Seoul Food: Guilty Pleasure

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Where I come from, brunch isn’t so much a meal as it is an event.  When you go to brunch, you’re not grabbing a quick bite because you woke up too late to have breakfast, but can’t quite wait for lunch.  Brunch is an affair enjoyed at leisure with rich food and great company.  In fact, one might say that Brunch is my favourite guilty pleasure.

Where I come from, brunch isn’t so much a meal as it is an event.  When you go to brunch, you’re not grabbing a quick bite because you woke up too late to have breakfast, but can’t quite wait for lunch.  Brunch is an affair enjoyed at leisure with rich food and great company.  In fact, one might say that Brunch is my favourite guilty pleasure.

Over the weekend I knew there was the possibility of my friend S coming up from Busan.  I was supposed to have had a pool party at the Hamilton Hotel on the Saturday, but because of inclement weather one day in June everything got moved around and the promotions company with which I was partnering got bumped.  Since I’ll be going to Thailand on my actual birthday, S decided to jump on the KTX (bullet train) anyway with another one of our friends as a surprise.  I was shocked to see S standing around with A at Seoul Station, and couldn’t have been more thrilled!  We all went into Itaewon to meet up with a larger group.  We had planned on going to Guilty Pleasure on Saturday, but not knowing exactly who would be showing up, and not having a reservation, we ended up going on Sunday right at 12 PM Noon when they open.

GuiltyPleasureSeoulDecor

We arrived right at 12 and were ushered right in.  The first thing that struck me was the decor.  This restaurant reminded me a lot of the graffiti chic that was popular in Vancouver in 2010-2011.  It’s bold, fun and a little witty (notice the 3 images of the crying woman?  They say “…It’s…All…Over!  I…ate…too much!”).  The dark colours and chandeliers struck me as being rich without trying too hard – just how I would describe the food.

GuiltyPleasureMenu

While the menu isn’t overwhelming in size, the number of options I wanted to try made it a tough choice.  We decided to take a cue from the side plates and share a couple of items, and as it was the Sunday morning after a big Saturday night out we nixed the thought of brunch bevvies (I’m spoiled in Korea and the wine, bubbly, and cocktail menu is priced with a more global perspective [read: splurge]).  Our eyes were much bigger than our stomachs.  We wanted to order the Duck Prosciutto & Scrambled Eggs, the Mac n’ Cheese with Pulled Pork, and the Spinach dip (to share just between two of us).  We opted for the first two seeing as each dish sounded pretty heavy.  I’m glad we did!

Food at Guilty Pleasure Seoul (Itaewon)
From top left clockwise around to centre: Mac n’ Cheese w/ Pulled Pork – ₩ 12, 000 (cauliflower and cheddar base, bacon, lardons, pulled pork, and truffle oil), Side of Bacon – ₩ 4,000, “Sharing is Caring” Plate, Side of Eggs ₩2,000 Bananas Foster with vanilla ice cream (service – birthday treat!), Grandma’s Meatball ₩ 15,000 (sans hoagie or ricotta – we had someone in our group who can’t eat bread or dairy, but normally: Grandma’s special recipe pork and beef meatballs braised in San Marzano tomato sauce with homemade fresh ricotta and basil. Served in an Italian roll), Smoked Ham (service), French Fries ₩4,000, Duck Prosciutto & Scrambled Eggs ₩ 14,000 (Soft scrambled truffle eggs with house made duck prosciutto, served with toasted baguette and grana padano cheese).

The Mac n’ Cheese came out first.  The presentation of this dish is deceptive.  Served in a small cast iron pot, I cut into the middle of the melted cheese to divvy up the servings.  Slicing through the top layer was like cutting cake – I felt like there were two even pieces.  Once I went to separate the two, the ooey-gooey shells fell all over the place.  The sauce was thick, but it still had that smooth, Béchamel sauce feel.  I hate when mac n’ cheese is too runny or thick like glue.  This was neither – it was perfect.  The combination of the cheese and truffle oil was magic.  My only thoughts were that the aromatic truffle oil overpowered the bacon and lardons, and there wasn’t enough pulled pork to make an impression.  I would gladly have had a meatless version of this dish –  it was incredibly rich and flavourful!  The Duck Prosciutto & Scrambled Eggs came out second.  I have never had such light and fluffy scrambled eggs, nor have I ever had them with truffle oil.  I’m pretty particular about flavours when it comes to egg-based dishes.  I had some concerns about adding such rich ingredients to what I prefer to be a light and healthy breakfast (I usually just pop fresh ground pepper on mine).  I would go back again and again for this dish.  The grana padano packed a punch, the fragrance of the truffle oil was mesmerizing, and the texture of the scrambled eggs was unparalleled.  The duck prosciutto worked well, too, as it was melt in your mouth.  I think bacon would have overwhelmed the dish.  The Bananas Foster wasn’t on the menu as a standalone (it’s part of the bourbon French toast).  It was a small, bright dish complimented by fresh mint which cut the taste of the bourbon well.  It was a really nice flavour profile, but next time I’ll definitely be going for the brownie (likely in a to-go box for later).  The smoked ham was quickly enjoyed by my dining companions, and at the end of our meal we were presented with complimentary shooters.  Guys – you went all out.  Thank you for such a wonderful experience and for treating brunch as the event it should be!

Guilty Pleasure Restaurant Seoul
Take Exit 4 of Itaewon Subway Station. Walk straight until you’re across the street from Canucks, then hang a left. Go down to the first main street and turn left. You’ll find a sign pointing you into Guilty Pleasure.

Guilty Pleasure is located at 서울특별시 용산구 이태원로20길 2-10, Seoul, South Korea 140-863 (copy and paste this into Daum Maps for directions to Guilty Pleasure Restaurant in Itaewon, Seoul).  Their hours are:

Tue-Thu: 6:00 pm – 12:00 am

Fri: 6:00 pm – 1:00 am

Sat: 12:00 pm – 3:30 pm, 6:00 pm – 1:00 am

Sun: 12:00 pm – 3:30 pm, 6:00 pm – 12:00 am

Have you had any standout brunches in Seoul (or even in Korea)?  Have any of you been to Guilty Pleasure yet?  Let us know in the comments!

 



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