Café Oui in Garosugil (카페 위 가로수길)

Today I visited possibly my new favourite café in Seoul!

Café Oui is located just off the main street Seoul’s glam Garosugil neighbourhood, accesible via Sinsa Station (Line 3, Exit 8).

Garosugil is a haven for fashionistas, photographers, and style-seekers. But, with trendy atmospheres come “trendy prices”, as I discovered upon getting the menu at Café Oui!

Main dishes

Main dishes

Desserts and other stuff

Desserts and other stuff

Drinks

Drinks

Yep, that’s $7.50 (7,500w) for an iced americano! You pay for the atmosphere though, which I must say was well worth it.

Cocktails and wine

Cocktails and wine

I decided to order the top-selling “white choco mocha cupcake”. At $6, yes, it was just a tad pricey!

I should’ve taken a photo of inside the cupcake though – it had a really dense fudgey filling that went well with the subtly-flavoured mocha buttercream frosting.

…Brace yourselves! Lots of cupcake photos coming up!

Cafe Oui (5 of 32) Cafe Oui (6 of 32) Cafe Oui (7 of 32) Cafe Oui (8 of 32) Cafe Oui (9 of 32) Cafe Oui (10 of 32) Cafe Oui (11 of 32) Cafe Oui (12 of 32) Cafe Oui (13 of 32) Cafe Oui (14 of 32)

…And I think you got the picture! 🙂

Now, for some photos of the café’s interior:

One of the upstairs rooms

One of the upstairs rooms

My table in the centre (the curtained-off booth in the back-right corner was really cute!)

My table in the centre (the curtained-off booth in the back-right corner was really cute!)

The main upstairs room

The main upstairs room

Vintage map of Paris - I like!

Vintage map of Paris – I like!

Cafe Oui (19 of 32)

Animal characters on the staircase

Animal characters on the staircase

Table with all the baked goods (pie, “smile bread", etc)

Table with all the baked goods (pie, “smile bread”, etc)

A little blurry - cabinet next to the kitchen

A little blurry – cabinet next to the kitchen

Staircase leading upstairs

Staircase leading upstairs

Cooler with more baked goods in it

Cooler with more baked goods in it

"Animal heads" on the wall

“Animal heads” on the wall

Downstairs area

Downstairs area

Downstairs area

Downstairs area

Downstairs area

Downstairs area

I love the shabby-chic, French-countryside, Indie-ish sort of vibe they went with.

It has everything I would love to have in a house: high ceilings, hardwood floors, bright spaces, and a wonderfully girly and cute kitchen (one world: lace doilies!).

Giraffe and garden in the front

Giraffe and garden in the front

Garden cafe

Garden cafe

Café Oui's hours

Café Oui’s hours

Café Oui from the front

Café Oui from the front

Overall, a cute place to go for coffee with the girls, or perhaps on a date! Also a nice place to do homework, though perhaps not on a regular basis (I can’t believe I paid $7.50 for an Americano… $7.50 for an Americano…). Anyways, I’d definitely recommend it for all of your girly café needs in Seoul!

Directions:

Take Line #3 to Sinsa Station. Take exit 8, and follow the directions to Garosugil (walk straight for about 5-10 minutes, and turn left onto the street that says “Garosugil”).

Once you’re on Garosugil, keep walking on the left side until you see Beans Bins Café. Turn left. Walk straight one block, then turn right at the mini intersection. Keep walking straight until you see the 7-11, then turn left. Café Oui will be on your right.

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Korean Fusion Dessert at Café W.E. (West ‘n East)

As part of my “be a tourist in your own town” week today, I decided to visited Seoul’s artsy Samcheong-dong  (삼청동) area, which is accesible from Anguk Station (Line 3, Exit 1).

I’d briefly visited it before last fall, but I didn’t really take any photos. So I thought I’d come back today, and do the “thing” to do in Samcheong-dong, which is browse boutiques and check out a dessert café.

Now, I’d been watching Arirang TV special that featured a new Korean-Western fusion dessert café. What caught my eye were these delicious-looking hotteok/pancake things, and the sweet red bean fondue (served with sweet, chewy rice cakes, tteok, for dipping).

