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Frieze Seoul 2022

Seoul Food: A Guide for Art Lovers

Recommendations from cult Instagram account @oottoogi for restaurants and dishes to try across the city's artistic hubs

in Frieze Seoul , Frieze Week Magazine | 24 AUG 22


Taking place at the Convention & Exhibition Center in Seoul’s central business district of Samseong-dong, Frieze Art Fair is located at the heart of a cluster of authentic Korean restaurants. Michelin-starred Kkotji, for instance, is renowned for its signature dishes made with crab sourced directly from Korea’s west coast, including the must-try classic ganjang ghejang: raw crab meat marinated in soy sauce and served with rice in a crab shell. Nearby Gom Ba Wie offers a range of excellent grilled ox-meat dishes, including yang gui (grilled ox tripe) and daechang gui (grilled ox offal), cooked over a traditional BBQ table for an authentic Korean dining experience. If you’re looking for an early morning tonic following a long celebratory night, try the local hangover cure of haejang-guk – a staple broth served at Joongang Haejang. Those who favor a plant-based diet, on the other hand, can enjoy kongbiji (pureed soybean soup) at Piyangkong Halmani. For afternoon refreshments, The Lounge at Park Hyatt serves a selection of exquisite Korean teas sourced from three renowned tea-growing regions – Boseong, Hadong and Jeju – or why not treat yourself to a glass of gowoon-dal (gracious moon), a distinctive Korean brandy made with omija (schisandra berry). 

All illustrations by Yeji Yun
All illustrations by Yeji Yun


Samcheong-dong district is home to some of Korea’s leading art institutions and galleries, including the Art Sonje Center, Hakgojae Gallery, Gallery Hyundai, Kukje Gallery, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, One and J Gallery, and Seoul Museum of Craft Art, as well as a number of excellent Korean restaurants. Hwang Saeng Ga Kalguksu is renowned for its fresh noodles prepared by hand on the premises, such as kalguksu: knife-cut noodles made from a thin dough served in a rich beef broth. In the same way that Italians make pasta, Koreans either hand-shape or machine-cut the noodle dough before adding it to boiling broth. At Samcheong-dong Sujebi, sample a bowl of classic sujebi (hand-pulled dough soup) – perfect in its simplicity. For a delicious afternoon treat, don’t miss the Korean teas and desserts on offer at Yeon Gyeong Dang. Due to the tearoom’s limited capacity, however, advance booking is essential on naver.com. (Click on ‘Reservations’ to open the page in English.) The best-known Korean street food, tteokbokki (simmered rice cake), can be found throughout the city but, for a novel experience, why not sample this must-try delicacy at Poongnyun Ssalnongsan – a small establishment in a former rice mill. If you find the red chili sauce too fiery, why not balance it out with a glass of delightfully sweet sikhye (rice juice) or opt instead for tteokkochi (fried rice cake skewers in a sweet and sour sauce)? Within walking distance of Samchseong-dong is the neighboring City Hall area, where you will find a number of museums and historic sites. These include Seoul Museum of Art, housed in a 100-year-old building that was formerly home to the Seoul Supreme Court, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Deoksugung, located inside the Joseon Dynasty Deoksu Palace, and the independent art organization ilwoo, which specializes in photography exhibitions. Top picks for restaurants in this area are Yurimmyeon, which serves Japanese soba and udon noodles with a Korean twist, Deoksujung for a timeless dining experience of pork BBQ or Korean army stew paired with a glass of soju, or Namdo Sikdang for a hearty bowl of chuetang (loach soup). 

