29 (Tue) May 2018
-Yongpyeong, Pyeongchang, Gangwon, Korea-
‘Mission to Korea, Day 3.
In Seoul. As per the approved terms of reference for the mission, I have been deployed to identify suitable restaurants for our Regional Director and his senior staff to host the Regional Director of the neighboring South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) and her senior staff during their annual biregional high-level retreat, which will be held in Korea this year, not in Seoul, but amidst the sea-to-summit grandeur of the country’s northeast coast.
On the morning of Day 3, the group will do a sight-seeing tour of Mt Seorak.
Afterwards, I will proposed that they eat lunch at the foot of the mountain, where many small restaurants offer local delicacies.
The food was awesome. Not sure if “terroir” is the right word, but it was the perfect meal for this particular place.
Day 3 – Lunch: CHECK.
In case everyone gets sick of Korean food, we were instructed to find a venue that serves something else.
Kensington Stars Hotel, just down the street from the entrance to Mt Seorak, features a restaurant billed as a “British Bistro” but serving mostly pastas and pizzas.
As the name would suggest, it’s a Beatles-themed venue, with a very impressive collection of original Beatles memorabilia. Curiously, the menu offers an “Abbey Road Royal Steak” and “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da Fish & Chips” but no other items named after songs (yes, I know that Abbey Road is not a song) – something like “Yellow Submarine Seafood Spaghetti” would seem to be a no-brainer.
Day 3 – Lunch Plan B: CHECK.
Sokcho Fish Market
In case they want more of culturally immersive experience, we scouted this local market.
Day 3 – Sightseeing: CHECK.
Namae Scuba Resort
Not for the retreat.
First time I can recall seeing a dive shop in Korea.
In case they should desire an afternoon pick-me-up.
Day 3 – Tea Break: CHECK.
Woljeongsa Temple Stay
While the WHO folks are busy with their strategic discussions, the spouses are to be entertained.
Day 2 – Entertainment for Spouses: CHECK.
Jeonggangwon is an institution devoted to traditional Korean food culture. The property includes a hotel, restaurant, farm, training facility, research center, and museum.
Except for meats and certain specialty items, all foods served in the restaurant are grown/produced on-site, including soy sauce.
I swear, if I could rob any museum in the world, I might choose this one, to get my hands on some of those exquisite antique cooking implements.
The participants of the retreat will spend their third and final evening here, before heading back to Seoul.
The accommodations are built in the traditional fashion, with cotton mattresses on the floor, heated from below.
The food was amazing. In essence, it wasn’t categorically different than a typical Korean spread (jeongsik) – various banchan, of course kimchi, a soup, a fish, a pancake, rice – but the execution was perfect. So fresh, so healthy, so balanced, so simple, so tasty, so Korean.
Day 3 – Dinner: CHECK.
The mission wasn’t as fun as the tidy photographic summary might suggest. To find the places that we eventually settled on, there was a lot of driving, getting in and out of the car, introductions and exchange of business cards, discussions with managers, facility inspections, menu reviews, price negotiations, photographs, etc. The food itself should’ve been reward enough, if each meal hadn’t been preceded by an argument with the other guy as to why, why, why we should eat there, ultimately putting what should’ve been a joyous occasion under a cloud of duress. Even at Jeonggangwon, after we were done with the scoping, he actually asked the manager to recommend nearby restaurants for us to eat dinner.
In any case, it was still fun, of course. Nice work if you can get it.
But that time in Japan was way more fun (see generally 8.199 Sukiyaki).