Recently, the boyfriend and I celebrated our 12yr anniversary. It’s become a bit of a tradition to find an interesting/unique place to have our celebratory lunch or dinner at. This year we went for a more traditional approach and found a hanok-style restaurant that serves traditional Korean cuisine.
At the foot of Inwangsan Mountain, stands a lovely traditional Korean restaurant called Seokparang. Initially I chose it because I love hanok style restaurants, but what’s even better is that this one has quite a history. It was built during the last phase of of the Joseon period and was home to Prince Daewongun (흥선대원군), who also went by the pen name “Seokpa” (석파). The restaurant itself occupies what was once the prince’s private library and guesthouse.
Although it wasn’t until 1993 that the villa was turned into a restaurant, it still preserves the 1,000yr old roof-end tiles, architectural style and chinese style wall used in the construction of royal palaces. It also bears the grey brick walls and circular & semi circular windows that were typical of houses built for the ruling class.
Inspired by its rich history, Seokparang specializes in serving traditional royal court cuisine with dishes that change seasonally, using only ingredients that are in season in Korea and recipes that have been passed down from the chefs of palace kitchens. Their menu offers 3 different course options for both lunch and dinner and vary in both size and price.
While the top option on the lunch menu (with more courses) was tempting, we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to finish it so we ordered the 2nd option called 진찬 (Jinchan). For appetizers, they started us off with a tasty bowl of 전통죽 (traditional porridge) which happened to be 단호박 (sweet pumpkin). It’s one of my favourite types or porridge! They also brought us a salad and 계절 전유화 (Seasonal Korean style pancakes). These pancakes, often referred to as “jeon,” typically consist of round slices of vegetables, seafood or poultry that have been dipped in egg or batter and then fried. In this case, we were given pieces of egg-dipped fish and squash. While they we both delicious, I really enjoyed the fish the most. It was so soft it just felt apart in my mouth.
However, I think my favourite appetizer was the 칠절판 (chiljeolpan). This roughly translates to “seven section plate” and consists of crepe-like pancakes called miljeonbyeong (밀전병) surrounded by a selection of various veggies and meats. This dish dates back as early as the 14th century, but what’s interesting about this dish is that each ingredient is separated and arranged on the plate according to color. It was created with the specific purpose of being colorful and aesthetically appealing. Even today it still regarded as one of Korea’s most beautiful dishes.
Moving on to the main, we were served 수삼과 함께 쪄낸 보쌈 (braised pork belly with fresh ginseng). The pork was incredibly tender and came with a side of salted cabbage and radish which you eat together in a wrap fashion. Next was the 대하찜 (steamed prawn) followed by the 메로구이와 부추 초무침 (Grilled Codfish with Korean Leek). The boyfriend and I both agreed that this was the best of the main dishes. The fish was flavourful and so tender it came apart with the touch of a fork. We couldn’t get enough.
The 너비아니와 자연송이구이 (Grilled marinated beef) with sautéed mushrooms and fresh pine nuts was a close second. The beef was well marinated and super tender. By this point we were already quite full, but there was still one final main dish which we were given two options for. My boyfriend selected the 온면 which was a seafood noodle soup with an anchovy broth. I’m not a fan of anchovy, so I opted for the 석파랑 5첩 반상 which consisted of 된장 찌개 (fermented soybean paste stew), a bowl of rice and 5 side dishes. Both selections were very good, though nothing out of the ordinary.
Finally, to round out our meal we were served dessert. Personally, I’ve always found Korean cuisine to be a bit lacking in the dessert area, but I was pleasantly surprised by our dish. We were each served a plate of 수삼 대추 튀김과 꿀 (deep fried Korean date with fresh ginseng and honey) along with a slice of asian pear, a piece of black sesame rice cake and a cup of 전통차 a type of sweet traditional tea. It was the perfect ending to such a filling meal, something sweet, but not too heavy.
Overall we really enjoyed our meal. My only complaint would be that the dishes came out a bit too quickly for my tastes, so I felt a bit rushed. Other than that, the service was great and the atmosphere was calm and intimate. After our meal was walked around the garden a bit and took some pictures. It was the perfect ending to a lovely anniversary lunch.