|A plate with nine wells was specially designed to serve gujeolpan at Jung Sik Dang in southern Seoul. [JOONGANG ILBO]|
Some chefs take any chance they can get to bring back rare plates or dishes from abroad. Im Jung-sik, who runs Jung Sik Dang in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, usually takes his time to check out local plates when he travels overseas for events.
It is often said that he was the forerunner of the trend among local chefs to use curved dishes from Spain. The European country has long been known for its chefs who make innovative gastronomical creations, as well as containers that can best present the unique dishes.
|There is no clear distinction between the food and the container when restaurant Table for Four serves tuiles on top of a piece of wood. [JOONGANG ILBO]|
Kim’s older sister, Kim Yun-jeong, is a food stylist, so both sisters enjoy collecting rare, yet charming dishes as if they are in a competition. As a result many of the dishes they have collected are displayed on the second floor of the restaurant.
While these chefs bring in what’s not available in Korea from overseas, some chefs try to find unique items within the country. Chef Kwon Woo-joong of the restaurant Kwon Sook Soo, which presents Korean food in a more modern setting in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, loves using a traditional type of container called a hab. The particular type of container usually comes with a lid is often used to hold simple snacks, but at the restaurant the chef uses them to hold small appetizers or seasonal raw fish. He says the perfect shape of the hab can upgrade the overall hansik (traditional Korean food) dining experience for guests.
“I especially like to use traditional porcelain that include some sense of fire after being fired in a kiln.”
The chef doesn’t hesitate to travel to various places in Korea whenever he hears about good quality containers. Other times, he usually goes to the Hwanghak-dong market in Jung District, central Seoul, to find rare items.
Around 80 percent of the tableware he uses at his restaurant were made by craftsmen in Incheon, Gyeonggi, who only make a small number of porcelain pieces.
|Restaurant Ryunique in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, serves seafood on a wavy blue plate to remind guests of the ocean while they eat.|
“After I’m done researching menu items, I make plates that fit the food the best,” said the chef Ryu Tae-hwan, who wants his restaurant to be “unique.”
“About 80 percent of the plates I use are inspired by the food.”
At his restaurant, there is a separate team called the “dish design” team. The chef consults with the team members to come up with the best plating options, such as for the “jewelry box dessert” the restaurant is offering this season. In this case, the serving dish is made out of translucent acrylic material that looks somewhat like a commemorative plaque.
Often times at these restaurants, a piece of wood or pebbles are involved when serving food in unique ways. Chef Kim Seong-un of the restaurant Table for Four in Seorae Village serves tuiles, a type of thin fried wafers, on a piece of red pine wood from Anmyeon Island, South Chungcheong.
|Left: Modern Korean restaurant Kwon Sook Soo in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul, uses containers with lids to serve small appetizers.|
The pottery producer Kwangjuyo, which makes traditional style plates and containers, has been collaborating with Manu Terrace in Cheongdam-dong, as well as Jung Sik Dang and Kwon Sook Soo. The company caters to the special requests of each chef, while reflecting the porcelain-maker’s style as well.
For example, Jung Sik Dang used an Italian crystal plate to serve gujeolpan, a traditional Korean dish consisting of nine different vegetables and meats. However, the crystal plate only had seven wells so the restaurant wasn’t able to include all the ingredients. Therefore, Kwangjuyo came up with a suitable design in white and black.
Meanwhile, some of the internationally renowned chefs come to Korea to buy plates. Kwangjuyo, for example, worked with chef Corey Lee of the Michelin three-starred restaurant Benu in San Francisco and came up with the Corey Lee Collection after two years of planning. Furthermore, restaurant mogul Thomas Keller of the U.S. restaurants French Laundry and Per Se also uses plates from Kwangjuyo.
“As the food has been fused with different styles all across the world, there is more attention on simple plates that can make the food stand out more,” said Cho Tae-kwon, chairman of Kwangjuyo.
The company launched an online store to sell plates overseas in 2015, and within a year the company sold 150 million won ($122,000) worth of goods.
BY KANG HYE-RAN [email@example.com]