert. Obviously.

Fortunately the Whiskey Pudding (₩13,000), as rich as it was, was small enough to have just a few bites and have my sweet tooth satisfied. Smoky Laphroaig caramel was topped with a salted pretzel crumble, creating the can't-go-wrong combination of sweet and salty.

To top off the great service and excellent meal, the atmosphere of The Beastro is really superb. Classic, elegant, intimate. There's also a beautiful rooftop terrace which makes for a nice spot for brunch or a pre-dinner drink. Which, I have plans of returning to very, very soon to sample the rest of the new cocktail menu.

More Information: The Beastro

Address: 358-32 Seogyo-dong 2F, Mapo-gu, Seoul 121-838 (서울시 마포구 서교동 358-32 2층 121-838)
Phone: (02) 334-2500
Hours: Mon - Thurs & Sun Lunch: 11:30am–3:00pm Break time : 3:30pm–5:30pm Dinner: 5:30pm–10:00pm; Fri & Sat Lunch: 11:30am–3:00pm Break time: 3:30pm–5:30pm Dinner: 5:30pm–10:30pm
Website: Click Here (Make reservations here)
Facebook: Click Here
Instagram: Click Here

*Disclaimer: The meal described above was provided in exchange for an honest review. All of the options stated above are my own.

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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