What art! What triumph! Ryunique is a combination of Chef Tae Hwan Ryu‘s name and the word “unique.” It sits at a fashionable area of Seoul, Garosu-sil, and serves Modern Korean cuisine, that is, the chef uses Korean ingredients by Japanese and Western culinary techniques from his past apprenticeship experience in other countries like UK (Gordon Ramsay) and Japan.
The set lunch (₩60K) is good value and delicious. Unlike Andre (#5) which food is innovative but not delicious, the food at this ranked 27th restaurant is artistic without sacrificing the taste. The running theme of nature, forest and ocean, is inspired by the chef’s childhood.
First, Chef Tae gave me driftwood, decomposing wood, fungi-ed leaf, and moss to eat. Then he gave me a lump of “coal” to butter my bread. Why do you hate me, chef?
The amuse bouche is particularly eye catching. A raw shrimp marinated in soy soy sauce—intensely sweet on its own—is made creamy with a pink garlic mayo. Two pieces of translucent kimchi sandwiched a sour cream on a driftwood; a bay leaf lathered with cream cheese (you lick the leaf, not eat it); spices and sweet gelatin in starch “plastic” (you eat everything, including the “plastic”); and a very thin, crispy slice of mushroom laced with mayo, peppered with kimchi powder.
How could the chef expect to top his out-of-the-world amuse bouche? He did. The 4 layers—tapioca crisp, pork trotter terrine, braised shiitake, dived scallop, with green chilli salsa—is so Korean yet so Western. The terrine is not at all gamy, the mushroom is intensely sweet. You can take any combination of the 4 layers, and it still tastes good.
The chicken wing is the best I have in my life. It is cooked an even pink throughout—how did he do that?! And I’ve not seen chicken paired with carrot—fried carrot, carrot fondant, burnt carrot espuma—before.
Chef Tae’s signature is quail (supplement +₩15K) done two ways: seared breast, and hay-smoked quail leg wrapped with bacon. Unfortunately, I think this is his weakest dish. Some parts of the quail are still raw, some parts tough. Not a bad dish, but in comparison with the dishes that come before, the quail isn’t as interesting.
The dessert continues the theme of nature; this is a forest. Cotton candy as cloud; Kinako chocolate cake as log; meringue mushrooms; green tea milk as grass; milk powder as snow; frosted leaves as trees in winter; and sugar as lightning.
The decor of Ryunique seems a little tired, and the food seems over-practiced, but it gives me such great pleasure eating it for the first time. It’s intelligent food with a running theme of nature, and it tastes wonderful. I like it that I can actually see the shape of the food I’m eating, unlike some pretentious restaurants where the ingredients are annihilated. Out of the 50 Best Restaurants in Asia I’ve tried, Ryunique deserves a higher spot.
Including a glass of wine (₩15K), the supplement (₩15K) and taxes, I paid ₩98K for the meal.
520-1 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul 강남구 신사동 520-1
T: +82 02-546-9279
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.