4.160 Hansik Buffet

My first plate [clockwise from bottom]:
fish jeon, steamed rice with beans, stir-fried shrimp, some 

kind of namul, tangpyeongchae, chicken in chili sauce.
-Cycle 4, Item 160-
14 (Fri) June 2013

Hansik Buffet


at Korea House

-Pil-Dong, Seoul-

with participants of the Training Program for the WHO Tool to Assess Health Law in Countries and various members of Yonsei University Asian Institute for Bioethics and Health Law

Korea House is a landmark Korean restaurant, officially.  According to the website (see restaurant's website), it was founded in 1957 then remodeled into its current form in 1980 in association with the Korean Cultural Assets Preservation Foundation.  The buildings were remade to reflect mid-19th-century royal architecture.  Indeed, the food itself is geared towards court cuisine.  Service is available à la carte or as set/multi-course meals for small groups, buffet or banquet-style for large parties.  The prices range from 30,000 won to 250,000 won per person.  Aside from the food, the restaurant is probably more famous for the cultural events held on the premises, such as the twice-nightly traditional dance/music/drum/fan performance that supposedly 1.6 million guests have seen since 1981--I'd wager that 1.5 million were foreigners, the remaining 0.1 million being locals accompanying those foreigners.  Generally, Korea House is one of those "you never visit your own monuments" kinda place--among the dozen people that I've asked, all life-long residents of Seoul, not a single person has even been there--more likely a destination for tour groups or international conferences.

The facilities comprise several buildings on a sprawling compound, pretty impressive for it downtown location.

50,000 won per ticket x 1.6 million tickets sold = 80,000,000,000 won (about USD$66 million) (yes, I know that they weren't charging 50,000 won back in 1981, but I don't know how to adjust for inflation, even if I had the data, even I cared to; and yes, I know that some of the 1.6 million tickets probably weren't paid for).

I had a ticket but declined to use it, having seen the show before, but thank you very much.

Case in point, the occasion this evening was the reception dinner for a gathering of experts/researchers from various parts of Asia in conjunction with the WHO project that had kept me busy last fall (see most recently 3.272 Pho Ga).  Tonight was my second visit to Korea House, the first back in 2005 under similar circumstances.

A relatively small and standard spread but well-executed as a result.

The food, from the buffet, was surprisingly pretty good.  It was surprising to me because I tend to be very cynical about buffets in general.  But the key here was focus.  Technically, all the items wouldn't fall within the definition of court cuisine, but most of it was at least traditionally Korean ("hansik (한식)").  In other words, the kitchen concentrated only on what it was capable of making and making well.  I had a similarly positive experience for the same reasons at a Chinese buffet last year (see 3.198 Stir-Fried Shrimp & Tofu Skins).  The otherwise unremarkable extent and nature of the Korea House spread really wouldn't justify the price of 70,000 won for a local customer, though it'd still be preferable to a hotel buffet offering a lot of bullshit dishes at around the same price.  

My second plate [top to bottom] (3.0): shredded radish in sesame paste, stewed kimchi and pork belly, japchae. 

No comments:

Post a Comment