[Seoul] Gotgan by Lee Jong Guk (곳간 by 이종국) is a 1-star Michelin-starred restaurant (used to be 2) in Seoul specialising in Korean cuisine.
It is located at the top of one of Korea’s tallest towers, and tagged as “worthy of a detour”.
Specialising in modern Korean cuisine, it is owned by self-taught Korean chef and food researcher Lee Jong Guk, considered a pioneer of modern Korean haute cuisine. He has been doing his style of cooking for almost 20 years.
As the culinary mastermind of Gotgan, he attributes his lifelong obsession with food and cooking from his late mother.
If there’s one thing his mother taught him about cooking, it’s the regard for the people you are cooking for. For him, no matter how incredible a recipe is, if done without regard to those who will be eating it, is dead food.
He’s a firm believer that cooking, like any other creative endeavour, is about making beautiful things. No wonder he creates and puts out dishes that are delicately and masterfully plated in simple yet elegant ways.
At the core of its restaurant operations are dishes prepared with much style and elegance, from the dainty pieces of amuse bouche to individual soy brushes meticulously made from freshly-picked pine needles.
Pricing in on the higher range. There are 3 set menus that range from 150,000 Won to 300,000 Won (SGD183 to SGD365).
Gotgan’s menu changes frequently along with the season and market availability, so it would hard to keep up. Like ordering the spring porridge cooked with stone octopus in sometime in December.
Like a story that could change, the menu, from the amuse bouche to the dessert, could change too.
Here’s a sample of small dishes as part of a set menu, typically arranged on a tray: baked tofu, seafood dumplings, steamed beef cabbage rolls, seaweed tempura, pheasant, and ice Jeju citrus tea.
These are small bites, easily finished off in a bite or 2.
My meal started with “8 Assorted Appetisers” – I would say another interpretation of “banchan”. They included sweet fried pheasants, Neungi mushroom dumplings, spaghetti squash, peanut salads, grilled pork potato and Korean beef seaweed roll.
To create genuine and authentic flavours, all of these dishes are made with seasonal ingredients prepared with traditional recipes. This allows him to preserve the unique flavors inherent to Korean cooking.
At Gotgan, there’s no room for artificial seasonings. Here, they use various pickled vegetables made with soy sauce and soybean paste that have been fermented for over 30 years.
In fact, Lee Jong Guk’s private residence in Seongbuk-dong reveals 24 refrigerators containing (you guess it right!) pickled vegetables of all kinds, plus kimchi, aged soy sauce, salted fish, and fermented seafood. All made from scratch.
The highlight dish to me was the Braised Han-u Oxtail Bansang, in which the meat was braised till tender. A single bite would reveal a mixture of flavours from light-spiciness, and delicious earthiness from the Paju Jangdan soybean.
But to be honest, maybe at the end of the meal, you don’t get a firm impression of any single one of the dishes, but view it as a symphony of varied components working together to form a final canvas.
Apart from its elegant food, what sets Gotgan apart from other restaurants is the sweeping panoramic view of Seoul from the 50th floor of FKI Tower.
This equally elegant 50-storey 245-meter high skyscraper (known by its full name Federation of Korean Industries Head Office Building) is the 6th tallest building in Seoul.
Gotgan literally takes your dining experience to the highest level, offering you an elegant meal on Yeouino island while overlooking Han River
Décor in the common areas are modern and minimalist but the dining room itself is quite homey.
This is an exclusive private-dining-only establishment. You won’t find any public dining area where you can simply walk in and eat. This setup affords you an intimate dining experience with your family or friends, or the seclusion required for an important business lunch with your clients.
Gotgan by Lee Jong Guk
50F, 24, Yeoui-daero, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul
지번주소 서울특별시 영등포구 여의도동 28-1 전경련회관 50F
Tel: +82 2 2055 4445
Opening Hours: Lunch 11am – 2pm; Dinner 6pm – 9pm (Mon – Sun)
Google Maps – Gotgan by Lee Jong Guk