Taste New York-Style Brunch at My Chelsea
By Lee Hyo-won
Successful entertainer-turned-restaurateur Hong Seok-chun has opened his fifth franchise in Itaewon, My Chelsea. As the name suggests, it is a trendy New York-style brunch place that can be found in the food alley behind the Hamilton Hotel.
In a country obsessed with finding the latest ``matjib,'' or a restaurant with reputable dishes, many bloggers have already posted comments and photos of My Chelsea's dishes and colorful decor.
Hong has recently published a book on running a restaurant, and his flair for styling shines through. It exudes with rustic charm, with plastered white and orange walls, wooden furniture, vases of fresh flowers in every corner and adorable props. Bright sunrays fill the spacious hall, as the entire facade is made of glass. It caters particularly to trendy young women to whom ambiance matters.
But perhaps the restaurant, barely two-months-old, is yet too infantile for a ``guerrilla'' restaurant review. While the decor certainly lived up to expectations set by bloggers, the food and service were rather disappointing, particularly since Hong's other restaurants such as Our Place serve tasty meals.
When we visited My Chelsea on a Monday afternoon, the kitchen was not yet ready to serve ― which was quite surprising for a so-called ``brunch'' place, where peak hours tend be around 11 a.m. The restaurant was painfully understaffed, and two waiters struggled to take orders in the spacious hall and tend to matters at the open bar. Waiting for our meals was tedious, though the slices of homemade herb bread, which tasted fresh with a hint of basil and rosemary, with olive oil, made it more tolerable.
Finally, the gorgonzola pizza (called ``GorgonZolar'' here) arrived. Like the herb bread, the homemade crust was thin, crunchy and delicious, but it had too much cheese. For a simple pizza topped with mushrooms, the price of 15,000 seemed a tad high.
Next came the Owner Special (14,000 won), a platter of baguette slices topped with chicken, meat sauce, grilled veggies and feta cheese and green salad on the side. Thin, lukewarm French fries, rather than whole mini potatoes shown in blogs, were served. Another stark contrast was that the chicken breast was rather humble in size. There was nothing special about the so-called Owner Special.
The waffle with ice cream, however, made up for the disappointment. The waffle was beautifully presented on a white dish, and was scrumptiously topped with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, slices of banana and strawberry, berry compote, whipped cream and a cube of gourmet chocolate. It was not the commonly served fluffy Belgian waffle but the chewier Liege sour dough. A couple of drawbacks were the 20-minute wait and high price (12,000 won) in comparison to the small, palm-size serving.
Coffee and tea, normally 4,000 won, are offered for 3,000 won with brunch. The menu features pastas and other brunch platters, and various steaks (under 30,000 won) and rice dishes (around 10,000 won) are available for dinner.
My Chelsea's prime location and ambiance give it potential to become a hot spot, but it needs to work on serving consistently good meals that are on par with the price. It also needs to polish up on the service, and become more creative with the menu to compete with the numerous brunch eateries in the area.
Open 11-2 a.m. everyday ― but, as mentioned above, the kitchen may not be ready until the afternoon. Located near exit 1 of Itaewon Station on subway line 6. Turn right after KFC and walk up the alleyway. You will spot the bright blue shutters right away. Call (02) 749-1373.