–> “Hotteok – 호떡” (pronounced “hoh duck”), is a popular Korean street food, served mainly in the winter. It’s almost like a fried-pancake dumpling, made of a thin batter, and filled with sugar and powdered nuts that turn to a syrup when fried.

I looked it up online and found its name:  W.E. (West ‘n East). This is supposed to acknowledge the two influences (Western and Eastern) in its cooking.

I had no intentions of going there today, but as I was wandering around the back streets of Samcheong-dong, I found it by accident. And, since I was already hungry, it seemed like a sign!

Oh, and if the Arirang video wasn’t enough, you can check out this SBS one featuring a cute Korean guy (skip to 1:14 for the review):

The service was fantastic. Upon opening the menu, I noticed that they’d just made a new fusion item: MAKKGEOLLICINNO (makgeolli + frappuccino). I was ecstatic! It even came with a warning that one glass could make you drunk (sold!).

–> For those who don’t know, makgeolli is a traditional Korean rice wine, with a milky body and sweet taste. 

Since I consider myself a bit of a makgeolli connoisseur, I felt I had to order it. I knew I would soon regret the decision, since my tolerance for lactose is slowly dwindling, but I felt hey – it’s my last week in Korea!

Makgeollicinno!

Makgeollicinno!

It was so worth it – and since I was warned upon ordering that the famous hotteok-pancakes would take about 20 minutes to prepare, it was nice to have something to snack on while waiting.

But DAMN – this thing is strong! I understand why they had the warning label ^_^ It’s also quite large. I think two people could probably share one, since it’s very heavy like a milkshake. I think I understood it as being a makgeolli + cappuccino  but it was definitely closer to a Starbucks frappuccino.

Shortly after, the hotteok-pancakes arrived!

The hotteok/pancakes

The hotteok/pancakes

Spectacular presentation

Spectacular presentation

See how thick the hotteok are??

See how thick the hotteok are??

Need I say more?

These were divine! Definitely something for two people to share, though, since the hotteok are so thick and are STUFFED. The filling is made up of sugar, nuts and berries, an untraditional hotteok ingredient for sure.

I’m a sucker for any kind of dessert that mixes warmth with cold, so to have this warm hotteok served with ice cream was just perfection. The two create an irresistible contrast, especially if you take a bit of the peanut powder and caramel with the ice cream, and top it with the warm berry compote before eating it with a piece of hotteok. I should’ve taken a photo of that.

Looks like a warzone!

Looks like a warzone!

So delicious

So delicious

Sadly, this was a classic case of “my eyes were bigger than my stomach”, so I felt very bad to have to waste so much.

I felt like Buddha walking out though – calm, content, and with a fat belly!

Interior in the front

Interior in the front

Hallway leading to the back

Hallway leading to the back

The kitchen and front end

The kitchen and front end

Tables in the front

Tables in the front

Banner outside the restaurant

Banner outside the restaurant

W.e.: "West and East"

W.e.: “West and East”

Restaurant exterior

Restaurant exterior

Café W.E. also has locations in Hongdae and Sinsa-dong.

To get to the one in Samcheong-dong, follow the map on Café W.E.’s website here.

Their menu is also online here.

  • Hours: 11:00am to 11:00pm from Monday to Friday; 12:00pm to 10:00pm on Sundays
  • Subway: Anguk Station (Line 3, Exit 1)
  • Address (Korean): 서울 종로구 팔판동 43-2 [더블유이]
  • Address (English): W, 43-2, Palpan-dong, Jongro-gu, Seoul
  • Phone: +82-2-739-0919
  • Facebook: facebook.com/WestnEast
  • Twitter: @WestnEast
  • Website: www.westneast.co.kr

Lazy Sunday at the Hyundai Department Store’s Skygarden

As my time in Seoul is slowly coming to a close, I’ve been making a bucketlist of activities to do before leaving. Now that I’ve been here for a year, it’s almost like doing the whole “tourist in your own town” thing – and what better of a place to be a tourist than Seoul?

With a raging hangover as part of my last Saturday night in Seoul the night prior, I decided to buck up, get on the bus and go to the Hyundai Department Store in Apgujeong. I’d heard that on the rooftop they have a grass lawn and café, and I wanted to check that out.

