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Fancy Schmancy Vegan Meal at a Non-Veg Restaurant in Seoul

May 17, 2011

We’ve been so busy with meeting people and some professional outings that we haven’t yet been able to make it to any of Seoul’s vegan restaurants. However, yesterday we met with one of Sunnie’s professors from her undergraduate days, and she and her husband treated us to lunch at Table 34, a posh French restaurant on the 34th floor of the Grand Intercontinental Hotel.

We were a little concerned about what we would possibly eat as the menu was a few selections for each course, and they were all chocked full of meat, even the salads, definitely not vegan friendly. However, our waiter said the chef would be happy to make us plant-based dishes, so he headed off to the kitchen, and we waited to see what they would put together.

We started with a salad with a light oil and vinegarette dressing that was yummy and some bread rolls. The main course was beautifully presented.

Table 34's vegan main course

We had a variety of grilled vegetables: asparagus, kabocha squash, zucchini squash, shallots, and roasted red pepper served with two different sauces, a light and a dark and topped with a garnish of fresh greens. Our companions noted that it looked beautiful, and they’d have to try it themselves next time.

We finished with a dessert plate of fresh fruit: melon, grapes, and pineapple.

It just goes to show that you don’t have to overly complicate things to have a delicious vegan meal and that accommodating chefs can put together beautiful and tasty dishes that are animal free without having to reinvent the wheel! It was a fun lunch with a great view of Gangnam, and a chance to eat at a restaurant that we normally wouldn’t eat at.

We’re off this afternoon for another professional-related outing but hope to hit a vegan restaurant soon!

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2011 10:42 am

    Looks good! Did you also at least get some rice with that, though?! I would be starving soon afterward, having had only vegetables and fruit to eat.

    • May 17, 2011 10:43 am

      Oh, wait, I see you also had a roll. LOL; but don’t you know bread doesn’t stay with you? You have to eat rice! ( ;-) I’m quoting what I understand is the habitual admonishment of older Koreans, at least in past generations.)

      • Bill permalink*
        May 17, 2011 4:31 pm

        Oh, I forgot that there was also a small piece of potato. You know, we thought we’d be hungry afterwards too, but it was all surprisingly filling, and we were just fine. Yesterday we had an adventure in ordering. We were starving after a long day, and dropped into a cheap restaurant to grab a quick dinner. They refused to make soon dubu (tofu) without the clam broth because it wouldn’t taste right and when we ordered some kimbap but asked them to take out the ham, they replaced it with crab!

  2. May 17, 2011 4:52 pm

    Oh dear! I’ve been wondering about the soon dubu jjigae I had a few weeks ago, my very first. It was so delicious. They told me it was vegetarian, but I really wonder if it was. It sure had a lot of “flavor”! Not that vegan food is by nature unflavorful (of course), but veg versions of non-veg classics don’t always measure up unless the chef is really trying.

    This weekend I had some lovely vegan kimbap at a Buddhist temple (all the food there is vegetarian, and in fact almost always vegan). Kimbap is funny–I usually just roll my eyes when I inevitably see ham, egg, beef, or whatever, in there and then poke out the offending parts with the end of a chopstick.

    • Bill permalink*
      May 17, 2011 5:10 pm

      Yes, I love soon dubu, and I’ve had some excellent ones that have no trace of meat in them, so it’s just a lack of awareness. There’s a little restaurant across the street from our apartment that were absolutely fine last year with adapting all of their recipes for us to be meat-free, and they were all super yummy. The one we went to yesterday kept saying it wouldn’t taste good, and Sunnie tried to convince them that it would be just fine, but to no avail.

      That’s great that you have a temple nearby. I’m always surprised that more Koreans aren’t aware of vegetarian diets given the significant role of Buddhism here, but I guess the monks are largely the only ones who give up meat, and the everyday practitioners don’t. Last year, we had a yummy soon dubu (it was the restaurant’s specialty) in Gyeongju that was near a temple (I’m going to post on that trip soon), and when we asked them to leave out the clams and seafood broth, they smiled and asked if it was because we were Buddhist and didn’t want to eat meat before visiting the temple. :)

  3. Barbwire Cowgirl permalink
    May 17, 2011 11:55 pm

    Wow, that was very nice of the cook! I don’t know why but it is always a bit of a surprise to hear about nice and accommodating restaurants. Table 34 sure does sound friendly!

    • Bill permalink*
      May 18, 2011 8:13 pm

      We usually have a pretty good experience. They sometimes seem mystified or shocked, like the woman who wouldn’t serve the soon dubu, but that’s the exception. We’re paying them after all! :) And she was nice about it, just convinced that we wouldn’t like it despite our assurances.

  4. May 18, 2011 11:09 am

    Oh, Gyeongju! I will look forward to reading that post when you have time to write it, Bill. I spent a few days there with my tour group and saw tons of interesting things. The National Museum there is terrific. I love the various Korean National Museums; have only been to the ones in Seoul and Gyeongju, but I’ve read about the others, and I like the way they are very locally oriented. If a place has a really rich local heritage, it seems the museum will be commensurately bigger and have more holdings, like Gyeongju, with the Buddhist and Silla treasures, but if not, they don’t overdo it just for the sake of appearances. (I may be wrong, though.)

    I’ll bet there is a picture of Gyeongju ppang in your files there somewhere, too. :)

    • Bill permalink*
      May 18, 2011 8:07 pm

      Alas, we do not have a picture of Gyeongju ppang! We were there for just a few days, and I don’t remember why we didn’t manage to sample any, but we somehow made it out without getting them (although, Sunnie’s had them plenty of times before). I enjoyed the trip so much that we definitely will be going back at some point.

      I love museums, and you’re right. I haven’t been to a bad Korean museum yet. They all make a great use of space and are always interesting. Did you visit the kimchi museum while you were here? That was the first museum I went to when I first came to Korea as it was so close, and it was funny, but we enjoyed it.

      I’ll share pictures from the museum at Sunnie’s alma mater, Ewha University, that we went to yesterday. We’re heading to Jeolla later this month for work but hope to be able to do some sight seeing while we’re there.

  5. May 19, 2011 10:40 am

    Ha ha, I actually didn’t have Gyeongju ppang, either. Well, I did, but it wasn’t from that famous shop, so I can’t really say I’ve had it. No, I didn’t visit the kimchi museum, but I did go to the ddeok museum in Seoul! :D It was really cute. They had dioramas, and I did actually learn something. I was with some Korean people, and one of them got through to me (with my Western palate) about why “bland” ddeok is so good; she said the fluffy, chewy, soft texture is part of the “flavor,” something I hadn’t thought much about. Now I appreciate and enjoy most ddeok more than I did before. :)

    They also have a really nice tearoom attached where you can try all kinds of beautiful ddeok. If you don’t know, it’s located near the Changdeokgung.

    • Bill permalink*
      May 20, 2011 4:12 am

      The ddeok museum, that’s fantastic! We didn’t even know it existed. The kimchi museum was similarly educational and funny. You know how proud Koreans are of their kimchi, so they have exhibits forcefully touting how awesome its health benefits are. We’ll have to check the ddeok museum out. Sunnie bought a big piece of ddeok in the subway today. She loves it. I have a little too but can’t quite match her passion for it yet. :)

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