The Korea Herald


No need to fly 15 hours to Barcelona to satiate craving for authentic churros

Overseas eateries flock to Seoul as Koreans eagerly embrace global food trends

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Feb. 13, 2024 - 10:24

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Luke's Lobster (Luke's Lobster Korea) Luke's Lobster (Luke's Lobster Korea)

An unusually long queue formed in the basement floor of The Hyundai Seoul in Yeouido last month.

Shim Young-mi, 37, was one of the people who waited in line to try the New York-based Luke’s Lobster. She said she didn’t mind the long wait and the relatively high price for a palm-sized lobster roll that costs 21,500 won ($16.50). The price varies depending on how much lobster meat is in the roll -- a lobster roll with 100 grams of lobster meat sells for 29,500 won.

“I wanted to taste both the lobster roll and the crab roll so I ordered half and half. I will definitely visit (the store) when they officially open here. It offers a different kind of taste compared to other ordinary sandwich or hotdog shops in Korea,” Shim told The Korea Herald.

Luke’s Lobster operated pop-up stores in a number of Korean department stores – Shinsegae Gangnam, The Hyundai Seoul and Lotte World Tower in Jamsil -- until Feb. 4, ahead of the official opening of its flagship store in Seoul in April. Such pop-up stores are a way to hear customer opinions and analyze their reception of the relatively new item, according to JRW, the Korean license partner of Luke’s Lobster.

Clam chowder, lobster bisque and mac and cheese are among the other items on the menu at Luke's Lobster.

Xurreria Churros (Xurreria Korea) Xurreria Churros (Xurreria Korea)

Foodies are also excited about the arrival of a new churros joint coming all the way from Barcelona.

Xurreria San Roman, a small churros shop in Barcelona, Spain which opened in 1968, is coming to Seoul. Its first Korean branch will open in Yeonnam-dong, Seoul in February, the first overseas branch of this must-visit churros place.

Prior to opening, Xurreria San Roman also operated pop-up stores in local department stores to gauge customer responses. Due to the unexpectedly long waiting line, the store had to limit the number of purchases per person to two sets. A set included five finger-length churros and 178 milliliters of hot chocolate for drinking and dipping, for 9,500 won.

Made using chocolate and oil imported from Spain, the crispy taste of the deep-fried churros sprinkled with cinnamon sugar on top is just identical to the taste in Barcelona, according to Double H F&B, which owns the exclusive Asia market sales rights for Xurreria San Roman.

A Xurreria San Roman pop-up store will open at the Hyundai Department Store Coex branch from Feb. 16 to 22 and The Hyundai Daegu from Feb. 23 to 29.

Tim Hortons in Gangnam, Seoul (BKR) Tim Hortons in Gangnam, Seoul (BKR)
Intelligentsia Coffee in Seochon, Jongno-gu, Seoul (Intelligentsia Coffee) Intelligentsia Coffee in Seochon, Jongno-gu, Seoul (Intelligentsia Coffee)

While the Korean coffee market is already saturated, that doesn’t keep overseas coffee brands from opening branches in the still lucrative Korean market.

After Canada’s coffee chain Tim Hortons opened its first and second branches in Gangnam in December, Chicago’s specialty coffee brand Intelligentsia Coffee is coming to Seochon, Jongno-gu, Seoul. The official Intelligentsia Coffee Instagram said details of the Korean opening will be announced soon.

Billed as one of the top coffee roasting companies and retailers in the US along with Blue Bottle Coffee and Stumptown Coffee, the store in Seochon will be Intelligentsia’s first overseas store.

Currently, Intelligentsia Coffee beans are sold online on Kurly through MH Partners, an import and distribution firm here, which also recently obtained the exclusive rights to open an Intelligentsia Coffee branch in Korea.

Kith Treats' signature vanilla ice cream (Kith) Kith Treats' signature vanilla ice cream (Kith)

Those with a sweet tooth can look forward to indulging in new desserts from abroad as well.

Kith Treats, an ice cream brand run by New York-based fashion and lifestyle brand Kith, established in 2011, is coming to Seongsu-dong in Seoul this spring. The deal to bring in Kith was clinched last summer by the fashion conglomerate, Handsome, under the Hyundai Department Store Group.

Versatile and customized ice cream recipes created by celebrities made Kith Treats popular in the US, as well as the gelato-like texture and crispy cereal and chocolate chip toppings. For example, the specialty creation “The Bam Bam,” concocted by American rapper Action Bronson consists of Rice Krispies Treats, Cookie Crisp, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Kit Kat, Crushed Oreos and Lucky Charms pieces.

Hey Tea's tea-based drinks (Hey Tea) Hey Tea's tea-based drinks (Hey Tea)

For fans of boba – also known as bubble tea -- China’s best-known milk tea brand Heytea is coming very soon to Seoul, opening Korea’s first store in Apgujeong, Gangnam-gu. The details of the opening date or exact location have not been revealed.

Heytea currently has stores in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK, among other countries, and its signature drink topped with a rich layer of cream cheese foam is expected to draw Korean customers.

Founded in Guangdong, China in 2012, Heytea quickly garnered attention by reinventing traditional tea drinks.