27 (Tue) December 2016
La Langoustine de Jéju
(funny that Jeju suddenly acquires an accent when written in French)
at Pierre Gagnaire à Séoul
(funny that Seoul suddenly acquires an accent when written in French)
Home for the Holidays, Day 8 (see previously 7.356 QPC v SAB).
In Seoul. Winter break. Going back to Manila on the 31st — can hardly wait.
On 7 November 2016, the Michelin Guide announced its inaugural list for Seoul. Two restaurants received 3-stars; three restaurants received 2 stars, including Pierre Gagnaire; and 19 restaurants received 1 star, including Poom (the only establishment on the entire list that I’d visited prior to this evening; it received the honor of GMTD’s first 4.0 rating and yet, for some inexplicable/inexcusable reason, I didn’t write about the experience; I do recall that it was on the occasion of W’s birthday) (see generally 1.052 Bamboo Shoots in XO Sauce)).
For my birthday this year, W offered to buy dinner at a place of my choice. Among the five restaurants in Seoul to receive 3 or 2 stars from Michelin, the only one that had an opening was Pierre Gagnaire. The other four, none of them mainstream famous the day before the Michelin announcement, were understandably swamped overnight by the publicity. Even if I could’ve secured a booking, probably best to wait until the dust settles. On the other hand, Pierre Gagnaire has long been a household name in Seoul — in certain households, anyway — since opening back in 2008 to massive publicity — from what I recall, it was hyped as the country’s first restaurant established by a Michelin 3-star chef, appropriately situated in the lofty penthouse of the city’s most iconic downtown hotel. On and off over the years, I’d thought of trying it out, but always chickened out at the last minute, mostly due to price. Tonight, the factors confluenced in my direction.
Before proceeding, I apologize both for the crappy quality of the photos — dim lighting, terrible orangish hue, camera’s white balance was off, auto-focus out of calibration, but I was too excited to make adjustments — and the lack of detail/depth in the description of each dish — immersed in the feeding process, as appropriate, I was too absorbed to listen to what was being explained to me, to take notes, to simply remember anything about any of it. All a blur.
As far as I can recall, unable to remember specifics, I got up from the meal somewhat amused, glad to have finally done it, though not really happy per se. I mean, if it didn’t leave a lasting impression, then how good could it have been? Yesterday’s cheeseburger remains oh so vivid. Food should, at times, aspire beyond just being tasty/filling/comforting, pushing the boundaries of the artistic/scientific/novel/intriguing/fun, as per the chef’s vision and skill; in such aspiration, however, the experience should ultimately be gratifying, as per the person eating the food. Here, I got the sense that Chef Gagnaire is tickled by his own self-perceived cleverness, and that the customer is expected to appreciate/admire/adore the fleeting glimpses thereof — culinary masturbation, mouths wide open to receive. Would I go back for more — even if I could afford to do so (total bill, including the prix fixe “L’espirit Pierre Gagnaire” set meal that W ordered, came out to nearly 500,000 KRW) — no.