Harvest Namsan, a semi-posh restaurant with a wholesome bent and casual attitude, marries a prime mountainside perch with executive chef Im Sung-gyun’s tasty, innovative fare.
Come mid-April and the restaurant will kick out its veranda seating, for what chef Im promises to be a more casual affair that will feature housemade sausages, terrines and pate along with barbecue.
Then Harvest Namsan will be in full spring swing, giving patrons the option of enjoying the scenic view outdoors as well as indoors.
For now, diners can sample the restaurant’s new spring menu, which is all about keeping it natural, seasonal and holistic.
Dishes are very much a think-outside-the-box mishmash of everything. Some showcase a dash of inspiration from Korean temple cuisine; others boast an Italian inflection, while many incorporate French techniques.
The point, obviously, is not to attempt to guess which country’s cuisine Im took his cue from, but to enjoy how he and his crew put it all together, in a way that is oftentimes pleasantly surprising.
|When ordered for brunch, Harvest Namsan’s baked ricotta cake with tomato couscous is paired with a grilled Jejudo Island “cheonhyehyang” tangerine. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)|
Take Harvest Namsan’s baked ricotta cake with tomato couscous for instance. Here Im seems to draw from the experience he racked up helming a dessert shop.
“We make it like baked cheesecake,” Im, 34, said. He then explained how he read about a baked mascarpone dish in an Italian text and decided to give the concept a try with ricotta “out of curiosity.”
It worked out deliciously.
Now, it is part of the spring menu and is fashioned from homemade ricotta cheese in addition to a little Parmigiano-Reggiano, which gives the warm, thick slices of cake that nice briny saltiness that confirms this is not a dessert dish, but a savory one that goes wonderfully with the saffron-infused couscous and tomato tartare that accompany it.
Dabs of garlic custard add a final punch to the dish.
“I wanted it to be cloud-like so I drew from a dessert-style custard,” Im said of the airy, aioli-like sauce that acts as the perfect counterpart in texture to the dense cheesecake.
His ability to draw from dessert recipes and techniques to add dimension to his savory entrees and main dishes is definitely a boon, and one that works again, to palate-pleasing effect with Harvest Namsan’s prawn and crab bisque, where a dollop of Chantilly cream adds a note of decadence to the rich seafood soup.
By not adding cream directly into the broth, as it is usually done, and by placing a light froth of silken cold cream on top instead, one is given free reign to enjoy the juxtaposition of hot and cold and thick and light on one’s tongue.
|Harvest Namsan’s smoked sea eel with bisque, garnished with Chantilly cream, Spanish caviar and garam masala (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)|
A pinch of Fleur de Sel de Guerande over the cream and a flourish of Spanish caviar add notes of umami-rich saltiness to the dish. Glazed and dehydrated beets, a little bit of garam masala, basil, chervil and small slices of smoked sea eel add even more flavor and texture to the soup.
Then, of course, there are the small pearl-like drops of hazelnut oil decorating the bisque, which Im added “to get it a bit, more nutty.”
All this no-holds-barred cooking seems to be a natural extension of Im’s own eclectic culinary experience.
The chef has experience doing brunch fare, desserts, Korean cuisine and French cuisine in various restaurants, some his own, before joining Harvest Namsan shortly after it opened last October.
Now, settled at his latest post, he looks set to continue to unleash his creative spirit, dreaming up dishes with his team that will continue to reflect the health-conscious attitude of the restaurant without skimping out on that crucial “yum” factor.
|In mid-April, Harvest Namsan will set up veranda seating for diners who want to enjoy their meals outdoors. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)|
258-202 Itaewon 2-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul (02) 793-2299; www.harvestnamsan.com
Open from 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily (2:30 p.m. last lunch order, 8:30 p.m. last dinner order)
Brunch costs 20,000 won to 23,000 won; entrees, main dishes and pizza cost 17,000 won to 59,000 won; tapas cost 8,000 won to 18,000 won
By Jean Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org