Eat · Travel

차우기 Bistrot Chaugi


Visited on 20150422

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Bistrot Chaugi is situated in a street away from 운현궁. I did not know that this was the restaurant helmed by chef 정창욱 till I saw him walking out of the kitchen to greet some customers while in the middle of my meal. I am so happy to chance upon Bistrot Chaugi after my visit to Unhyeongung in the area because I remembered watching one of the episodes of 냉장고 부탁해 at my Korean friend’s place last year. He was one of the chefs in this culinary cook-off programme and had great cooking skill. I really liked the way he prepared pork meat in that episode was not too difficult to follow and cook it yourself yet looking scrumptious at the same time. It was quite amazing.

(Some last minute background info that I collated online, might be true to only a certain extend but how much I’m not very sure honestly as there are really too little about him on the net.)
Chef Jeong Chang Wook is famed for being a 맛깡패 meaning – ‘taste gangster’, credits to his ability to create a new dish suited to the guests’ tastebud that won him many star badges against opponent chefs in the programme I mentioned above. His origins are from Japan and also further honed his culinary techniques during his time in Hawaii.

The restaurant ambience was great and music played suited to the atmosphere, light and jazzy.

Furnishings are elegant in a clean white concept with simple decor placed in the restaurant as well. If you sit near the window on a sunny day, some sunlight falls thru and it is very beautiful.

There are a total of 4 chefs here including celebrity chef Jeong Chang Wook and the whole restaurant can sit about 30 people. The place was almost filled up during lunch and slight chatting noises can be heard through the restaurant. Customers’ dress code are not comparable to that of fine dining but dressed smart casual.

I would love to feature Bistrot Chaugi in one of the magazines I am currently engaged for but unfortunately, not only I miss the chance to have a picture with him, I also did not have a chat with him after my meal to learn more in-depth on what I had tasted and give feedbacks. It was a great pity and later when you continue reading this review, you will feel how sad I felt :(
It was my last second day in Seoul and with the amount of destinations still uncovered on job, its just impossible I schedule another visit to Bistrot Chaugi so the magazine can’t grant me approval for publishing this restaurant review without a proper interview with him but nevertheless here’s my personal review instead!

Apparently, I was told by the table beside me that sat 2 ladies, I was really lucky to have a seat in Bistrot Chaugi without any reservation.  I came at 1pm and had my slow paced meal till the lunch closing at 2.30pm.

Served by a good looking waiter, he was good mannered and polite. Perhaps this restaurant caters really towards the Koreans, his english wasn’t so good too. I heard him informing the kitchen when I entered ‘there’s a foreigner that speaks english’. I simply laughed it off as this happened every single time I enter a Korea restaurant and even during shopping on the streets that the staffs see a supposingly chinese looking girl but speaking english is strange as they probably thought I hailed from China.

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Like any Korean establishment, Bistrot Chaugi provides drinking water. This is a culture I really like about Korea that Singapore don’t practise mandatory.

The menu is framed up, and on it shows a lunch executive menu sort of.
Salade, Entreé, Plat, Dessert 50 (abbreviation for 50,000Won)
Salade, 2 Entreé, Plat, Dessert 65 (abbreviation for 65,000Won)
and if you have at least 2 to a table, you can try the tasting course for 99,000Won / 120,000Won. (Something like a degustation)

I chose the Shrimps w/ Sauce Aioli for my entreé, Pan-seared Scallops w/ Brown Butter as my mains and paired with their house choice white wine – Island Easter, Sauvignon Blanc

♥♥♥♥ SaladeStudio_20150426_165626

Consists of salad greens, boiled egg, bell peppers, crunchy cucumber cubes with a light dressing

The salad greens are baby spinach? There were no raw smell that uncooked greens usually produces. It has a mild spicy tinge to it and mixed with the sweet bell peppers that were broiled and cucumbers cut to bite size was so refreshing on the palate. The yellow and white bits you see in the picture was an extremely clever way of preparation by sieving the boiled egg through a cooking sieve to imitate the texture of caviar. The chewing experience was definitely different from your ordinary salad. Dressing was light yet it had a good consistency to coat the greens.

