14.197 Zarzuela de Mariscos

Cycle 14 – Item 197

21 (Fri) July 2023

Zarzuela de Mariscos


at Spain Club

(Lotte World Mall)

-Jamsil, Songpa, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

w IZ

Spain Club is a Spanish restaurant chain.  Offers a wide range of mainstream dishes, including tapas, paellas, jamon.  Founded in 2009, currently 6 locations.

Located on the 6th floor of the mall.

After watching a movie at Lotte Cinema in the mall – Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which was kinda dumb but would’ve been less dumb if half as long – we had dinner at Spain Club.

Packed to capacity.

Having left my wallet at home this morning, I had to borrow cash from various staff, none of whom had more than 30,000 won (“Who carries a lot of cash these days?”): a total of 120,000 won.  The movie, along with popcorn and drinks, cost 32,00o won, leaving me with 88,000 won.  Though wary that a Spanish meal could very easily exceed that amount, I wasn’t worried, figuring that I could pay by bank transfer (in most eateries in Korea these days – not all, apparently (see below) – the counter has a small sign with a bank account number, into which customers can transfer cash via mobile phone to pay the bill).  The bill came out to 92,000 won.

Me: I’ll pay by bank transfer.

Cashier: We only accept cash and credit card.

Me: I don’t have my wallet with me.  Could I come back tomorrow to pay?

Cashier: If you leave your ID card.

Me: I don’t have my wallet with me, and my ID card is in the wallet.  I have 88,000 won in cash, just 4,000 won short.  Can I give you that, and we call it even?

Cashier: Could you go to the ATM to withdraw more cash?

Me: I don’t have my wallet with me, and my ATM card is in the wallet.

After a few more rounds of this, he called someone, who gave him a bank account number for me to transfer cash.

The only other time in my life that I can recall being unable to pay a restaurant bill was documented on GMTD during Cycle 1: “On a side note, I discovered that I’d lost my wallet en route to the restaurant, so I had to call a friend to come and pay for the meal” (see 1.254 Engawa Nigirizushi).

Oh by the way, there’s way more to that story, which I recount now, 13 years later …

After dinner, I went back to Banana Republic, where I’d been window-shopping just prior to the restaurant, thinking perhaps that I’d left it in a dressing room – not only a wallet, but a small shoulder bag containing the wallet.  Nothing was found, but the manager* took my number and promised to call if it turned up.

The next day, I got a call from a woman.  She claimed to have found the bag on the street outside of Banana Republic and contacted me through the number on my business card.  The wallet was empty of cash – not much, around 30,000 won (“Who carries a lot of cash these days?”) – but everything else seemed to be intact.   If I came to her place of work, a coffee shop in Jamsil – coincidentally, very close to Lotte World Mall – she’d give it to me.  So, I went to the coffee shop, retrieved the bag and the wallet, bought a coffee to go, thanked her, and left.

A couple days later, I got a call from Banana Republic.  They’d reviewed security footage, which revealed that I’d left the bag on a display table, and someone had swiped the bag while my back was turned.  I was invited to come see the video.  When I did, I discovered that the woman at the coffee shop who had “found” the bag had been the one to steal it.

I attempted to call her several times, but she wouldn’t answer – as if she sensed danger.  I texted her, threatening to go back to the coffee shop and discuss the situation there.  So she called back.  I told her that I appreciated her returning the items but I couldn’t allow her to keep the cash as a matter of principle.  If she returned the money, I wouldn’t file a police report.  I instructed her to meet me at Oksu Station (where we were living back then).  A few minutes prior to the meeting time, she texted me, saying she was sorry but couldn’t bear to face me in person, so she’d left the money at a nearby office.  When I went to the office, a man handed me an envelope that contained the cash.  I never heard from her again.  I hope that she moved on to live a crime-free life.


Zarzuela de Mariscos is a Spanish dish.  It’s a tomato-based stew, flavored with picada, containing mixed seafood (mariscos).  Nobody knows why it’s called “zarzuela,” a term derived from zarza (a local shrub) and more generally used to describe a type of Spanish opera.

I doubt that platings in other parts of the world come with a whole squid and pair of scissors to cut it, which would seem to be a distinctly Korean practice.

The food at Spain Club was good.  The tapas were solid, made by a kitchen that respects the fundamentals of Spanish cuisine (see for comparison 14.162 Chipirones).  The zarzuela de mariscos wasn’t necessarily the best dish on the table, but it was the centerpiece – we got 2 orders of bread (each 3,000 won) just to sop up the broth.  The prices were quite steep, but I don’t mind as much when the food is legit.

Clearly, we enjoyed the meal.

* I first met the manager years ago when he was a sales rep at Emporio Armani, and I was young and slender enough to wear Emporio Armani.  In 2007, when Banana Republic opened in Korea, I was happy to find the guy working in the flagship store (where the theft incident occurred – by that time, he knew me well as a regular customer, which might’ve been why he extended the courtesy of reviewing the security footage).  About a decade later, at which time W was working for Allsaints, we were attending the opening of a new store somewhere, and there he was, now the manager of that store, and he looked back and forth at both of us in confusion, like “How do you know each other?”  W tells me he still works at Allsaints.




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