Jihye Chang

“Cafe”

Jeonkwangsoo Coffee in Myung-Dong area

Again, I introduce a gem in a very busy area without decent coffee culture – that is Myungdong. It’s always jam packed with young couples, tourists, and shoppers of all ages.

Of course there are a lot of coffee shops in Myungdong, but they are mainly chain cafes such as Starbucks, Beans Bins, etc. There is an old fashioned cafe called “Gamu,” but it’s a place to visit more for the nostalgia not for excellent coffee. (They serve “Vienna Coffee” which is strong coffee with lots of whipped cream, not made from milk fat)

For someone who’s looking for a decent single-serve coffee or a good cup of macchiato using the micro-roasted beans, Jeonkwangsoo coffee is a safe choice. Mr. Jeon is one of the so-called “2nd generation coffee people,” and has almost 20 years of experience in the coffee business. Well trained baristas work here, and the price of the “hand-drip” coffee is between 5000-6000 won ($5-6), which is pretty good for the location and the style. They roast their own beans, and there is a coffee academy next door. Their espresso machine is Dalla Corte.

It has become a bit too famous during the past 1-2 years, and they have a few branches all over Seoul and one in Wonjoo. Sometimes the cafe is just too busy (especially when there is a large group of middle-age women. Oh boy they are loud.) But still it’s a cafe where you can be assured of a decent cup of coffee.

They also serve “Thick-Faced Toast” (낯두꺼운 토스트) with butter and jam, but the toast is a bit too thick and dry. Nice jam, though!

Location: Namsan-Dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea (Take the subway line #4/ get off Myungdong station/ Go out via exit #3/ Take the left fork in front of the Pacific hotel and walk for 1-2 minutes. You will see a small coffee shop with a big window on your left.)

Hours: 10am to 10pm

Website: http://jeonscoffee.co.kr/next

Phone: (82) 2-778-0675

MSP greats #2, Patisserie 46

Early morning with a just-baked baguette or a warm and flaky croissant and a cup of double espresso macchiato – these are some of my favorite things in the world. I get happy just thinking of them. Recently I found a very happy place that makes wonderful baguettes, croissants, and French tarts and pastries along with decent espresso drinks, called “Patisserie 46.” (I found it while reading a magazine about Minneapolis.)

Patisserie 46 is located in a nice neighborhood. A tasteful sign that blends well with the red bricks welcomes you.

46

My first visit to Patisserie 46 was during a sunny, cold weekend in late February 2011. There were a lot of people enjoying themselves and it was quite noisy and loud. I asked if I could take photos, and the manager said “yes, of course – fire away!” There were so many people that I shied away from some details, but I think one can get glimpses of this wonderful place via a few of my photos.

I got a piece of quiche Lorraine with organic salad – crunchy, buttery crust filled with nicely balanced egg, cream and bacon bits. The organic salad had a mustard-y dressing and delicious yellow cherry tomatoes! And this was only $7.  My husband got a corned beef and steamed cabbage on baguette for about $6.5. I loved the jute-string presentation, but this sandwich fell a little short compared to the quiche (nothing special or extraordinary, but still good). I also had a chocolate croissant ($2), Canele de Bordeaux ($2.5), and 3 macarons (Pistacchio, Earl Grey, and Mango with white chocolate, $1.75 each)

 

Their double espresso macchiato ($2.75) was good enough – nothing to compare to famous espresso bars, but good for a bakery. No complaints! And the condiment bar has organic cane sugar packs. They source their coffee from Wisconsin’s Great Rivers Roastery, and they use an Astoria machine.

I got their macarons purely out of curiosity. Macarons have become the next best thing after cupcake fad in Korea, and people are crazy about them. I understand that these little meringue cookies are super tricky to make, and the flavor selection can be very interesting. I liked the mango macaroon the best – earl grey was too strong, and pistachio was a bit boring. I think these make a very good dessert option when you’re so full but still wanting something sweet to finish off a meal.

Patisserie 46’s chocolate croissant is awesome – lots of butter flavor, really moist inside, and crusty outside without being too messy.  Canele was good, too. I took home a plain croissant, almond financier, and l’Opera cake as well as a baguette. Their plain croissant was one of the best croissants I have ever had, even compared to the ones in France. The almond financier was also very good. The opera cake was a little bit disappointing as the sheet was too thin and there was too much syrup. I think I will give it another try next time I visit. I am just happy that they carry this fancy little cake! The baguette was also very very good..crusty outside, yeasty and fragrant inside that is moist. I like the baguette at Rustica a little bit more, but both are very good baguettes. Lucky MSP people..!

On my second visit, I bought more macarons, one apricot mousse bomb, and a blood orange tart. The apricot mousse bomb was fantastic! It looked so precious, and it had an amazing construction of custard cream and apricot mousse inside the caramel coating. The taste was so refreshing and complex. I highly recommend this! The blood orange tart, by comparison, was just OK. I also tried three more flavors of macarons – mango and white chocolate, strawberry rhubarb, caramel and orange. These are very well made and just fancy enough (but not too fancy like a foie-gras macaron), but I think I would rather spend my money on more substantial desserts from now on. Macarons are just not my cup of tea. (BTW – someone on an online review site commented that the macarons at Patrick’s are better than Patisserie 46’s. I went to check it out and concluded that really people have different tastes and opinions..)

Other good things: The orange colored walls and dark brown furniture create a warm and playful atmosphere. Nice clerks. They also serve many kinds of chocolates and gelato along with many selections of desserts in the showcase.

Something to keep in mind: Coffee drinks can take a while.  It’s always packed and it’s a very clanking, noisy place. It might overwhelm a first-timer as you need to line up as soon as you enter the store and one of the clerks will ask “Do you know what you want?” before you take a look at the showcase and the tiny little menu items. Oh, and you might experience that many things are sold out as early as 11am.

