Korea House

I have visited Korea at least more than 5 times and I have never gotten the chance to try a traditional Korean Palace meal. I remember one of the very first Korean dramas which introduced Korea to the world is the Dae Jang Geum more lovingly known as Jewel in the Palace. I remember being very intrigued by the food served to the King in every single episode

During my last trip in November, I finally had a chance to try out traditional Korean Palace meals at Korea House. In Korea, traditional court meals are taken seriously and the Joseon dynasty royal cuisine, which features strict customs and manuals, was proclaimed an important intangible cultural property. There are only 4 certified masters of royal culinary art from 1889 and only 2 masters remain as of today. There are also only 7 designated venues serving these royal meals approved by these masters and 5 of them are located in Seoul

I choose Korea House as they were highly recommended on both TripAdvisor as well as other sites. They were also fairly easier to get to compared to the other restaurants. You can take the subway to Chungmuro Station and from exit 3, turn right and you can see this sign

Walk up this slope after seeing the sign for another 1 min

You will be greeted by this traditional Korean-style building which houses the main building of the Korea House. There is a huge parking lot available for buses or cars. Korea House was first opened in 1957 as a simple building and was renovated from 1978 to 1980 modelled after Jagyeongjeon of Gyeongbukgung Palace. The current building houses a folk theatre, huge gardens and different halls to cater to weddings and general meal sessions

We were earlier than our booking but the staff said it was ok and showed us to the dining hall. The main reception hall has some displays and exhibits you can take photos of, to reach the dining area, you will walk through another small courtyard to another building with many smaller dining rooms. I gathered we were put in the room for English-speaking foreign guests as the subsequent tables who joined the room were all English-speaking. The layout of the room was a simple wooden floor squarish room which allowed the staff to arrange tables and chair catering to the event or the number of dinner reservations for the night. Before we were seated, we were led to the jackets rack to hang our outerwear

There were 2 different menus for the royal cuisine set meal; Chungwu Jeongsik and Nogeum Jeongsik as well as the children’s menu and a la carte items. The Chungwu Jeongsik we pre-ordered is priced at KRW 115,000 on their website now and the other menu is at KRW 77,000. When I went last year, there were a total of 3 menus from KRW 68,000 to 118,000 and the Cheongwu Jeongsik which I booked was at 88,000. Drinks are not included in the menu so we separately ordered a rice wine and traditional raspberry Korean wine. The cups used in serving the wine were really pretty; the blue porcelain cup with the mountain for the makgeolli and the brass golden cup for the traditional wine

Once we were done with ordering our beverages, we were introduced to the platter of 9 delicacies which was served in this pretty Octagen box. Called Gujeolpan, it is like a cold dish which was pre-prepared and on the table even before we arrived. Gujeolpan consists of 8 delicate fillings served around thin crepe-like wheat flour pancakes called miljeonbyeong. The dish reflects 5 Korean traditional colours; white, black, red, yellow, and blue, which represent hope and longevity. In cooking, blue is substituted for green. The one served to us had shredded carrot, black fungus, cucumber, radish, egg yolk and egg white and mushrooms. The lady demonstrated how to wrap the crepe once and left us to do it ourselves since we were accustomed to using chopsticks. We later realised that they helped all the foreign guests who could not use chopsticks to wrap their crepes. In terms of taste, the crepes are very light and the ingredients were all either lightly blanched or seasoned so it was an extremely light starter dish

Next, it was a flurry of dishes being served. Each dish was set immaculately and the moment you finished a dish, the staff waiting at the side will clear out the dish and collectively introduce the next dishes. Those interested in the menu can check it out on their website. Personally, I liked the crunchy lotus root salad, pumpkin porridge, crab dumplings and chicken soup with rice. I found the grilled fish too salty ( this was a replacement dish as we did not take beef) and the dessert too sweet. Overall, all of the dishes were lightly seasoned which is the basis of all palace cuisine so you can taste the natural flavours of the ingredients. Even the spicy braised fish was not as spicy as the usual kinds you find at restaurants.

Personally, I think the dishes were light and delicious although there were 1 or 2 dishes which I did not really adore and if you have a preference for heavily seasoned or strong-tasting foods like my nephew, you might find the dinner very boring. I would recommend this as a historical culinary experience instead of a restaurant as it will appeal to those interested in traditional palace meals in the Joseon dynasty seen in so many Korean dramas. For the price of the meal, it is nice to get the immersive experience in a beautiful Hanok building and the folk performances available periodically

Side note on my booking process :

To make sure I get a table booked, I tried to make a reservation on their website 4 months in advance and did not get any response from them for at least 3 weeks. They replied that they were not available during the weekend and that I should change the date. I replied with a date change and got no further reply and I was not sure if my reservations were even logged in. I had to get the help of my Korean friend who told me they have a booking app on the phone and reservations were only open 1 month before the actual date. I finally got my booking only because my friend helped me so the entire booking process was quite frustrating. I noticed their website has been revamped and they have included a note to say they have issues getting emails from yahoo and hotmail so this could be the reason why I had so much frustration with my booking since I was using a Yahoo account

Address: 10 Toegye-ro 36-gil, Jung-gu, 서울특별시 South Korea

Opening hours: 12 pm to 9.30 pm Closed on Monday

Author: elizbeartravel

A human bear who loves travelling, eating and cooking

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