More Japanese Restaurants in Seoul Gain Michelin Stars

  • By Lee Hai-woon, Yang Ji-ho

    November 26, 2021 12:18

    The latest Michelin Guide Seoul published on Thursday awards its coveted stars to 33 restaurants, many of them Japanese or Japanese-inflected rather than Korean.

    Six new restaurants scored one star in this year's guide: Goryori Ken, Soseoul Hannam, Sushi Matsumoto, Sushi Sanghyeon, YUN Seoul, Kojacha and Hane, and five of them at least serve partly Japanese food, bringing the total starred Japanese restaurants in the Korean capital to eight.

    Just two years ago, there was only one Japanese restaurant among the starred eateries in Seoul, but now there are as many of them as there are Korean restaurants.

    Sushi Matsumoto, Sushi Sanghyeon and Hane are all sushi restaurants, reflecting the never-ending popularity of the fish-and-rice delicacies.

    Two Korean restaurants landed two stars, but one of them is closed until early next year. Soseoul Hannam in Yongsan is helmed by chef Eom Tae-cheol, who cooks traditional Korean food with a modern twist, while YUN Seoul is a Korean-style tavern serving traditional liquor, which is why it closed during the coronavirus pandemic and will not reopen until March.

    Instead, innovative chef Kim Do-yun went to New York to research new ingredients. When the Chosun Ilbo asked Michelin about the closure, it promised to list the fact on its website.

    Since 2016, when the first Seoul guide was published, Korean restaurants Gaon and La Yeon have had three stars, while Korean restaurant Joo Ok has risen from one star last year to two this year.

    The rising might of Japanese restaurants has spurred rumors that the Michelin reviewers are not as impartial as they might seem because it coincided with the end of sponsorship from the Korea Tourism Organization last year. One industry insider said, "After the sponsorship ended, there are rumors that Michelin Guide stopped giving extra points to Korean food."

    Bib Gourmand, which lists the best cheap-and-cheerful restaurants, naturally focused on noodle joints. About 25 of the 61 restaurants chosen this year serve noodles, be it ramen or pasta.

    "There has been an increase in the number of restaurants serving noodles from a wide range of countries, such as kalguksu and naengmyeon as well as pasta, udon, pad thai and Taiwanese beef noodles," a Michelin staffer said.

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