[Seoul] Ilhochic 일호식

Having read about this new restaurant that serves healthy and hearty meals, I definitely had to check it out so made a reservation for dinner one evening with friends (I recommend to make a reservation beforehand especially during dinner time).

Ilhochic is located in tucked behind a main street in Hannam-dong and the nearest metro station is Hannam Station. The restaurant is on the ground floor of a four storey building and the entrance is very simplistic with just its sign on a square wood block.

We were ushered to our table which was facing the bar table so you could see the kitchen area. The atmosphere was relaxing and all the tables by the windows were already taken up by mature men and women. This is definitely not a place for the young and hip but rather for those who are into their healthy food from time to time (me!).

The menu was simple and consisted of single dishes and the Prix Fixe – the fixed price set meals which is inclusive of the side dishes. The five of us went for a set meal each and our choices included brown rice with beef and soft boiled egg, grilled mackerel with brown rice and a Korean style omelette to share.

The food was fresh and hearty and I thoroughly enjoyed every dish laid out in front of me! The price is probably a bit overpriced compared to similar restaurants but it was comfortable and cosy. Next time I would come back here and try the dinner menu and other delicacies on the menu such as the braised kimchi with pork belly and the fish cake stew. If you are looking for something healthy and hearty and tasty then give Ilhochic a try.

For those of you who don’t know, Ilhochic actually means 一好食 in Chinese. This loosely translates to Number One Tasty and the way its pronounced in Cantonese is very similar to the Korean pronunciation. Coincidence? I think not.

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[Paris] Hopping around in ‘le gay paree’

We hopped on the Eurostar for a few days of sun in Paris back in August this year. I feel like having been to Paris for so many times, I know the city pretty well that I know where to go and what to do during my days out here.

My go to place for crepes is definitely Crêperie Suzette which is in the hustle of Le Marais where you have your quirky coffee shops and non stop shopping. My favourite is the galette Barbette which is a savoury pancake made from buckwheat with cheese, potatoes and bacon inside topped with crème fraîche and a drizzle of basil dressing. It’s amazing – just get it!

Nothing is complete without an early lunch at the famed Carette in Place des Vosges. We opted for the French onion soup, a sandwich platter (Parisien ‘Duo’) and a lemon crêpe for afters.

We were on our way to the Eiffel Tower when a small Popellini caught our eye. Must go to get my pistachio fix! Deliciousness every time, small but filling and one is certainly enough.

We lazed around on the grass with a view of the tower in sight. It was a lovely afternoon before saying ‘Au revoir Paris’ and then ‘Hello London again!’

[Seoul] Mr. Holmes Bakehouse

When walking past bakery shops, I always have to stop and peep inside for any pastries, buns or cakes to satisfy my sweet cravings. I passed by Mr. Holmes Bakehouse and was immediately drawn to the baby pink neon signs (especially the cute peace sign) outside the shop and OMG cruffin alert!

We opted for the chocolate brioche donut and the famous cruffin! Two of these should be enough to share between the three of us! We found the donut was a little bit sweet but the cruffin was really moreish. The pastry was crispy but flaky at the same time and the chocolate creme really complimented it well. But definitely these delights are to be had once a few months! I really recommend the cruffin which is great for sharing. I have also heard that there is now a concession in Shinsegae department store in Gangnam so there is now another place to go to if you want to avoid the crowded Garosugil.

[Hong Kong] Butao Ramen

As many people may know already, a few years ago, the ramen wave started in Hong Kong. These ramen places have popped up all over the place in Hong Kong with Ichiran becoming one of the most popular ramen places with constant queues. I was not a big ramen fan before but I was intrigued as to what makes people go crazy over these bowls of noodles in pork broth.

I have passed Butao Ramen on Wellington Street in Central for countless times and have only made my first ever visit last Friday. We got there just before 6:30pm and there were still seats available as I did expect there to be some queuing since it was reaching peak dinner time. We were seated at the bar table just in front of the open kitchen and could hear the chefs tending to the orders left and right.

We were given a glass of water and the menus with two order forms. As I flicked through the menu, I was immediately taken with the ‘Black King’. It contains black sauce made primarily from black garlic and squid ink are immersed together with their original pork soup stock to create a black soup base. Well why not try something new and black, right? Once you choose your soup base out of the four options, you can add / adjust the level of spiciness, garnish, etc to your liking before choosing the texture of your noodles. I picked ‘hard’ noodles as I prefer to chew the noodles.

When our order arrived within 5 minutes, I was really excited to try the ‘Black King’. As I added some spicy beansprouts from the table which is self service and sprinkled some sesame seeds over my bowl, I was ready to begin. I picked up a part of the black ball in the middle of the bowl and tried it without hesitation. It was minced pork but coated with black sauce. The taste was not strong but very unique and in the end you can taste that it is indeed pork. I then started to dig into my noodles swimming in my bowl of black soup. The texture was perfect and the soup base was amazing. You can taste the pork broth but also a hint of squid which gives it a bit of a seafood kick. The slices of pork were cooked to perfection and I was left feeling very satisfied with the meal.