♥♥♥♥♥ Entreé – Shrimps w/ Sauce AioliStudio_20150426_172501

This is a cold dish. Big succelent shrimps are cooked to al dente then topped with thinly sliced red turnip, tangerine bits, baby greens, coarsely grinded peppercorns and served on a good Aioli sauce!

[By the time I was served the shrimps, I heard someone from the kitchen asking the waiter who served me what was my first reaction when the dish arrived and I heard him answering presentation. Well, he probably missed out me smelling the dish first then checking on presentation of the dish 2nd? That was my habitual action of turning the plate round, a habit accumulated from the job when I need to do photographing by myself and trying to find the best angle to take a shot of the food is something I dread. I still find photographing sceneries and human nature easier than food photography.]

I am one who is very picky with her shrimps and normally I don’t call for them unless I have trust in the chef. I simply loved this! My very first whiff to check for any fishy smell coming from the shrimps which I extremely hate just as if I’m visiting the fish market, but there wasn’t and so proved that the shrimps were well picked and prepared. The shrimps are cooked just right to teeth and retained its sweet seafood freshest. The coarsely grinded peppercorns gave the tastebud a slight numb before the spicyness kicks in. Tangerine bits were a bonus to refresh the palate with a fruity fragrance to counter the peppercorns.

But what left me totally awed was the sauce prepared! This aioli is one of the best I have tried!!
In case you do not know what is Aioli, read my description below.
[Aioli is a sauce that originates from a place called Provence in Southeastern France. Usually made of garlic, olive oil and even egg yolk with seasoning according to different home recipes’ call for. The taste is almost the same as what you would taste in an Aglio Olio that literally means garlic and oil but much richer in volume due to the egg yolk used.]

This sauce really got me surprised with an extra burst of citrus.
I am not sure if it was tangerine? or was it lemon exactly?? It lessen the spicyness that the peppercorns were building up in my mouth.
The smooth creamy texture was really similar to a mayonnaise but NO! It is definitely lighter than mayonnaise. I was overwhelmed to the point I kept asking myself this 와우! 이 어떻게 만들어? 맛있어!!

The result of mixing these myriad of flavours together? Excellente!!

♥♥♥ Plat – Pan-seared Scallops w/ Brown ButterStudio_20150426_185358

4 big scallops and grilled vegetables topped with baby greens served on green pea sauce

The big scallops were very fresh but cooked a little tough, slight pity if it could have been cooked less long, that would be perfect. The juicyness were not maximised but the freshness could still be tasted. The grilled young shoots and asparagus were lovely with its natural sweetness still maintained. I cannot comment if the buttery blended pea sauce was a compliment to the dish or not as it covered the scallop’s taste quite alot. It was a total surprise that the pea sauce was presented without being mentioned in the menu. Caused me quite a shock actually as I was expecting brown butter sauce? Its neither very sweet nor savoury, still a very nice pea sauce if paired with grilled sea bass instead. It will be a popular choice with those who love a richer consistency for their sauces. This main course came after I had a salad of mild spicyness in the greens and lots of peppercorn in the entree of shrimps, so it really left me little impression unfortunately. I would probably want to have this main then followed by the shrimps instead. However to my surprise, this dish paid off with the white wine I ordered and both really had a great match.

I was greatly interested in the lamb steak that one of the ladies’ beside me had for mains. Sad is I don’t take lamb meat but it did look fabulous in regards of meat colour, proportion, texture and control of rawness. I am guessing the chef is more skilled in making dishes with meat, as seen on the television programme as well. Hope the next time I visit, I can try out the dinner menu and get to taste a meat dish instead!

[My curiosity kills as I started to converse with the lady beside me probing on why her friend didn’t complete her lamb steak and fortunately I was told its delicious but portion was big for her. This bad habit from work again made me look funny as they gossiped about me later on when the friend returned from the washroom. Singaporean spirit means ‘Kaypo’ – busybody.]

