August 28, 2017

Korea Michelin tour day 4: a mingling of cuisines

Pin It

After a good introduction to contemporary Korean cuisine at lunch today, we move on to another restaurant in the same vein in Gangnam.  Chef owner Mingoo Kang's proposition at Mingles is to present a mingling of traditional Korean cuisine with European and other Asian cuisines and modern techniques.  I had very, very briefly met Chef Mingoo last year at the party for Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in Bangkok, but of course he would not have remembered me.

We were running late tonight because of traffic, and the ones coming from across the river were very late, so we were very apologetic to the staff... and of course apologized to Chef Mingoo when he came out to greet us after our party was finally assembled.  Meanwhile DaRC and I browsed through the wine list looking for a reasonably priced bottle of bong water.

Chef Mingoo had heard about our weekend excursion to Baekyangsa, and mentioned that for almost a year and a half, he made weekend trips almost weekly to spend time with Jeong Kwan sunim.  Now that is some serious dedication!  I guess that is sure to have an impact on the cuisine here...

There's only one seasonal menu here, which saves us from the frustrations we encountered at lunch today.

The sommelier poured us some complimentary Champagne...

William de Montez Brut - dominated by pinot meunier, with makes it more complex and gives it more body.

We were presented with a welcome drink of housemade Oriental watermelon vinegar mixed with 'Korean traditional sake'.  This was a little savory and definitely tasted some watermelon.

Summer: cold summer bean soup - with fig, strands of cucumber, and lemon zest.  Sesame flavors were prominent in addition to fermented beans.  Very refreshing and surprisingly not heavy at all.

Seasonality: seasonal amuse bouche - squid with seaweed oil.  The strands of radish on top were very, very fine, and seemed to deliver a little acidity from pickling. 

Omiza kombucha - the seasonal plum inside delivered a little bitterness, perhaps from tannins in the skin. 

Korean beef striploin tartare - seasoned with gochujang, topped with finely chopped seasonal plum, smoked eel, and sancho (산초) pepper pickled in 2007 which retains the fragrance but is no longer numbing nor tastes like anise.  The deep-fried seaweed on the side had a sticky rice batter.  Compliments of the chef.

Summer veg and shrimp: eggplant, tomato 'namul', 'banga' pesto, poached shrimp - 'half-dried' eggplant and tomato on the bottom, with some crunchiness from another vegetable.  The shrimp is sprinkled with powdered sungeo-al-jeot (숭어알젓) - mullet bottarga.  Garnished with baby coriander leaves.  Cool and delicious.

These little tarts came with summer vegetables such as dried cherry tomatoes and sliced green beans along with ricotta.

Abalone salad - another complimentary dish from the chef.  Slices of blanched abalone with summer peach and Oriental watermelon dressing with cold pine nut juice.  Topped with cured cucumber and herbs, then sprinkled with mango powder.

Another nice and cool dish for the summer, with tender abalone along with peach providing some sweetness.  The creamy dressing was a little powdery and grainy thanks to pine nuts.

Summer zucchini 1: green and yellow zucchini, basil infused zucchini consomme, pumkin rice cake -

A beautiful dish, both in terms of presentation as well as flavors. The thin slices of zucchini, carrots, and squash came with zucchini oil. The basil, cucumber, and vegetable consommé was just beautiful... and actually tasted a lot like tomato water à la Raymond Blanc, with plenty of umami. If I had to pick one dish from tonight which elicited emotion, this would be it. Simplicity is not simple.

The spongy rice cakes came with a filling of pumpkin (not pumkin) mash that had a hint of citrus, with cinnamon on top.

Summer zucchini 2: zucchini flower stuffed with dubu and crab, zucchini and tomato 'bugak' - the deep-fried zucchini flower stuffed with tofu and crab was very, very good. The seawater eel (穴子) has had its bones broken, then deep-fried in rice wine batter. Served on a bed of crab and mussel broth porridge cooked with zucchini, courgette, and squash, with some radish kimchi and corn on top. We also have crab meat and deep-fried pumpkin, and a sprinkling of seaweed powder on top. Lots going on here on the plate.

Egg and roll: summer veg egg custard, 'namul' quiche - the steamed organic egg custard came with diced chorizo that delivered some acidity and spiciness, along with green peas and summer vegetables. This came with two layers of foam: cauliflower, egg white, and truffle oil. At the very top was summer vegetable foam and herb powder.

