Coreanos Kitchen heads to Itaewon

By Korea Herald

Mexican fusion spot’s second act opens near Gyeongnidan

  • Published : Aug 1, 2014 - 20:49
  • Updated : Aug 1, 2014 - 20:49
The folks at Coreanos Kitchen, a Mexican fusion restaurant in Seoul’s Apgujeong-dong, are headed to Itaewon.

After setting down roots on Rodeo Drive last September, the spot quickly attracted a loyal patron base and a steady influx of customers, including quite a few celebrities, whose visits have been well-documented on the establishment’s Facebook page.

Now, nearly 11 months later, co-owners James Kwon and Gene Cho are ready to launch their second eatery, near Gyeongnidan-gil, a short hike away from Noksapyeong Station.

“We had our eyes set on multiple restaurants,” said co-owner and chef Cho, 31, explaining that they’d planned to open more than one establishment from the get-go.

Cho ― who cofounded the much-buzzed-about, Texas-based, Mexican-Korean fusion food truck Coreanos in 2010 ― is no stranger to second acts.

After leaving Austin and landing in Seoul, the Los Angeles native teamed up with Kwon to take a second, independent stab at Mexican food with a twist.

His sophomore collaboration proved successful.

Now, Kwon and Cho are gearing up for their next move: a two-story, open-air, terraced affair.

“I really fell in love with the view,” said Cho. “The view sold it for me.”

Kwon divulged that he had been eyeing the spot for a while, deeming it a prime location for a restaurant with its highly visible hilltop perch.

The onetime investment bank research analyst revealed plans to take full advantage of the easy-to-spot turf by installing a huge LED sign at the top of the building, for all to see.

The new space is nearly double the size of the first restaurant, Kwon added, with around 120 seats.

Slated to open Aug. 7, Kwon, 29, promised to make good use of the two bars located on both floors of the new establishment, saying, “We’re adding a lot more cocktails.”

In addition to more libations, Kwon and Cho are also making their tasty soymilk horchata a permanent addition to their drinks repertoire. 
Coreanos Kitchen’s soymilk horchata (top left) and sope — a fried housemade corn tortilla topped with meat, tomatoes, beans, sour cream and cheese — will be on the menu at the new Itaewon location. (Jean Oh/The Korea Herald)

As for the grub, according to Cho, not only will most of the original menu be carried over to the Itaewon spot, new nosh will be added to the mix.

While Cho is considering nixing the tortas for now, he and his team have been busy developing new dishes for the menu.

Some upcoming additions include a fish taco, sopes, a shrimp avocado cocktail and a zucchini-carrot pasta salad, says Cho.

The soon-to-be-released fish taco will feature batter-fried cod and a cilantro-cream sauce, while the sopes will be made by topping fried handmade corn tortillas with protein, tomatoes, beans, sour cream and cheese. 
Coreanos Kitchen’s soon-to-be-released fish taco will feature batter-fried cod draped with a cilantro-cream sauce. (Jean Oh/The Korea Herald)

Brunch is also something that Cho is looking to do at the second restaurant, around September, when he and his team have settled in.

Huevos rancheros, bacon and egg-filled breakfast tacos and a wet burrito are in the works, along with migas, Cho said.

Until then, diners can check out the fish tacos and sopes or tuck into classics like the braised pork belly tacos ― chock full of juicy, star anise-infused, hand-pulled protein ― or fresh housemade guacamole and wash it all down with one of the many new beers that Kwon says will be added to the menu. 

Coreanos Kitchen Itaewon
Coreanos Kitchen Itaewon

● 457-3, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
● (02) 795-4427;
● Open noon to 11 p.m. daily
● Appetizers cost 3,000 won to 12,000 won, tacos cost 3,300 won to 4,000 won, burritos cost 9,000 won to 15,000 won

By Jean Oh (