|Cafe 8’s tiramisu is crafted from ladyfingers soaked in espresso and Kahlua, topped with a blend of Mascarpone cheese and fresh cream, and crowned with Valrhona cacao powder. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)|
To bill Cafe 8 as a run-of-the-mill coffee shop would be inaccurate.
Sure, the massive 80-seat spot in Seoul’s Sinsa-dong is called a cafe, but it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the name is more-or-less a surface-level introduction to an eclectic eatery-bakery that dabbles in flowers, wine and grub.
To understand the fusion of flower shop, wine cellar, bakery, restaurant and coffeehouse that is Cafe 8, it is perhaps easiest to start at the beginning, when eight friends teamed up in August to dream up a collective hangout that reflected their own individual passions for bread, cake, wine, flowers and music.
“We wanted a space we could share,” Cafe 8 director Choi E-june said.
In November, that space became a reality and was appropriately christened Cafe 8, after the eight who made it happen.
What emerged is a chic, spacious interior where patrons can gather to chew on freshly-baked bread, decadent sweets and savory pastas.
A bottle of wine, selected from the highly visible cellar inside the cafe, can be paired with one of those pasta dishes, and flowers decorating the entire shop can be purchased for the road.
“We are also preparing to start flower arrangement classes starting next year,” Choi, 34, added.
The whole set-up works, thanks, in part, to the thoughtful and tasty grub that emerges from the kitchen at Cafe 8.
Simplicity works to great effect on desserts like tiramisu, which is done up pure and unaffected.
Ladyfingers, oblong sponge biscuits, are soaked in espresso and Kahlua, and covered in a luscious blend of Mascarpone cheese and fresh cream. A dusting of Valrhona cacao powder completes the dish.
The result is as it should be, cool and creamy, with rich depth from the chocolate and a potent kick from the Kahlua.
Other sweets like Cafe 8’s cinnamon rolls are equally good. The huge spiced bun is incredibly soft and liberally decorated with walnuts and cinnamon.
“We went for a healthy approach,” Choi said, explaining why the usual thick, sugary frosting was omitted from the sweet, fragrant roll.
|Freshly baked ciabatta is used to make the establishment’s grilled chicken breast sandwich. |
(Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
The same type of thinking seems to go into Cafe 8’s ciabatta, which, like all the establishment’s baked goods, are made fresh daily, both plain and chock full of herbs.
Ciabatta gets its wholesome texture from a little bit of rye, revealed Choi.
Not too soft, nor too crusty, Cafe 8’s take on the classic Italian bread is well executed, with a springy, chewy bite that tastes even better when given a stint on the panini grill and served up with pasta at the restaurant, but just as good grilled in the toaster at home.
Given the quality of the housemade bread and desserts at Cafe 8, it should come as no surprise that the pasta is also worth a try.
Take the soft egg, bacon and rucola variation for example, where a poached egg is served up with a coil of al dente spaghetti that has been smothered in a subtle sauce that gets its depth from vegetable stock and sauted garlic. The bacon has been oven-roasted to a deep, ruby crispness and fresh greens crown the whole affair, which is meant to include mixed, runny egg yolk and all for a Carbonara-like richness minus the guilt of oft-used, full-fat cream.
“I am allergic to many things,” said Choi, explaining why a health-conscious approach was taken to the largely Italian-inspired menu that continues to expand.
What are some recent additions to Cafe 8’s repertoire?
Apple cinnamon French toast, Choi revealed. “We have a lot of customers who come for brunch.”
|Cafe 8 opened in November in Seoul’s Sinsa-dong. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)|
● 1F, 590-14 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
● (02) 511-4177
● Open from 10:30 a.m. to midnight daily, closed Sundays
● Pasta costs 14,000 won to 23,000 won, bread, pastries and dessert cost from 2,500 won to 10,000 won, coffee-based drinks cost from 5,000 won to 7,500 won
By Jean Oh