CONTRIBUTED BY KELLY GARCIA
I don’t know about you guys, but when it comes to anniversaries, sometimes you get your “on” years and sometimes your “off” years. This year was an on year for sure. My good husband told me he had some fab spa pampering planned followed by dinner at a fancy off-the-beaten-path French American bistro called Tavern 38. Good job, Husband! I was excited all week.
And what I was REALLY looking forward to the dinner out. “What is this place? Where did you find it?” “Oh, just some internet searches,” he said. “Apparently, the chef worked at this place called Bouchon in California owned by some famous guy named Thomas Keller.”
Now, I’m no foodie, but hearing this Korean chef is somehow affiliated with Thomas Keller got me pretty stoked.
Read this sidebar to find out why. Or if you don’t care, you can skip it. I won’t be offended!
I’ve got this friend named Jose who used to bus tables at Per Se in New York City, another famous restaurant owned by this Thomas Keller dude. One day Jose brought home a bag full of leftover dinner rolls from work. He took them out of the bag for me, his wife and his kid to share and I took a bite of the bread. I swear, that was the best friggin’ dinner roll I have ever, WILL ever, taste in my life. So, if this Tavern 38 has some sort of connection to THAT dinner roll, hell, it’s gotta be good.
Back to Tavern 38…
The day comes and we hop in a taxi and cross to the other side of the river, turning into a neighborhood I’ve never been to before. There, down a quiet side street was the small, elegant, and very cozy looking Tavern 38. We are greeted at the door by an affable, well dressed man, who took care of us throughout the evening.
The restaurant is small, warm and comfortable. It’s fancy in a way that made me immediately conclude I couldn’t take my kids there; however, there were several kids there. Customers wore jeans, but the host was impeccably dressed. There were paper table clothes. An open kitchen. It was casually elegant.
The menu was unexpected; meatloaf alongside escargot. EVERYTHING looked delicious. I was sort of proud of myself that I ordered outside of my normal comfort zone. I got the set, which included a divine, citrusy, beautifully dressed salad, the escargot (The BEST thing I ate all night. Snails nestled in a creamy, bacon sauce. I promise you, if you order it you will not be sorry. ORDER IT!) and pork belly on top of polenta. (I surprised myself with this one too, but I was reassured when my husband was all, “It’s just samgipsol”. Mainly, I wanted the polenta that accompanied it.) My husband ordered the truffle oil fries, which came to the table in a tiny fry basket. So hot, crisp and flavorful. Perfect! This was followed by the french onion soup, the only low note of the evening (it needed salt) and fat juicy lamb chops. Coffee and dessert were included in my set and I got the lemon tart, which was wonderful and a surprisingly generous portion. I was stuffed. It was delicious.
These pictures, by the way, do not do the food justice.
On the way out, I gave the chef two thumbs up and he looked genuinely pleased. And my husband, whose standard line after eating out is, “It was okay…I wouldn’t go back there again though,” said he WOULD go back to Tavern 38. This is very high praise indeed.
By the way, I asked the host what the 38 was about in the bistro’s name, to which he replied, It’s the chef’s favorite number. I think I may have found a soft spot in my heart for 38 as well.
Hours: Open daily from noon to 11pm
Price: $$$ Check out the MENU
Address: 서초구 서초3동 1515-5, Seoul, Korea
1515-5 Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul
I’m sorry I don’t have driving directions because we took a cab, but it looked pretty easy to get to if you go over Banpo Bridge and keep going on that main road toward Seoul Art Center. (See map below.) Maybe a 15 minute drive from Yongsan w/ minimal traffic. And there was parking close by.
GPS coordinates: 37.483622,127.012439