I would definitely recommend the ‘Black King’ because it really is so tasty and everything about it is spot on. The next time I come back here, I would like to try their ‘Red King’ which are their spicy noodles. Butao Ramen currently has four locations in Hong Kong and we went to the one in Central. Staff are friendly and the restaurant, although not big, has a nice atmosphere but not one to stay long in, so just eat your noodles and go.

[Hong Kong] AMMO Restaurant

So when you hear a restaurant is located in a former explosives compound site, you immediately become so intrigued that you rush off to make a visit… right? Actually we stumbled across AMMO which specialises in pasta dishes, through a friend who knew we were looking for a comfortable but unique place to have lunch. We had never heard of AMMO and was surprised that it is located just opposite the British Embassy up in Admiralty on Justice Drive.

As we stepped inside the entrance leading to the restaurant, there was an outdoor seating area with cushions and a grass border on the right side of the pathway. The restaurant itself is not big but contains a bar with high chairs which you will see just as you walk in with dining tables next to the windows and sofa seats with low tables on the left hand side. Because of the high ceiling and windows, the beams of natural light gave the restaurant a lift, complimenting the small lights hanging from the staircases above.

We were a party of four so we ordered everything to share amongst us. For starters, we ordered the pan seared tuna salad, the Japanese scallop carpaccio and the marinated black cod. We had the Boston lobster spaghetti and the crab ravioli as the mains and the apple tart and chocolate passion fruit crème as the perfect ending to our lunch. While most people may have thought that five dishes would not be enough to share for a party of four given the fact that the portions were not big – think again, the food was spot on and perfect for the four of us as we shared and was content with tasting each dish. Not to mention that they gave us each bread and olive oil to begin with before the food arrived, which probably already made us half full.

The apple tart took around 10 minutes to prepare which gave us plenty of time to digest and take a breather before the final round.

The apple tart along with the vanilla ice cream was a perfect match and you can actually taste the passion fruit within the chocolate crème. Both desserts were satisfying and we were all very full by the time we finished devouring both of them.

For the price and service you get at AMMO, in my honest opinion, it is worth the money to give it a go. We had kind staff serving us and given the location and the setting of the restaurant, it is not difficult to come here. AMMO seems secretly hidden up the hills of Admiralty but if you are looking for somewhere unique with good food then here’s your next place to try.

[Seoul] Café Dior by Pierre Hermé

So as you casually stroll along the streets of Seoul, specifically in Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam, you may come across Dior’s largest boutique in the world – House of Dior. This six floor flagship store opened in June last year and after getting word of it, we decided to plan a visit to check it out. I was even more intrigued when I heard that there is a Café Dior by Pierre Hermé on the top floor and they do the best macarons in the world (it’s true, trust me).

The best part of visiting during the weekdays is that there is absolutely no one in the entire shop that you need to squeeze past or maybe that normally occurs during the weekends which is why we avoid visiting at that time. Of these six floors, the first four floors consists of Dior’s collections – bags, clothes and shoes for men and women, the fifth floor is definitely worth a tour as it is the museum where you do surprisingly learn a lot about the Lady Dior bag. We then made our way to the top floor – the café!

The colour theme was a lovely inviting pale grey with mint and cream hints around. The café itself was not huge but they also had a seating area outside but since it was cold, we chose to sit inside for our little coffee and pastry break!

The mono chronic plates and cups gave a vintage French café feel and along with our order of macarons, this was a perfect break!

The seats were simple but stylish and they gave off a very chic and understated atmosphere. I do recommend a visit if you are interested in fashion or architecture or interior design (I’m into all three) as it is quite a building and to end it on a high note, it’s currently the largest Dior store in the world. Welcome to Seoul!

[London] Afternoon Tea at Ham Yard Hotel

As I have had my fair share of afternoon teas in London, it is a wonderful way to catch up with friends especially if tea, cakes and savoury bites are involved. I have wanted to try the afternoon tea at the new Ham Yard Hotel nestled behind Piccadilly Circus since it opened and being the latest edition to the Firmdale Hotels group, I was even more intrigued to go. Having had the afternoon tea at the Charlotte Street Hotel, the Haymarket Hotel and the Covent Garden Hotel (all part of Firmdale Hotels and the latter being the better one of the three), I was curious as to what Ham Yard would offer as their menu changes weekly and it is priced very reasonably at £19.50 per person.

Their afternoon tea can be served in either the main restaurant area or the orangery. If you prefer a quieter environment, then request to be seated in the orangery area otherwise they will by default seat you in the restaurant where the bar is. I requested to be seated in the orangery area and we had a table outside in the lovely garden.

The savouries were spot on and my favourite was the salmon bites. There were 4 plain and sultana scones hiding underneath the canvas bag which were both warm and crumbly to enjoy with the clotted cream, raspberry and strawberry jams. The sizes of the scones were perfect, not too big or small to devour at once.

The selection of cakes and desserts went down nicely as neither of them were overly sweet. Overall I was very pleased with the afternoon tea at the Ham Yard Hotel, it is closely tied with the Covent Garden Hotel, the only difference being that there is more than one choice of menu for the afternoon tea at the Covent Garden Hotel. However given the location of the hotel, the stylish decor, the lovely scones and the very reasonable price tag, what more can you ask for?