Saturday, March 24, 2018

Mingles (Seoul, SOUTH KOREA) ★★★★★

Not bringing my little nugget on this trip has allowed me more time for cafe hopping and more importantly, increased the scope of restaurants I was able to visit. Like most fine dining restaurants in Seoul, Mingles impose a pretty strict children's policy, which is the sole reason why I haven't been back since 2016.

I fell in love with chef Mingoo Kang's modern Korean cuisine on my first visit to Mingles a couple of years ago and since then, I've been itching to come back.

Crowned as the best restaurant in Korea for the third year in a roll by Asia's Best 50 Restaurants, I'm glad Mingles is finally getting the credit they deserve (but only 1 Michelin star? Come on...). 

During lunch service, they are now offering just one set menu (75,000 won) with a very small list of add-on items (a total of three dishes). 

Lunch started off brightly with the first nibble from Mingles' seasonal amuse bouche
spring octopus with radish which has been cut into triangular shape.

Next up was Chef Kang's signature egg nog although this came with slightly different ingredients than last time. Inside the egg shell was cauliflower cappuccino with egg yolk, green onion and something like asparagus. 

It was immediately followed by two further amuse bouche. I called the first one the "Korean sushi". Here we had a slice of marinated tuna on top but instead of rice, there were seasonal vegetables made up with mostly spinach sitting on the bottom. This was quite refreshing. The tuna came with some nice acidity from what I thought was yuzu dressing.

Our last nibble, deep fried white fish with potato purée and red fruit, wrapped up a very nice seasonal amuse bouche.

The first course of the menu was Spring, a dish that centered around spring clam carpaccio.

Underneath the Kohlrabi salad was a pile of clams carpaccio with seasonal vegetables such as cucumber and radish, served with a spring herb pesto.

I dropped some extra cash to upgrade my starter to their tantalizing abalone dish and it was really money well-spent. The abalone, garnished with sancho pepper and micro celery, was so incredibly tender. I was curious of how the warm cabbage consommé would work with the abalone and cabbage underneath but once I got my first bite, I was convinced they were a match made in heaven with all the flavors harmonizing each other wonderfully.

The only thing that looked a little peculiar about this dish was the rice cake that came as a side dish. Not exactly matching the flavors of the abalone and cabbage but I did enjoy the Korean rice wine flavors that came with the rice cake.

Our fish course was next and we're having seared butter fish served with cabbage and green bean purée in an aromatic herb foam. This was an all-around well-executed dish and I love the paper-thin skin which was crispy like a chip.

I had enough steak on this trip already so it would be short ribs for me this afternoon.

These were braised Korean style (Galbi) in a flavorful jujube sauce and served with roasted shallot, onion purée on the side. Some condiments of spinach, white kimchi as well as a bowl of steamed rice with burdock came together as a set. I thought these succulent short ribs were really tasty. Definitely didn't regret taking it over the hanwoo beef at all. 

The other main dish was Hanwoo beef but interestingly, there was a side dish of Korean beef tartare, sweet smoked eel and seaweed chip that showed up first.

Our premium striploin finally showed up after we finished our beef tartare. This looked really nice with seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes. A 'Jang' consommé sauce provided some lovely extra kick.

This was really juicy but would I trade it with my short ribs? Absolutely not!

The first of the two desserts was Peach, a dish that combined peach with dongchimi (Korean radish white kimchi) sorbet and there's also a bit of dongchimi compote and vanilla meringue there for the extra texture.

But I like their Korean-style Mont Blanc a whole lot more. This was a very busy dish featuring Jujube (Korean red date), Korean citron and pear (and of course chestnut).

What looked like a typical Mont Blanc cake had all kinds of interesting ingredients underneath the layer of chestnut vermicelli.

There were custard cream, yuzu, pear and doraji, a Korean root vegetable in the mix but what made it even more stunning was the clever move to sprinkle Korean soy bean paste powder over the top.

After our desserts, we were offered some coffee and tea to finish things off. Just when I thought I was going to be offered English Breakfast tea and Earl Grey, they threw me a curveball and brought me a selection between Jerusalem artichoke, mulberry, buckwheat and coffee beans. Artichoke flavored tea? That sounded interesting!

Petite fours were some Korean inspired canapés including Korean-style sesame candy, caramelized doraji (Korean root vegetable and seaweed cracker. 

The Jerusalem artichoke tea really caught me by surprise. Very artichokey flavors, a little earthy and surprisingly good source to aid my digestion.

I was really happy to be back for my second visit and what an excellent meal that was. Today's menu showcased a parade of well-designed dishes with solid cooking utilizing mostly locally sourced ingredients. I would really like to come back soon if I could somehow get around that children's policy next time.

Food Rating: 8/10
Price: ₩₩₩₩
Address: 1/F, Nonhyun-dong 94-9, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Closest Metro Station: Apgujeong Rodeo / Gangnam-gu Office
Tel: +82 02-515-7306
S. Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants: 11th (2018)
S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants: 78th (2018)

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