Saturday, March 24, 2018

Dosa by Akira Back Seung-Wook (Seoul, SOUTH KOREA) ★★★☆☆

I have never been very good with picking things in my life (wife, career, job, wardrobe...) so quite honestly, I rather have someone pick the dinner venue tonight. There are quite a number of upscale restaurants in this part of Gangnam (Kwon Sook Soo, Votre Maison, Dosa and Ristorante Eo just to name a few) making things even more complicated. At last, I ended up picking Dosa over the other Michelin starred restaurants for no particular reason.

Located in the basement of a commercial building near Cheongdam-dong, Dosa is a concept by Chef Back Seung-wook, better known as Akira Back. Born in Korea and raised in Aspen, Colorado, chef Back went on a journey that saw him going from Colorado to Japan and Europe before settling back in United States. During his travel around the world, he honed his skills working under some of the finest Japanese chefs including Masaharu Morimoto and Nobu Matsuhisa. He began building his own culinary empire in 2008 and now owns different restaurants in Las Vegas, Dubai, Singapore, Toronto, Jakarta, Hanoi and New Delhi. At Dosa, Chef Back aims to offer his brand of innovative cuisine while paying homage to his Korean roots.

After making our way down the stairs to the basement, we finally arrived at the main dining room with a clear view of the open kitchen right in front of us. The restaurant offers two dinner tasting menu, which are simply called "Dinner A" (100,000 won) and "Dinner B" (130,000 won). The only difference setting those two apart was the number of courses (7 vs. 9).

A trio of small nibbles helped to set our meal in motion. There was a sago chip with chicken and apple, beef tartare served on a sesame leaf and last but not least, a fish ball served with a special sauce. 

It was followed by a further and final amuse bouche, minced lobster marinated with Gochujang (Korean chili sauce) served in a Japanese-style seaweed cone, like a Japanese sushi cone. They sure knew how to make an entrance with the container shining brightly in the dimly lighted dining room but other than the flashy entrance, there was very little to cheer about from the amuse bouche.

Pizza - Dinner officially kicked off with Dosa's signature dish, Pizza. Here we had slices of mushroom and zucchini served with aromatic truffle.

Personally, I thought it's a "tale of two flavors". The king mushrooms dipped in truffle oil and sprinkled with black truffle were very delicious and irresistible for the palate while on the other side of the spectrum, the zucchini was struggling a bit to cope with the scent of truffles. 

Raw Fish - The second course of the menu was raw halibut with fried shallots. There was a bit of sour sauce on the side as a dip.

Dumpling - Next up was a spring roll with potato, eggplant and mushroom fillings. The roll itself was made with crispy sesame leaf and there was some simple garnish of red and white radish on top. The key of the dish was supposed to be the three sauces with contrasting flavors - herb (green), chili (red) and miso (yellow) but I didn't find that as an exciting addition to the dish at all.

Chestnut - Finally, a dish I enjoyed having. The silky smooth chestnut soup was very nice to go with the croutons and mushrooms.

At this point in time, our server brought along some charcoal bread which was supposed to match the chestnut soup well (Notice only the ones in the middle are edible!).

Lobster - I was pretty disappointed with this lobster dish.

I thought the seaweed Beurre Blanc was pretty nice, so were the fried spring onion and potato wafer but the lobster was too mushy for my liking. Not the usual bouncy texture I was expecting.

Fish - Our fish course tonight was pan fried sea bream that came with some nice and crispy scales. Definitely not bad. One point worth noting was the artwork printed on the plate. These wonderful drawings came from none other than chef Back's mother. The chef loved them so much that he decided to print them onto some of their plates.

Bo-Ssam - Our meat dish was bo-ssam (Korean roast pork) prepared with Chef Back's own recipe. Before the pork fillets were served, our server brought over a wooden box to show us how they were smoked with hay.

The smoke finally cleared and there they were, our smoked pork fillets!

The succulent pork was smokey and full of flavors. Even without the kimchi, green onion and Korean chili paste, it could shine on its own.

Look at that nice marbling. Lovely (personally, I would rather have it without the kimchi and cilip paste and just let the smoked pork shine!). 

Fulvescens Rice - Probably the best dish of the night just ahead of the smokey Bo-Ssam. On top of the seaweed flavored rice were all kinds of goodies including sea urchin, abalone and raw sea bream. Just when I tried to mix everything together, I realized that there were assorted vegetables and Korean chili paste hidden underneath the rice. Pretty interesting mix of flavors and very nice kick from the chili paste. I would rank it right up there with Jungsik's sea urchin bibimbap.

Perfect timing for these Korean-style palate cleansers to show up after all the Korean chili paste from the previous two dishes.

Parfait - Citrus parfait in the shape of an asparagus matched with strawberry granita. 

If there's any citrus flavor in the parfait, it must be pretty mild (tasted more like white chocolate to me).

"Sujeonggwa" Egg - A broken egg dessert with mango and cinnamon. Decent.

Our petite fours were served on this interesting looking wooden "container".

Fine dining has been getting more and more expensive in Seoul these days and it's getting to a point where it's difficult to justify paying 100,000 to 150,000 won for a meal with very little upside. Personally, I have been trying to avoid going to these expensive dinners mainly because most of these fine dining restaurants in Seoul (Dosa included) serve virtually the same (or similar) menu for both lunch and dinner but they are charging twice (or three times) as much for dinner. That's crazy. For the same price, I could have a very good meal in Hong Kong, Tokyo or any part of the world for that matter.

Back to this meal at Dosa now. I thought this has to be one of the least satisfying dining experience from a Michelin starred restaurant since I started traveling around the world 10 years ago (setting foot in over 40 different countries). Well, maybe with the exception of Carpe Diem Finest Fingerfood in Salzburg. That was a truly horrible Michelin starred experience.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: ₩₩₩₩
Address: B1 Park B/D, Dosandaero 67gil-7 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Closest Metro Station: Apgujeong Rodeo
Tel: +82 02-516-3672

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