Seoul’s best restaurants demonstrate the diversity of this special culinary landscape, where five Michelin-starred restaurants can be mentioned in the same category as the most popular fried chicken stalls. It’s an eclectic and exciting mix, and we’re here to help you try it all. Here is our list of the 13 best restaurants in Seoul to make your inner foodie happy.
Executive chef and owner Jungsik Yim did more than lend his name to this exquisite Gangnam restaurant. He was one of the first chefs in Seoul to fuse traditional Korean flavors with the techniques and presentation common to European fine dining. Other restaurants have followed his lead, but Jungsik Seoul hasn’t dropped down a notch, as evidenced by its two Michelin stars. Yim shows great skill in bridging east and west by presenting ingredients like sea urchin and hanwoo beef in artistically exquisite expression, a technique he refined in New York and Spain before returning to Seoul to open his eponymous restaurant. The extensive variety of international labels found on the wine list matches the elegance of the menu. Multi-course menus are served in the main hall, but you can have something more casual at Bar Jungsik, which is located on the first floor of the restaurant. There you can order a plate of seafood stew or a sea urchin and seaweed paella and enjoy it in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Mingles’ name is a reference to chef Mingoo Kang’s passion for finding innovative ways to combine traditional Korean flavors with ingredients from around the world. He has earned the right to experiment in this way; he learned the basics of his cooking at Nobu in the Bahamas and Miami before opening this Gangnam in 2014. His craftsmanship has earned Mingles a Michelin star thus far and has also caught the eye of foodies around the world for its daring creations such as white kimchi wrapped in foie gras and lamb marinated in soybean paste. Kang designs his menu according to the seasons, which means he is always playing with seasonal ingredients to create new forms of culinary expression. He also makes Mingles one of the most popular restaurants in Seoul, so you may want to make a reservation as soon as your Seoul travel dates are confirmed.
One of Seoul’s two 3-Michelin-starred restaurants, it sits on the rooftop of the Shilla Seoul Hotel and offers spectacular views of the city. However, chef Sung-Il Kim’s take on Korean haute cuisine won’t give you much time to look out the window. Kim introduces traditional Korean dishes into modern territory through contemporary technique and presentation, a culinary tactic that elevates the most classic dishes, such as barbecued beef short ribs with soy sauce and hot pot, to brilliant expressions of high sophistication. Dishes like the jellyfish salad served with seasonal gochujang (red chili paste) demonstrate Kim’s ability to handle delicate flavors. Old school meets new in the best possible way: La Yeon is intended to be an educational project designed to promote traditional Korean cuisine.
Sleek, small, and decorated in a black and white color scheme, Soigne could very well be the most cosmopolitan restaurant in Seoul. The atmosphere makes a lot of sense when you realize Soigne’s owner and executive chef is Jun Lee, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who studied the basics of cooking at prestigious New York restaurants Per Se and Lincoln. Every three months, Lee creates a carefully crafted tasting menu that effortlessly combines culinary styles and techniques from around the world, not to mention the incredible use of seasonal ingredients. Each menu focuses on a certain theme, from the aromas of herbs and spices to dishes inspired by the Korean coast. It’s an exciting culinary adventure and has earned one Michelin star so far. There are less than 40 seats in Soigne, so reserve your table as soon as possible.
Gaon is another of the 3 Michelin star restaurants in Seoul. Like La Yeon, this restaurant’s goal is to enlighten customers about the high-end possibilities of traditional Korean food. It has an interesting history: the operating group behind Gaon is also known for making traditional Korean liquors and elegant Korean ceramics. Precisely the part of the ceramics has an important role in the presentation of the tasting menus that they offer every night, since each dish is served in beautiful containers made to measure by the parent company.