Rice roll wrapped with summer seaweed and stuffed with myeongnan-jeot (명란젓) - or salted pollock roe - and pickled asparagus and green peas. Pretty good.

Deep-fried summer vegetable seasoned with gochujang, stuffed with paprika jam and ricotta. Very nice.

Fish: Mingles style seasonal fish - the steamed butterfish (샛돔) was very soft and succulent, served on a bed of pan-seared potato 'steaks' with summer sweet corn foam, and a ring of spiced paprika sauce.

Cucumber and watermelon sorbet - more like granité...

Lamb: charred lamb, 'doen-jang' vegetable ash, seasonable vegetables - the lamb was marinated in doenjang (된장) for 24 hours, which served to tenderize the meat while softening and neutralizing the gamey flavors of the lamb - now, why would anyone want that??!! Served with charcoal-grilled asparagus, and smoked aubergine purée.

The lamb was nicely done, with sauce made from lamb jus and seasoned with rosemary - my least favorite herb. These pieces certainly weren't lammy enough for me... BUT, that little piece next to the asparagus, with all that extra lamb fat just under the skin... now THAT was incredibly tasty. Why couldn't they have given me 5 or 6 more pieces like that?!

Korean beef: high quality striploin, 'jang' consomme sauce, seasonable vegetables - naturally Hello Kitty took the beef, which came with a sauce made from beef brisket broth and soy sauce. Served with charcoal-grilled onion, onion purée, and cherry.

The 1++ striploin was VERY good. Chef Mingoo used to source his beef from Born and Bred - where we'll be having dinner tomorrow - but has recently switched suppliers. This was soooo much better than the beef at Jungsik today.

A little porridge with beef...

Chef Mingoo seemed determined that we should taste EVERYTHING on the current menu - even those we didn't order or supposedly have stomach space for... so he sent us two extra noodle dishes to share...

Jang noodle - the noodles took inspiration from the Korean jajangmyeon (炸醬麵) - which I jokingly refer to as 'fake Chinese food' - and so the capellini was seasoned with squid ink, seaweed, soy sauce, doenjang, anchovy stock, and dashi (出汁). This gives the noodles an incredible depth of flavor - almost a little pungent. It's then topped with char-grilled prawns and fresh sea urchin. VERY delish from all the flavors of the sea.

Guksu (잔치국수) - the roasted anchovy broth for the buckwheat noodles also tasted of kelp. Very clean and precise flavors. Again, elegant simplicity that is actually not so simple.

Peachimi - a layer of white meringue topped with peach sorbet infused with kimchi juice, topped with thin slices of radish carrying kimchi juice oil and extra virgin olive oil. A complex combination of flavors... with sweetness, acidity, savory, and spiciness - while also delivering a whole range of textures in the mouth.

Jang trio - made with three jang (장) or fermented pastes: doenjang, gochujang, and ganjang (soy sauce). A savory crème brûlée flavored with doenjang, with vanilla ice cream and cappuccino and whisky foam, with a sprinkle of toasted rice and grains sprinkled with gochujang powder, as well as pecans caramelized with ganjang. A very interesting mix of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors. Chef sent out extra portions of this so that we could all have a taste.

We thought the dude from City Foodsters was fading from jetlag... until he suddenly sprang to life upon smelling and tasting this dessert. I think this thing alone recharged his battery back up to 100%... or maybe it simply tapped into his backup battery.

Petits fours - rice cake, passion fruit jelly, and seaweed cracker.

DaRC picked out a bottle of bong water for us. And it really was bong water and not wine...

2014 Léon Barral Blanc - nose of honey, apple cider, slightly pungent with a little minerality.  Is this really wine?

This was an excellent dinner. I felt that while both lunch and dinner today centered on Korean flavors, the approaches were completely different. For me, Mingles delivered dishes which were more nuanced, with more complexity. Chef Mingoo really did try to 'mingle' different influences and flavors together and delivered quite a few surprises which were thought-provoking. And that makes this meal much more interesting. Many thanks to Chef Mingoo and his team for pampering us with all the extra goodies.

P.S. If I have to gripe about something, I'd have the say that the lighting in the restaurant (and our private room) was a complete disaster for those of us trying to take pictures. The combination of incandescent light with blue light meant setting white balance was impossible... so we all resorted to having our partners illuminate dishes with their smartphone screens...

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map