Dock at Pier 8 for delectable Japanese fare
By Agnes Yu
Along the main street of Itaewon these days there is enough international cuisine to take your palate to a wide range of destinations. Intermixed with the storefronts are many bold new restaurants offering exotic choices beyond the typical plates of pasta and pizza.
Toward the Cheil Communications building, look up to the second floor and you’ll discover the new Japanese tapas restaurant Pier 8. It opened two months ago to present a different take on the basic izakayas and traditional sushi places found in Seoul.
The owners of Saigon Grill in Hannam-dong partnered with a couple of the owners of Berlin to combine their food expertise, modern aesthetics and restaurant savvy to create Pier 8.
The menu includes affordable lunch sets and a broad array of tapas-styled Japanese inspired dishes for dinner. Served on authentic tableware from Japan the meals are visually pleasing while they sate hunger pangs.
The octopus carpaccio with lime and yuzu dressing was particularly enticing and so thinly sliced; each piece seemed so delicate but a perfect delicious morsel.
There are assorted sushi plates and traditional Japanese options such as the soba noodle salad with wasabi dressing for 8,000 won, a personal favorite.
The portions might be a bit small but tapas dishes are not main meals. Otherwise katsudon, rice topped with a deep-fried pork cutlet, egg and onion is a more filling choice.
Special lunch options include the chirashi sushi set of selected sashimi, vegetables and baked egg on sushi rice for 17,000 won, the sukiyaki set of pan grilled beef, tofu and selected vegetables for 15,000 won and the slow cooked pork blade with miso set for 14,000 won. The lunch sets are available until 3 p.m.
There are also three evening set menus until 1 a.m.
The interior of Pier 8 is an airy open space with a wall of windows that let in lots of natural light and fresh air. Sometimes the noise from the street is a bit loud but the open windows allow worthwhile views. Regular seating divides the restaurant with basic tables for four in rows on one half and lines of high tables closer to the bar.
The long bar stretches along the opposite wall with mirrors hanging slanted from the ceiling and running parallel. There is some private seating at one end and a DJ stand sits perpendicular to the other end. Diners can take a peek into the kitchen as they pass it to go to the restroom and an elegant floral tapestry decorates one patch of wall. At Pier 8 there are only real flowers in the vases.
Later in the evening, Pier 8 is also a suitable place for after-dinner drinks. Anyone familiar with the espresso martini at Berlin can find much of the same reliable assortment here as well as some new cocktails with a neat Japanese twist. The ginger kamikaze is a unique one to try from the drink menu for 8,000 won. The Sapporo yuki martini for 12,000 won is made with ginger infused vodka, crème de cacao and milk. My dining partner said, “The flavor is not overbearing but you can taste the alcohol.’’ The drinks here are good and strong.
There are only two desserts on the menu but the macha (green tea) crème brulee is highly recommended by the same companion who is a self-proclaimed crème brulee aficionado. He also liked the fish burgers, available for 14,000 won.
On the weekends there is a live DJ along with special sake cocktails (sake mojito, pink geisha and samurai cat) for less and a glass of house wine is only 5,000 won.
The wait staff are attentive and experienced. The manager, Hollis Kim spent four years at Berlin before transferring to the new venue and he is as mindful as he is at your service.
Pier 8 is located above Spain Club. Call 02) 749-2173 for reservations. Opening hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. There is an entrance on either side of the restaurant.