Though still nowhere near Seoul in its number of French eateries, Busan has further consolidated its second place position with Les Planches, which opened in December 2014. And unlike the other four dedicated French restaurants in this town — Merciel, Le Jardin and The Living Room — this one is not hard to find: it is a two-story building right by the water at the extreme south end of Songjeong Beach. The view from Les Planches is not as dramatic as those of Merciel on Dalmaji Hill or The Living Room way up in the Park Hyatt, but it does offer a seaside ambience that, as far as I know, is possessed by no other French establishment in the country.
The founder and chef-proprietor here is Franck Lamache, a native of Normandy who worked for 12 years at Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, Cannes and Biarritz. After that, he spent an average of two years each in Atlanta and LA, Borabora, Seoul, Astana and Kuala Lumpur. With a quarter century’s experience under his belt, Lamache decided to settle in Busan for its human scale, as well as access to both mountains and beaches; he considers it ideal for family life. As for his building, he chose it for its adequate size, seaside location and ample natural lighting, which he thinks make it perfect for his clientele. Apparently his decision was right, since within a year Les Planches has attracted a dedicated following, with its upstairs private rooms in particular garnering rave reviews.
Lamache’s mission for his enterprise is to introduce a variety of classic French dishes and wines at affordable prices. Like most other French chefs, he uses only seasonal products for their freshness, and makes as many items as he can by himself: baking the bread, smoking the salmon, mixing the sauces and preparing the desserts from scratch are all done in-house. Unlike many French restaurants in this country, on the other hand, Les Planches does not alter its dishes to cater to Korean tastes; therefore, the food is just what you would get in its country of origin.
Upon arriving at Les Planches and confirming your reservation, Toulouse native Thibaud will show you to your table and hand you the menus. The menu du jour set costs 25,000 won, and includes several courses. On weekends, there is also a brunch set for only 20,000; having tried it, I would highly recommend it. Then the entrees on the main menu are all standard French fare, such as the duck breast for 43,000 won which I tried on my second visit. Each entree is served with three free appetizers; I was there in August, so was served cold asparagus soup with avocado salad and a small bruschette. For dessert, I highly recommend the souffle, although it must be ordered 20 minutes in advance because of the time needed to make it–at least it is not mass-produced!
To accompany its food, Les Planches has a medium-length wine list that features several French, German and Chilean vintages by the glass for 6500-7500 won. French bottles range from 58-110,000 won, two Spanish choices are 45,000 or 72,000 and Italian or Chilean ones are 140-210,000. Beers naturally include Leffe brune and Guinness, but also Erdinger, a rarity in this city. Most enticingly for me, Les Planches also serves perfect martinis, a rarity in Korea outside of luxury hotels, but at 14,000 won I limit myself to two.
Songjeong Beach is a long way to go for most Busanites, but Franck Lamache’s new place gives them a reason to make the trek. Les Planches is an ideal place to go after a few hours on the beach or in the water with its beach road location, classic French flavors, affordable prices and cheerful atmosphere. If you have not been out to Songjeong in a while, now you have a motivation.
For reservations, phone 051-704-2216 or 010-5611-2216. Online visit www.lesplanches.co.kr. Bonnes degustations!