So, with a pounding headache and a purse packed with the essentials (camera, laptop, cellphone), I went to take the bus from Sinnonhyeon to Apgujeong.

Hyundai Department Store from outside

Hyundai Department Store from outside

After a short 20-minute bus ride, I’d arrived in Apgujeong. While my plan was to go directly to Hyundai Department Store, something else caught my eye. The building right next door said “Gangnam Tourist Information Center Grand Opening” on the front. I didn’t even know that there was a tourist info center in Gangnam, so I decided to make a quick detour and look inside.

The Gangnam Tourist Center; newly-opened on June 26th, 2013

The Gangnam Tourist Center; newly-opened on June 26th, 2013

I knew that the 2013 Seoul Summer Sale was currently underway, so I went inside to ask for a coupon book. The girl at the front desk gave me one, plus a free cosmetic sampler and face mask from Etude House (a popular Korean cosmetic chain store). Then she handed me a free bottle of banana milk, which tasted like heaven on such a hot and humid day.

I decided to take a little browse around. It looks like the main purpose of this tourist info branch is to promote medical tourism. Makes sense, since there are so many high quality clinics around Gangnam, largely popular with Asian tourists from China, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Since it was a Sunday afternoon, the medical consultants and interpreters who would normally be manning these booths were away. Not a huge deterrent to me, since my budget for the week doesn’t exactly include plastic surgery!

Also, there’s a KEB currency exchange booth located next to the in-house Tom ‘n’ Tom’s café.

I decided to look around a bit more…

The medical tourism consultation zone

The medical tourism consultation zone

More info on medical tourism in Gangnam

More info on medical tourism in Gangnam

Computers for visitor use, free of charge

Computers for visitor use, free of charge

Café and seating for visitors

Café and seating for visitors

Brochures on Gangnam attractions, and an ad for Hyundai Department Store's "100-Day Time Letter Service"

Brochures on Gangnam attractions, and an ad for Hyundai Department Store’s “100-Day Time Letter Service”

Map of Gangnam and its various districts

Map of Gangnam and its various districts

Hyundai Dept Store - Skygarden (9 of 49)

My swag: coupon book for the 2013 Seoul Summer Sale, a copy of SEOUL Magazine with Mimsie Ladner of "Seoul Searching" blog on the cover, free cosmetics, and a free banana milk

My swag: coupon book for the 2013 Seoul Summer Sale, a copy of SEOUL Magazine with Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching blog on the cover, free cosmetics, and a free banana milk

I realized after I came home though, that there’s a second floor in the center! The main focus there is “hallyu” (the Korean Wave). You can buy K-drama sets, K-pop CDs, get your makeup done, and buy souvenirs.

Here’s a map for both floors:

Gangnam Tourist Information Center - 1F (Photo: Visit Seoul)

Gangnam Tourist Information Center – 1F (Photo: Visit Seoul)

Gangnam Tourist Information Center - 2F (Photo: Visit Seoul)

Gangnam Tourist Information Center – 2F (Photo: Visit Seoul)

After I’d had enough time looking around at the tourist info center, I made my way next door:

Entrance to Hyundai Department Store

Entrance to Hyundai Department Store

The flagship Hyundai Department Store is directly connected to Apgujeong Station (Line 3). The first floor houses the store’s cosmetic booths. The food court is located on B1. My plan was to grab a snack and head up to the fifth floor Skygarden Café.

Tiffany & Co inside the Hyundai Department Store

Tiffany & Co inside the Hyundai Department Store

Various international and Korean-brand cosmetics on the first floor

Various international and Korean-brand cosmetics on the first floor

Take the escalators down to B1, where you'll find the food court

Take the escalators down to B1, where you’ll find the food court

Department store shopping is a popular activity in Korea. Every store has its own food floor, which I’ve noticed is essentially divided up into three sections: the “market” area, made up of different stalls selling fresh food and drinks; the food court, made up of a variety of restaurants (sushi, Japanese curry, noodle soup, Western, etc) where customers order and pay at a centralized cashier booth, then sit down and wait for their number to be called; and the grocery store.

