Ryunique Is Seoul’s Alinea

Ryunique is located in the affluent Gangnam-Gu district of Seoul.  It’s Seoul’s Beverly Hills per se.  

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Ryunique is a tiny restaurant with no more than 12 tables.  The kitchen has a massive window to spy on the chefs as they create the uniquely presented dishes.  The window is every peeping Tom or pervert’s dream.  The main behind all this is Chef Tae Hwan Ryu.  Ryunique is a play of words as it combine his last name with “unique” to symbolize his approach to his art.  Okay.  It symbolizes his cooking.  What can I say?  I went to a few of these restaurants and it gets to my head.

Now this is a bold statement, but I’m going to say it.  Chef Ryu’s avant-garde presentation is up there with Alinea.  Chef Ryu’s cooking draws influences from his experiences of famous kitchens in Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom.  Ryu’s cuisine is not your traditional Korean dishes as he looks to carve his own path.  He mixes Japanese and French cuisines while using Korean ingredients.  It’s literally a melting pot.

Some of Ryunique's playful presentation
Some of Ryunique’s playful presentation

The young chef’s approach hasn’t gone unnoticed and has gained him the following awards:

  • #79 on the 2015 San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants
  • #27 on the 2015 San Pellegrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants

Ryunique is definitely special.  When I say “special”, I don’t mean special education type of special.  I mean that his passion shows through his restaurant and dishes.  The wait staff spoke slightly better English than the ones at Jungsik They made sure the dining experience was comfortable for me.  The service was definitely better than Jungsik as the Chef Ryu came to explain the dishes several times during the meal.  I think he thought I was a Michelin inspector because I was dining alone.  Did I milk the poor S.O.B.?  Absolutely.  I had no class.  I made him comp me a few bottles of Cristal and Dom P.

Some of Ryunique's dessert presentation
Some of Ryunique’s dessert presentation

In reality, the Chef and staff were very humble when I mentioned their recent awards.  The restaurant had a very calm and relaxed atmosphere; it had a huge window for people watch during my dining experience.   However, I was sitting waiting for Jason Voorhees or Pennywise to show up and wave hello to me.

Now, the food.  The flavors were far from traditional Korean and it didn’t have any hint of Korean flavors in it.  It was a mix of French and Japanese; in other words, it was a French Baguette served with a bowl of hot Miso Ramen.  Okay.  Not exactly, but you get the point.  The artful presentation reminded me of some of the Alinea dishes.  Here were my favorites:

  • Amuse-Bouche – The dish’s presentation was as peaceful as sitting in the park on a relaxing Sunday afternoon smoking a fat blunt.  The seaweed resemble a fallen leaf from a tree.  It was topped with a cherry on a rock with an edible plastic bag placed on a pine cone.   Both items were placed on a bed of “grass” inside a wooden dish.  I don’t know about you but it’s like smoking a blunt then looking to your right to find a bag full of blow.
    Ryunique's Amuse Bouche
    Ryunique’s Amuse Bouche
  • Quail – The dish was brought out in a smoked filled container.  When it was open, the quail leg was wrapped in bacon and sat on a smoking piece of wood on top of piece of hay.  The quail leg was removed then placed along the quail breast.  The texture of the quail was nice and moist. I don’t know but the dish had me at bacon.
    Ryunique's Quail
    Ryunique’s Quail
  • Masterpiece – The dessert was presented on a picture frame.  It looked like a piece of art thrown together by some famous artist or hipster who thinks he’s an artist.  It contained casein maltodextrin, kusmi spherical, strawberries, and caramelized rice ice cream.  The kusmi was a great contrast to the soft textures of the ice cream and strawberries.  It was very vibrant and wasn’t too sweet.
    Ryunique's Masterpiece
    Ryunique’s Masterpiece

Lastly, Ryunique is a different culinary adventure in a city filled with Korean BBQ, Bibimap and street food.  The good thing is that it didn’t drag on like the Harry Potter movies.  The meal progress well like going from first based to home plate on a Tinder date.  The overly humble Chef making an effort to introduce himself definitely made the dinner special as most chef are in the kitchen calling their staff stupid.  Hey… I want to be a chef now.

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  • 8.5/10
    Service - 8.5/10
  • 9/10
    Presentation - 9/10
  • 7/10
    Flavors - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Decor - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Ambiance - 7.5/10
7.9/10

Summary

Ryunique is a tiny restaurant with no more than 12 tables. Ryunique is definitely special. When I say “special”, I don’t mean special education type of special. I mean that his passion shows through his restaurant and dishes. It was a great dining experience with creative presentation. I wonder how high they got when they thought of all the way to present the dishes.

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