Cycle 3 – Item 307
7 (Wed) November 2012
Authentic Spanish Seafood Paella
at Gramercy Hall
(SSG Food Market)
-Gwanghui, Jung, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ
Project 30/30/30: 7 of 45 (see also 45/45/45)
Throughout this November, I am challenging myself to eat 30 dishes from 30 countries over the course of 30 consecutive days.
Spain is the 7th country.
SSG Food Market is a supermarket. Conglomerate Sinsegae’s latest venture to expand its vast empire of luxury goods. The market is located in Cheongdam-Dong, of course, ostensibly the “Style” in “Gangnam Style.
As I was taking photos, staff converged upon me to demand that I stop. Whether the policy is due to concerns of industrial espionage or bad publicity, I don’t know. I find it impossible to believe that they’ll be able to maintain the no-photograph policy in a country where everyone has a smart phone.
Anyway, I wasn’t very impressed. Immaculate layout and slick presentation, as expected. At first glance, the selection of products appeared diverse, but closer inspection revealed many different brands representing the same kind of thing, like 10 different brands of spaghetti, including organic spaghetti and whole wheat spaghetti and spaghetti con spinaci and whatever. The olive oils overwhelming, but not a single bottle of peanut oil. In other words, beyond those product categories most popular with the mainstream, the choices were limited, not any better than a typical department store supermarket.
Worse, actually, because only the high end items were available. The meat section offered nothing but ultra-pricey hanwoo, including one cut at 29,000 won per 100 grams (about $120 per pound) – the most expensive piece of meat that I’ve ever seen at a market. Dosirak boxes, made by Chosun Hotel, at 30,000 each – who is buying this stuff??
Actually, I know people who shop there and rave about it, so I understand how the place would appeal to a certain demographic. But not me.
Gramercy Hall is a made-to-order food court.
Before agreeing to eat dinner there, I confirmed that it would offer something that would fit into my 30-day project. Fortunately, a solitary Spanish dish was on the menu: “Authentic Seafood Paella.” I’d considered Spain to be something of a semi-reserve, since I could’ve made my own paella at home at anytime or visited a tapas restaurant that I’ve had my eye on in Itaewon.
Authenticity aside, the paella was meh. A bit mushy. Among the ingredients: Korean rice cakes, like for ddeokbokki – so much for authentic. At 18,000 won, they could’ve tossed in a couple more strands of saffron.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)