John Kraus is the owner and the baker of Patisserie 46. Quite famous guy..! I talked to him a little bit on my second visit, and he was so pleasant. (He was the winner of USA Pastry Championship in 2002. You can check out his interview with “Heavy Table” here:  http://heavytable.com/john-kraus-of-patisserie-46/

Also you can check out his short bio here:  http://www.usmenuguide.com/frenchpastryschool.htm

I made a few more visits after my initial 2 visits, and every time I am pleased. I hope this charming neighborhood gem will make many more people happy for many more years!

Choi-Ga Coffee, Seoul

choicafe1_jhjascha

Recently Konkuk University area in Seoul saw a lot of commercial development, including the glitzy Lotte department store and Tower Palace.  With a large university, a few apartment complexes, a big department store, a mega movie theatre, and hundreds of other retail stores, this is one of those busy-traffic areas in Seoul. (Other examples: Dongdaemun market area, Myungdong, and Gangnam station area) Because of the enormous amount of traffic, many of the restaurants in these areas are not that great, and the same effect holds for coffee. However there are always a few gems in these areas, and Choi-Ga Coffee is one of these gems.

Choi-Ga means “Family name Choi”. And yes, the owner of this cafe is Mr. Choi. But “Ga” could also mean “Beauty” in Chinese characters with the same pronunciation as “Family name.” So Choi-Ga has another meaning, the most beautiful, or the best of the best.

This coffee shop has been open since July 28, 2008. Mr. Choi used to work in the hotel business – he worked for the best hotel in Seoul for 20 years as a restaurant manager, development manager, and education consultant. Because he was in the restaurant business at a premium hotel, he got into the world of freshly brewed coffee and espresso early on (before the coffee boom in Korea began), and making and drinking good coffee has been his hobby for a long time.

I found out about this cafe from a Korean blog (http://blog.naver.com/joowoo5?Redirect=Log&logNo=40062426860) last year and befriended the owner while I was visiting Seoul in December 2010. This cafe has been very popular among the locals and students of Konkuk University as well as some who visit from farther away.  Mr. Choi roasts coffee beans at the cafe, using the “Proaster” machine made by the Korean company “Tae-Hwan.” His espresso machine is Gaggia. I personally like the drip coffee much more than any espresso drinks here. Mr. Choi personally makes hand-drip coffee for every single order, and he prepares the strength according to the customer’s preference. (Mild, Medium, and Strong)

Choi-Ga cafe also serves very nice waffles and ice cream. I find waffles to be a very puzzling fad in Korea, especially among the young girls. I never understood the fascination with this – Korean girls do not eat waffles as a breakfast, but they have become popular as a fancy dessert or pass-time snack. Waffles are often decorated with fruits, caramel or chocolate syrup, scoops of ice cream and whipped cream and can have a price tag as high as 12,000 won. (about $11-12) Considering a good meal costs about $5-8, this does not make any sense to me. But somehow young girls go crazy about eating waffles.

Just to make sure I wasn’t missing something amazing about waffles (!), I ordered waffles at three different coffee shops – once at a very big chain (Caffee Bene. This one served below-average coffee and undercooked, soggy waffles), once at a coffeeshop near Sejong University, and once at Choi-Ga cafe. The nut-waffles with blueberry ice cream at Choi-Ga cafe were very tasty and well-prepared. (Small nut-waffle with ice cream is 6500 Won and large size is 11000 won)

choicafe2_jhjascha

I asked Mr. Choi what his coffee “philosophy” is, and his answer was this:

“Coffee is honest. What you put into the cup is what you taste. If you make a cup of coffee with the best beans you have and best skills you can produce, that cup will taste good. I try to make every cup to be the best I can.” And I have the feeling that his philosophy will continue to please many more coffee-craving customers in that busy subway area.

How to get there: Take subway line 6 or 2, and get off at the “Konkuk University” station. Take exit #2. Walk toward the Sejong University direction for about 150m. When you see “Rainbow Glasses” store, turn left. Walk about 60-70m, and it’s on your left side. Look for “최가커피” sign on a wooden panel. 🙂

Phone: 02-465-7998

Pricing: Drip coffees: around 4500Won-6000Won, depending on the beans you choose/ Espresso drinks: around 3500 Won – 5000 Won

Dropp Organic Cafe in Seoul

droppschreierSeoul is bursting with many artsy coffee boutiques. Hand-drip coffee is still the most favored method for drip coffee, and more and more small batch coffee roastery and cafes armed with Clover machine and top line espresso machines (La Marzocco and Dalla Corte are favored) are popping up everywhere. There are some really fantastic cafes and roasters, but many of them are just following the “trend” to make money. I feel as though about half of them will not exist the next time I visit Korea.

Anyways. Buam-dong is the “Seo-rae-maul” of the Gangbook (northern part of the Han River). There are so many little coffee shops and restaurants in this quiet area near Bookak mountain. Club espresso began the trend a few years back, but that coffee shop has lost its touch. Instead I found a newer gem called “Dropp” – a cafe near the Buam-dong office with minimal decoration and sophisticated atmosphere that serves small batch roasted organic coffee.

Young baristas working here seem to be very well trained, and I really loved their espresso macchiato. Silky smooth, sweet, and well balanced. Their drip coffee is also superb.

To go here: Take the subway line #3 (orange line). Get off at the “Gyungbok-gung” station. Go out exit # 3. Walk about 10 meter, and then wait for a bus. Take bus 7022, 7018, 0212,1020 and take off in front of the Buam dong office. The Dropp is on the right side of the three way fork, and it’s near the “Bom” photography shop.

Photo courtesy of Jinho Kim (blog.naver.com/schreier)