By Kim Da-ye
For those looking for an unconventional business dinner, Taegawon, a Chinese restaurant located near Samseong Station, is among the most exotic venues in southern Seoul.
While Chinese food has become somewhat of a cliche of business dining in Korea, Taegawon offers more than delicious food.
The main hall look likes a movie set for a Chinese martial arts film ― it imitates a tavern seen somewhere between the fall of the Ming Dynasty and the rise of the Qing, indicating that Taegawon is serious about business. Wooden walls, muntin bars, tables, chairs and little ornaments all come from China, according to Joo In-ki, the restaurant’s senior manager. Such a lavish interior is rare in Korea probably because restaurants come and go within such a short period.
Waiters and waitresses only speak Chinese to make customers feel as though they are in China, Joo said.
If those serving in the hall behave bluntly by putting down plates on the table, don’t take offense because that’s part of the performance, the manager said. In private rooms, you will be served in a very different and deferent manner.
Taegawon offers an extensive choice ― a variety of courses and set meals and a lengthy a la carte menu.
While the restaurant touts authentically made dishes from recipes dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties, the food is somewhere on the border between authentic and Korean-Chinese cuisine. Joo said that the chefs are both Korean and Chinese.
Portions are generous, and prices are reasonable. Shanghai Zuoyourou ― steamed layers of pork belly served with bok choy ― is one of the manager’s recommendations. Priced at 29,000 won plus 10-percent VAT, it can be shared by two to three people.
All menus are written in Chinese and Korean ― and the prices are only written in Chinese. Due to the fact that the restaurant does not have English menus, diners who do not speak either language will have to consult the waiting staff.
One thing that surprised this reporter was the poorly maintained plates that do not match the lavish interior. However, even these were part of the humor in Taegawon. A notice by the entrance says that the restaurant serves food on chipped plates because they bring luck. Of course, the gold- or silver-plated dishes used in special private rooms will be flawless.
Address: 1st floor, Haeam Building, 983-1 Daechi 2-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Direction: From Exit 3 of Samseong Station, walk straight down 610 meters toward Hangnyeoul Station.
Phone number: 02-555-3003
Price: Prices of the course menus range from 38,000 won to 250,000 won per person. Prices of the set menus that are ideal for four people vary from 130,000 won to 200,000 won. The restaurant also
offers most of the conventional Korean-Chinese food. Black bean sauce noodle costs as little as
6,500 won. A 10-percent VAT will be added to the bill.
Opening hours: Opens from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. everyday. Last order taken at 10 p.m.
Parking: Valet parking for a fee of 1,000 won. The restaurant has a massive parking lot in the basement.
Reservation: Recommended for private rooms
Private rooms: Eight private rooms. The most luxurious are the Emperor and Empress rooms that take up to eight and seven people, respectively. For those rooms, diners must order course menus that cost 78,000 won (exclusive of the VAT) or more. Two other largest rooms can merge into one and cater up to 60 people.
Frequented by: Business owners, dealers for imported vehicles, POSCO employees and professionals
Recommended by: Among a la carte menus, Kanshotamingsha, large prawns deep-fried and then stir-fried in spicy
Manager: Szechuan sauce (48,000 won) and Shanhai Zuoyourou, steamed layer of pork belly served with bok choy (29,000 won). Among courses, Jinmi, priced at 58,000 won, is the most popular.
Total seating: About 250