13.124 Cioppino

Cycle 13 – Item 124

9 (Mon) May 2022



at The Bar (Seoul Club)

-Jangchun, Jung, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with W, Mom + Dad

Seoul Club is a social club.  Members only.  Half of the 1,400-ish membership roster is open to Korean nationals (currently full), the other half to foreign nationals (mostly empty at present, as explained by the admissions director) – the only multi-national private membership club in Korea, according to the website.  The website claims that the club was chartered by Emperor Kojong in 1904, “to provide a recreational facility for both the expatriate community and internationally oriented Koreans” (evidence of this claim appears to be anecdotal, with early documentation nonexistent, until at least 1970, when it was established as a legal body) (the website is also unclear whether the 1904 charter was for the club as an institution or merely the building in which the club met).  The club offers various facilities for dining, exercise, and relaxation.

Located on Namsan, adjacent to Shilla Hotel.

I have vague memories of Seoul Club from my high school days in the late 1980s, when fellow students from expat families or rich families all had memberships.  At the time, Korea didn’t have much in the way of Western-style restaurants, or public pools or pool tables, so I was envious to hear stories of weekend pizza swim parties at the club (to which I was never invited – I didn’t have any expat/rich friends) (instead, my best friend had a pass for the US Army Base, in Yongsan, which was even better).

Recently, my parents purchased a Seoul Club membership.  I suspect that my mother was peer-pressured into it by her friends at her bridge club (comprising mostly rich people).  Only children under the age of 20 are covered under the membership, so I don’t count.

The Bar, which doesn’t have an actual bar, offers Happy Hour from 17:00 to 19:00: 50% off beers, wines, and foods.

W and I were invited to join them for happy hour after work.

As I was entering the premises, the music playing softly on the speakers was an instrumentation of Bizet’s “The Habenera.”  The melody, which has always sounded comical to me, like it belongs on the soundtrack of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, made the situation feel a bit silly: dining in the highly vaunted Seoul Club at long last, but only at a discount.

Soucherie Crémant do Loire Brut: the house bubbly, pretty decent for 34,000 won (maybe not at the regular price of 68,000 won).

Cioppino is an Italian-American dish.  Developed in the late 1800s by Italian-American fisherman in San Francisco, California.  Traditionally, the dish was made with bits of damaged seafoods from the day’s catch – including San Francisco’s famed dungeness crab – stewed in a tomato-based broth, served with sourdough bread.  The term is derived from the Italian “ciuppin,” which means “chopped/torn to pieces.”

The cioppino at Seoul Club was good.  Included shrimp, scallops, squid, monkfish, clams, mussels – no crab – in a spicy tomato broth, served with garlic bread.  The seafood itself was just okay, most of it seemingly from frozen stock, except maybe the clams and squid.  But the broth was very nice, especially good for dipping the bread.


(See also BOOZE)


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