All illustrations by Yeji Yun
All illustrations by Yeji Yun


This former market district is currently enjoying a revival as a new creative hub packed with experimental, artist-run spaces – including 55ooofff, Catalogue, Gongganhyung, Junggan Jijum, n/a and Sangup Hwarang – making it ideal for a day of gallery-hopping. The area is also home to a number of long-established independent stores, now sadly threatened with closure due to planned redevelopment, making a visit here all the more essential. For eateries, try the highly recommended combination of Pyeongyang-style nangmyeon (buckwheat noodles in cold soup) and bulgogi (thin slices of marinated meat) at Wooraeok. Another delicious yet unusual pairing of kodari jjim (sweet and spicy pollock) with sogogi jeon (beef nuggets) can be found at Woohwa Sikdang. Pork BBQ served with minari (water celery) is on the menu at Daeji Sikdang – the celebrated dish that also featured in Lee Isaac Cheung’s eponymous film, Minari (2020). The menu at Wooiljip is about as broad-ranging and intriguing as it gets in Eulji-ro, with lunchtime offerings featuring kalguksu while dinner options include gopchang (assorted meat BBQ, mainly comprising cow intestines). Vegans should head to Eulji Sujebi for bibimbap (mixed rice dish) and gamja jeon (potato pancakes).  

All illustrations by Yeji Yun
All illustrations by Yeji Yun


Since the Leeum Museum of Art launched in 2004, several international galleries have opened branches in the Hannam-dong area of the city, including Lehmann Maupin, PACE, Thaddaeus Ropac and Various Small Fires. During Frieze Week Seoul, each of these international spaces will be hosting exhibitions, as will neighboring Korean galleries such as Amado Art, Foundry Seoul, Gallery Baton and Pipe Gallery. For food options in the area, Parc offers modern takes on Korean classics – from light lunches to hearty evening meals – with a menu that is accessible to local and international diners alike. The plant-based namul (steamed seasonal vegetables) or jeotjal (salted seafood), delicious served with plain rice, are two side plates worth ordering to accompany your entrées. Parc also provides the option of pairing your meal with a selection of wines or traditional Korean drinks to enhance your dining experience. Nanpo’s signature seasonal roll is a Japanese take on a Korean favorite: rice rolled in aged kimchi and topped with finest-quality sashimi. For a modern twist on traditional Korean cuisine, try gangdenjan ssambap (leaf rice ball with beef miso paste). Another beloved broth – and favored Korean hangover remedy – is bugukuk (dried pollock soup), although the tapas served at Hanam Bugukuk are so tempting that you’re likely to find yourself staying for just one more drink! 

All illustrations by Yeji Yun
All illustrations by Yeji Yun


Numerous cultural and culinary delights can, of course, also be found beyond the Korean capital. On Jeju Island, for instance, the Bonte Museum, the Podo Museum, and the Museum of Water, Wind and Stone are all well worth exploring. Visitors to the island can also enjoy a wide range of freshly caught seafood as well as pork from the indigenous Jeju Black. Apbadang is a small, intimate restaurant with tables offering panoramic sea views, where you can sample freshly grilled badat janguh (sea eel). Alternatively, Gogisori, which specializes in Jeju Black, serves every cut of pork imaginable cooked to your precise specification, providing an excellent introduction to this exquisite meat. If you are visiting Gwangju for the biennial or to see the Asia Culture Center, be sure to try local specialties yukjeon (pan-fried battered meat) and bori gulbi (yellow croaker fish aged in barley). You can order both – along with a variety of side dishes – in the cozy dining room at Honghane. Vegan options include refreshing kong kuksu (noodles in cold soybean soup) at Matdol Kongmul Kuksu, while for drinks and freshly made desserts, pop into the Chekwa Sanghwal bookstore. Finally, South Korea’s second largest city, Busan, hosts its own biennial and has two major public institutions: Busan Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Art Busan. To sample the flavors of this coastal city, head to Haeundae Amsogalbi for their grilled tender ribs, marinated in a sweet soy sauce, with a side of potato noodles. Myeongmul Hetjip, in Busan’s lively Jagalchi Fish Market, serves freshly prepared sashimi with a Korean twist, using the leftover fish bones to create a rich broth to round off your meal. 

For more art and dining recommendations, follow @oottoogi on Instagram.

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This article first appeared in Frieze Week Seoul

Text by @oottoogi  / 글 – 우뚜기 @oottoogi

All illustrations by Yeji Yun