Admittedly, I’ve always been a bit scared of intimidated of ordering up there (yet I will get on a motorcycle sans-helmet with a stranger in a developing country, eat live squid, or fly across the world to live with a family I’ve never met before – yep, weird logic!). So, I just stuck to the food court.

I must say BEWARE: if you are indecisive like me, choosing something from the food court will not be a quick task! From French blueberry cheesecake, to Chinese fried prawns, to traditional Korean snacks, there is truly something for everyone here.

Candied apples at the food court

Candied apples at the food court

One of the bakery stalls - the crêpe cake looked pretty good!

One of the bakery stalls – the crêpe cake looked pretty good!

Gourmet Korean rice cakes - much more colourful and detailed than average ones!

Gourmet Korean rice cakes – much more colourful and detailed than average ones!

A more "traditional" stall - they sell different varieties of kimchi, and are a little more loud/agressive in their sales techniques ^^

A more “traditional” stall – they sell different varieties of kimchi, and are a little more loud/agressive in their sales techniques ^^

Gift packs for any occasion. I like the meat one!

Gift packs for any occasion. I like the meat one!

Another traditional stall - these guys were selling one of my favourite Korean foods, sweet, chewy rice cakes (tteok).

Another traditional stall – these guys were selling one of my favourite Korean foods, sweet, chewy rice cakes (tteok).

Making the rice cakes

Making the rice cakes

The sit-down/restaurant area of the food court

The sit-down/restaurant area of the food court

More gourmet rice cakes (tteok), with prices to match! This box was about $40, whereas at an average store, they'd probably be about $15-$20

More gourmet rice cakes (tteok), with prices to match! This box was about $40, whereas at an average store, they’d probably be about $15-$20

More gourmet rice cakes (tteok). I like the rose one!

More gourmet rice cakes (tteok). I like the rose one!

Women browsing the international and domestic cheeses section

Women browsing the international and domestic cheeses section

French cheese!

French cheese!

French cheese!

French cheese!

Gourmet chocolates

Gourmet chocolates

Gourmet cooking vineggars

Gourmet cooking vinegars

Kitchenwares for sale on the same floor as the food court. To the left are traditional Korean serving bowls. Quite smart, actually - the metal keeps cold food cold, and hot food hot.

Kitchenwares for sale on the same floor as the food court. To the left are traditional Korean serving bowls. Quite smart, actually – the metal keeps cold food cold, and hot food hot.

Finally, I made a decision: I wanted something sweet, refreshing and preferably a bit cool. Gelato seemed like a good fit, so I chose the mint flavour and made my way up to the fifth floor.

I didn’t take any photos, but the fifth floor actually houses a number of sit-down style restaurants indoors. I thought the Skygarden was the only place on that floor, and was a bit surprised to see otherwise when I got there. It took a while to find too, since the place is set up like a maze and there wasn’t a huge sign saying “SKYGARDEN THIS WAY”.

I found it, though!

Pure bliss! If only it hadn't been so humid and hot.

Pure bliss! If only it hadn’t been so humid and hot.

I chose a table and went to go buy a coffee from the café. At 4,000w ($4) for an ice coffee, it wasn’t exactly cheap. Although these are Gangnam prices, I suppose.

My mint gelato - so nice!

My mint gelato – so nice!

My little gelato cone

My little gelato cone

Hyundai Dept Store - Skygarden (36 of 49)

I’m not really sure what these tree things were supposed to be!

Hyundai Dept Store - Skygarden (37 of 49) Hyundai Dept Store - Skygarden (38 of 49)

Tree decorations

Tree decorations

Hyundai Dept Store - Skygarden (40 of 49) Hyundai Dept Store - Skygarden (41 of 49)

The garden seemed to be really popular with families. Parks, or just general community green spaces are very hard to come by in Seoul. This place is a bit of a hidden oasis.

Hyundai Dept Store - Skygarden (42 of 49)

Art on one of the walls

Art on one of the walls

Hyundai Dept Store - Skygarden (44 of 49)

Lots of chairs to hang out in

Lots of chairs to hang out in

Hyundai Dept Store - Skygarden (46 of 49)

My little work station

My little work station

Hyundai Dept Store - Skygarden (48 of 49)

Father and son kicking a soccer ball

Father and son kicking a soccer ball

The Skygarden at the Apgujeong Hyundai Department Store is definitely worth a quick visit.

