The Rise of French Cuisine in Busan

[su_heading size=”19″]Just a few short years ago, one would be hard-pressed to find much in the way of French cuisine in Busan. Yet, in just a short time, the city has seen a surge in establishments offering some real French dining options to suit nearly all budgets. Haps food writer Hal Swindall has put together a list of what the city now has to offer. Bon appétit![/su_heading]

 

Le Jardin Kyungsung

Le Jardin

Le Jardin, in Kyungsung, is the newest French establishment in Busan and the least expensive. It’s already getting an overflow of business, so reservations are required. The owner, Breton chef Guillaume Strub, prefers to do all the cooking in his open-air kitchen while his wife, Shim Seonhyeon, runs the business end of their enterprise. Like most other Korean French restaurants, Le Jardin has a limited menu, but what they offer is authentic, and Strub bakes fresh baguettes every morning. 051-611-0937


Tres Bon Gwangalli Beach

Tres Bon

Ham Chung Min, the chef-proprietor of Tres Bon, the oldest French restaurant in the city, was born and raised in Busan before studying hotel management in Australia. While working at an upscale hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, Ham took a cooking class that sparked his interest in French cuisine. He then studied his new passion for two years in Lyon in addition to a stint studying wine in Bordeaux. His mission is bringing good-tasting and nutritious food to people. Tres Bon has sizeable portions and mid-range prices. 010-8339-7736


Merciel Dalmaji Hill, Haeundae

Merciel

What makes the trip up Dalmaji Hill worthwhile is Merciel’s chef, Yun Hwa-yeong. The nephew of a former Korean ambassador to France, Yun has been connected to the country for a good part of his life. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu and the Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francaise, and has worked at a variety of Michelin-starred dining establishments in France over the years. Upstairs is a casual brasserie with mostly Italian cuisine; downstairs is a more formal affair with all-French set menus. Yun sometimes adds a Korean touch to his dishes, but they’re still Gallic. An added bonus is that Merciel is Busan’s only recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, and one of only six in the country. So, the food, the view and the wine are all an experience not to be missed. www.merciel.kr 010-9177-0735


Maitre Artisan Namcheon

Maitre Artisan

Another Franco-Korean couple, Damien Guilleux and his wife Kim Eunsook have opened Maitre Artisan near Namcheon station. The offerings differ greatly from what you will find at typical bakeries in this country, being made with imported French flour and French equipment–including the oven. Maitre Artisan offers cakes, breads, a variety of quiche and great sandwiches, as well as real hot chocolate, all for prices below that of the bakery chains. There’s nothing Paris Baguette-like about this place. 070-8829-0513


ICI Lounge Seomyeon

ICL Lounge

Though mainly serving Italian cuisine, proprietor Kim Dowoo and chef Cho Miyoung have made available some fine French offerings, including raclette cheese on potatoes, quiche Lorraine and Bourgogne escargots, with the piece de resistance being the lamb chop steak with apricot sauce–a truly heavenly offering that must be tried. The escargots are served in an iron pan with a side of bread and are finely chopped and mixed with mushrooms and squash. 051-343-2003


Dal Mi Cocco PNU

Dal Mi Cocco

Dal Mi Cocco in PNU serves mostly homemade pasta and pizza, but offers several French dishes, like choucroute, as well. It is small and cozy, with ample lighting from its windows and a color scheme in bright white with yellow trim that adds to its warmth. The menu is not large, and the prices are medium, but the food does have a special touch that makes it worth trying. The female Korean chef, Yoon Jiae, studied in Italy and worked in France. 010-3352-7545


La Pause Crepe Kyungsung

Le Pause Crepe

Yet a third Franco-Korean pair, Jonathan and Youkyung, run La Pause Crepe, Kyungsung’s best place to go if you have a sweet tooth after dining at Le Jardin. It is very small, but well-stocked with Nutella chocolate spread and Bonne Maman preserves. Like Maitre Artisan, this is a real piece of France transported to Korea, with a warm atmosphere to prove it. 010-8698-1712

 


 

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Hal Swindall
A California native, Hal Swindall received his PhD in comparative literature from UC Riverside and has wandered East Asia as a vagabond prof ever since. He teaches English conversation, writing and presentation skills at Woosong University in Daejeon.

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