Additionally, I need to mention the choice of house pour is an important factor in making a reasonable priced meal still taste classy without feeling ‘cheapo’ due to the lower price tag. I am very satisified with the house pour, Island Easter – Sauvignon Blanc.

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[taken from web: Island Easter is named after the Moai statues located on the most inhabited islands of the world. This is a chilean wine, greenish-yellow in colour, with a fruity, herbaceous and peachy aroma. It is semi-dry on the palate and have a alcohol content of 13%.]

I really enjoy the aroma of this white wine. In fact, the herbaceous taste or rather slight musk smell was so attractive to drink on its own. Its not too fruity or sweet. It brought out the pan-seared scallops’ scent and I was left content with the scallops in the end.

♥♥♥♥ Fresh Brewed Coffee & Homemade YogurtStudio_20150427_143453

Dessert served was a small cup of black coffee alongside with a homemade yogurt. I could savour a refreshing fruity scent in the yogurt but I don’t quite fancy eating cold stuff then immediately washing it off with a hot coffee. The fresh brew was quite fine on its own, aromatic and had a flavourful body while acidity does not reach the sourish aftertaste where some coffees do produce due to some reasons. Also, a hindsight of the waiter on hygiene – he should serve another serviette along with the dessert spoon instead of laying the spoon on the table directly especially after one had reached the end of her meal, table might not be so clean.

[I was the last customer to leave the restaurant and I took opportunity to have good shots of the restaurant without anyone in it. If you do media, you will agree how troublesome it is to photoshop/mosaic and you need to credit whatever that shows up unintentionally in your photos due to certain copyrights. Having some hopes the chef will be free to have a short chat but turns out he was busy so could not spare time for a picture together for me, a fan after watching him on the programme. Slightly disappointed, I was told to leave and while still photographing the restaurant from outside, I met him in person waving goodbye to me from the window and I thought there was chance for picture together but still, failed in doing so. Subsequently, I tried my luck again and instead, one of the chefs told me that he’s in a meeting at that moment and I was told to leave again after I conveyed I am hoping for a chance to do have a talk with the chef and reply was the chef’s schedule was packed for the week. Subsequently, it was unfortunate I realised after posting my short review on the main course that chef 정창욱 blocked me on instagram. Shocked 😨!! I did not mean anything bad or perhaps my suggestions and feedback was not favourable enough? I’m not so sure but I have a hunch he might even think I’m a spy from other restaurant?? I was on my tablet almost throughout my meal trying hard to enjoy my food and completing my heavy workload on the previous Busan travel at the same time. Hope he didn’t take it too hard as a disrespect on that. This is definitely my first time encountering such problem after the last issue 2 years back where a misunderstanding arose when interviewing a Michelin restaurant’s Belgium chef at the end of my meal and he was acting all arrogant towards me because I spit out peanuts and he did not understand I have an allergy of, thinking I don’t appreciate his creation. I am feeling somehow ridiculous I apologised without knowing the real reason behind this but anyways I did sent chef정찬욱 2 rounds of email apology written in my ‘best’ written korean that I tried so hard (I speak much better than I write :( ) but with no signs of his reply unfortunately. So I guess this matter is left unresolved!?

Overall rating ♥♥♥♥

Generally, I experienced attentive service from the staff, and he clears the table quickly once you complete a course. Portion of food served was satisfactory and at times might be too much for a lady. I tasted food of good quality and worthy of the value paid. Perhaps the menu is not suitable for children but its a good dining place for couples on dates.

Bistrot Chaugi
서울특별시 종로구 운니동 45-3
45-3 Unni-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
☎02-915-0105

[Directions: Exit 4 from Anguk Station Line #3, walk straight pass Unhyeongung into Samil-daero 32-ro and turn left into yulgok-ro 6-gil. Bistrot Chaugi is on your right. Approximately 10 minutes walk.]

Opening hours:
mon & tue-sat (lunch)12pm-2.30pm, (dinner)6pm-10pm
close on tuesday and sunday

http://www.chaugi.com (in korean)

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