Here are the details:

  • Directions: Apgujeong station, line #3 (orange line), exit 6. Hyundai Department Store is directly connected to the station. Skygarden is on the 5th floor; food court is in B1.
  • Hours: 10:30am to 8:00pm; closed one Monday a month (chosen randomly)
  • Website: http://www.ehyundai.com/newPortal/eng/dp_main_01.jsp?swfseq=0
Map to Hyundai Department Store (Photo: Vist Korea)

Map of Apgujeong area – Hyundai Department store is at the top left (Photo: Vist Korea)

Sundays in Seoul: Free Cooking Class at CJ Food World

 

This past Sunday I attended a free cooking class at CJ Food World, in Dongdaemun, a famous shopping area in northeastern Seoul.

 

CJ Food World is the national headquarters of brands like Tous les Jours (Canadians: think a French-inspired, self-serve version of Tim Horton’s) and Twosome Place (a Starbucks-esque “dessert cafe”). They also have an in-house cooking studio, where the class I was in took place.

 

I found out about the cooking class through a group called Community Korea. They have a very active facebook presence, and regularly advertise events, contests, and sales for foreigners. This was the first time I’d attended one of the events they’d promoted, and I was really excited. I’d won the class from an online draw (been so lucky lately!).

So, I took a bus from outside my school right to the CJ Food HQ:

CJ Food World  Upon arriving, we were led into a meeting room which had free coffee and tea (silly me, I’d already spent $4 on a soy vanilla latte – but in my defense, it’s not often you see one of those on a cafe menu here in Korea!).

 

After the meeting room, we were ushered into the cooking studio, where we began cooking our Lunar New Year-themed dishes, “doenjang goggi buchu jeon” (soybean pancake with chives) and “haemul beoseot soondubu jeongol” (Seafood & mushroom soft tofu stew).

 

ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix46

The chef presented a lively and engaging cooking demo. His English was really good; turns out he’d spent several years as a restauranteur in the US.

ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix43We were supposed to pair up, so I went with a girl I’d met at an event the weekend prior; 10 Magazine’s Sunday book club (which featured Michael Breen, author of “the Koreans”).

That’s us below:ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix25

Our dishes!

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The rest of the participants…ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix28

All in all, it was a lot of fun! The organizers had altered the dishes a bit to make them appeal to foreign tastes though. A couple of us noticed this, as the mixture they’d provided actually had sugar added, giving the pancakes an unusually sweet flavour.  As well, we were given beef to use in our pancakes, another non-traditional addition to the original Korean recipe. The chef noted during the demo that they wanted to “spoil” us foreigners (hence the beef), but I think many of us would’ve just preferred the traditional version! But, it was so thoughtful of them to go the extra mile.

ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix02

The chef explained several times throughout the demo that since Korean food is too often overshadowed by “sushi” (Japanese food) and Chinese food, the goal of the class was to try and make Korean food appeal more to foreigners. Part of this was promoting a new line of products, which essentially cut out half of the prep involved in cooking many popular Korean foods (which traditionally take more work than other Asian cuisines). Some of these included Korean BBQ marinades, soup stocks, and hotteok (Korean sugar pancake) mix.

To cap off the lesson, we all gathered for a few photo ops coordinated by a very serious Korean photographer. Actually, it kind of reminded me of the “Suntory Time” scene from one of my favourite movies, “Lost in Translation” (clip below).

Of course, it was very different because it was set in Japan, and my cooking class was in Korea 🙂 Korea and Japan are very different. Dokdo is Korean. My Korean friends would be very proud of me right now 🙂

ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix03Some of the products that we used:ƒÌ≈∑≈¨∑°Ω∫130203copix05

Anyways, probably the best part of the day was getting the freebie pack they sent us home with! Holy guacamole, Korea LOVES too give out free stuff to foreigners!

IMG_1240

What the f-ck am I going to do with all this kimchi… It’s a non-resealable bag, by the way.

IMG_1243

They even gave us thank you cards!

“Thank you for your time” – seriously? You gave us a free cooking class, plus what I’m estimating was around 30,000w ($30) worth of free samples. My pleasure!

IMG_1241