Sabiru ― Enjoy hansik at hotel
By Kim Rahn
Many foreigners working at hotels here say the unique thing about Korea’s hotel food and beverage industry is that almost no five-star hotel has a Korean restaurant.
It may be frustrating for foreign guests that they can’t experience the local foods at the hotels they are staying; it is also troublesome for them to search for a local restaurant outside, especially when they have little time.
The Renaissance Seoul Hotel’s “Sabiru” is one of a handful of Korean restaurants inside a hotel. Since the hotel’s opening in 1988, the restaurant has introduced local foods, or “hansik,” which is gaining growing attention along with other Korean pop culture.
The entrance resembles the main gate of a traditional Korean house, called a “hanok,” with tiled roof eaves. A hanok-based interior and other traditional designs are combined to create the atmosphere of a noble house during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).
Not magnificent or splendid, but the interior using stone and wood is modest. A traditional touch is everywhere, from ornaments to the lattice work of sliding doors.
Sabiru has six private rooms, each of which can accommodate three to six guests. They are famous for business or formal family meetings between would be brides and bridegrooms. Those rooms can also merge into one for a large-sized gathering of up to 30 people.
Twelve chefs at the restaurant use the best ingredients to reenact authentic traditional food as well as developing modern-style dishes for the globalization of hansik. Many of them have won awards at domestic and overseas culinary competitions.
Of Sabiru’s menus, “bulgogi” (grilled beef), “galbi” (barbeque rib), “doenjang jjigae” (bean paste stew) and “bibimbap” (rice mixed with assorted vegetable) are popular.
Beef used in bulgogi and galbi are marinated for over 12 hours and 40 hours, respectively, before being grilled to make it soft. The sauces contain traditional medicinal herbs. Doenjang jjigae uses seafood stock and top quality beans.
Vegetables used in bibimbap change according to the season in order to provide the freshest ingredients. Guests can select types of rice from plain white rice to that mixed with cereals.
During lunch time, three Business lunch courses are offered, with five, seven and eight dishes.
The seven-course meal is the most popular. Served after porridge, fresh ginseng with dropwort salad gives a slightly bitter taste. It is followed by pan-fried bean curd, and grilled LA beef ribs that are well seasoned with a special herb soybean sauce.
A nicely salted grilled mackerel comes next, and when soft bean curd stew is served with steamed rice, guests will feel already full. Fruit and seasonal tea finishes the meal with a pleasant aftertaste.