Low on flamboyance and high on quality, owner-chef Daisy Park’s 30-seat establishment serves up carefully executed fare that slowly unfurls its layers of flavors and textures one bite at a time.
There is no big pop of flavor or fancy plating, just tasty, earnest food that treads lightly on the palate, leaving behind a delicate medley of aromas, a feat made possible by the laborious handiwork of Park and team.
No detail has been omitted, from the well-trained wait staff to the complementary bread and olive oil served before the meal.
It is that attention to detail, to the warm, porous housemade ciabatta and accompanying fruity, silken extra virgin olive oil that makes it abundantly clear ― Park is no beginner.
Indeed, Park, 30, says she has been working at high-profile Italian restaurants in Seoul for a whopping 10 years.
Now, she is ready to strike out on her own.
“I had my own dream,” said Park, grateful for all that she has learned over the years. “So I have been preparing for this for a long time.”
Early this month, she saw her decadelong dream reach fruition when she opened her own restaurant in Seoul’s Seochon.
For her solo debut, Park chose a renovated, multistory house.
It is from this quiet spot that she hones her craft, working to achieve a balance of “texture and harmony” with each dish.
She counts “top-quality Korean ingredients” like domestically raised asparagus, Jejudo Island black pig and hanwoo beef a key part of her kitchen arsenal.
Yet, it is how she and her team put it all together that really promises to put her restaurant on the foodie map.
Dishes are assembled to maximal sensory effect, playing off aroma, flavor and texture.
Aroma, in particular, seems to be one of Park’s strengths, as evidenced in creations like the Insalata di Gallina where truffle oil, lemon zest dressing and crushed almonds mingle to form a distinct, orange blossom-like scent that is citrusy yet sweet.
Parsley adds yet another layer of fragrance to the salad, while boiled egg, crisp, flash-blanched spears of asparagus, sweet beets and quinoa add texture and more flavor.
“We quickly parboiled the asparagus to keep its crunch,” Park explained.
With her housemade Italian sausage, fennel seeds imbue patties made from ground Jeju black pork with a sweet anise-like fragrance.
“I love fennel,” said Park effusively, adding that she will be using the herb in a salad for this spring and summer as well.
Park’s love of aromatic herbs, spices and greens shines through again in the Tre Verde pasta, which Park says takes its cue from a traditional, Genovese-style pesto with a sauce made from basil, rucola, parsley, Korean pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and extra virgin olive oil.
A garnish of fresh parsley completes the dish, which features artisanal garganelli pasta cooked fiercely al dente for serious bite ― a texture that might delight some but might displease others who are accustomed to softer pasta.
The glistening sauce, which drapes the pasta in a robe of spring green, is so good it would be just as great on its own as a condiment, alongside some bread.
|Gallina Daisy’s toothsome cannoli is filled with Sicilian almond paste and housemade ricotta cheese. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
Then there is the cannoli, where almonds act as the top note in this dessert.
“We get our almonds from Sicily,” said Park, describing how they boast a “very nutty flavor.”
She uses them to make a paste that is added to a housemade ricotta cheese.
The toothsome cheese-nut paste filling ― which, thanks to the almond paste, tastes like it has been infused with Amaretto, an almond liqueur ― is then put into those flaky, fried tunnels of pastry.
The whole affair is topped with powdered sugar, with the ends encrusted in crunchy candied almonds for a dessert that marries a fragrant, bitter almond-like flavor with the tang of cheese.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Park takes great pride in Gallina Daisy’s sweets.
After explaining how much effort she and her team put into making everything, she added with confidence, “We even make our own desserts.”
|Gallina Daisy opened this April in Seoul’s Tongin-dong near Gyeongbok Palace. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
118-15 Tongin-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul (02) 730-1248
Open noon to 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily, closed Mondays
Appetizers cost 17,000 won to 28,000 won, pasta costs 18,000 won to 23,000 won, dessert costs 7,000 won to 9,000 won
By Jean Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org)