Seoul Food Refined (Wall Street Journal)


[November 8, 2012]

  • Writer
  • Photographer

Wrote a restaurant piece for Wall Street Journal Asia about an upscale Korean bistro in Itaewon. Included a recipe. I also took the photos for the piece.

Tteokgalbi passes for a forlorn hamburger patty on many Korean restaurant menus, and it often goes ignored by diners because of its unassuming appearance. Kwon Woo-joong, the chef and owner of East Village in Seoul, wants to redeem it.

“Many restaurants use meat scraps and not the actual rib,” the 32-year-old Seoul native said, pointing out that part of its name, galbi, refers to the rib. “I use not only the rib, but the best part of it.”

Mr. Kwon learned the importance of quality ingredients from his early career as a chef at Omi, a Korean restaurant in Tokyo’s Roppongi district, from 2005 to 2006.

Joe McPherson for The Wall Street Journal

Kwon Woo-joong, chef and owner of East Village.

He honed his style further in New York, creating upscale Korean tasting menus from 2007 to 2008 at Jodie’s Friends, a restaurant that has since closed. He returned to his native Korea in 2008, working at several Seoul restaurants before opening East Village in 2011, hoping to strip away the stuffiness of fine dining while retaining its standards.

“I wanted a new version of Korean food with fresh, farm-to-table ingredients,” he said. “No tricks. Just honesty.”