Dining out in Seoul : Traditional Korean, world cuisine, casual dining, fine dining, royal cuisine – whatever your taste buds seek, all can be found in Seoul. This post is part of the restaurant review series here on the Korea Blog.
Question: How do you know if a world cuisine restaurant is “authentic”? Answer: When people of that nationality frequent it. That’s the reputation of Spain Club, a restaurant situated in the trendy area of Garosugil in Seoul.
Mostly noted for its paella and jamon, Spain Club has been a popular place for Spanish ex-pats to go enjoy a touch of home. Although some dishes have been slightly tweaked to please the local Korean crowd, traditional flavors remain true in most.
Spain Club is a two story restaurant. The first floor is a wide open hall with a bar, the second floor has a more homey setting. The lighting is very dim and low on the second floor – great atmosphere, but not ideal for taking photos. Voices don’t echo in the room and the patrons were on the quiet side.
I visited the restaurant with foodie friends. Although we went mainly to get the paella and imbibe some Spanish wine, we ordered a lot of dishes to taste as much as possible.
We started the meal with a crisp white wine and anchovies paired with it quite nicely. Not “fishy” at all.
Fried calamari, a staple not only in Mediterranean cuisine but also Korean. I think the only difference is the sauce: Koreans usually dip fried squid in ganjang (soy sauce). The texture of the squid was good; no need for extensive chewing.
Croquetas con jamon. Ham “go-ro-keh” (고로케), as we say in Korean. These are pop-in-your-mouth bite sized. (Most took two bites.) They were nicely crisp without being greasy. I could’ve eaten another batch of these.
“Is this potato salad?” The aioli sauce was so subtle and the octopus so deeply hidden underneath the tower that the first bite brought upon this question. I wished for a smidgen more seasoning, a little punch. Unless I’m craving potato salad, I don’t think I would be ordering this again.
Again on the seafood train, a bowl of garlic shrimp. Cooked in olive oil, this hot dish puzzled me. . The seasoning was en pointe and so was the flavor, but it was lacking something; I couldn’t pinpoint what. Maybe the simplicity was throwing me off.
Albondigas, i.e. meatballs. Nicely cooked. It was probably my childhood memories taking over, but I wanted to pour this over a bowl of pasta and make spaghetti and meatballs. Yes, so not Spanish. I kept this thought to myself.
Paella! The main reason we came to this restaurant! If you plan on having paella, be sure to order it as soon as you are seated. Because paella takes time to prepare, the kitchen requires a minimum 30 minutes for the dish to be served. If you only want the paella, you might get hungry in the meantime so take note.
If you’ve had paella in Spain, you might be surprised at the size of the dish. Instead of a huge arms-length wide pan, you’ll find the paella served in a pan the size of a large buffet plate. We asked the manager if they had any larger sizes. He said that they could take requests if reserved in advance, but advised that the smaller size had a more “compact” taste. I got the impression that not a lot of people order paella alone, so they never really had the need for the humungous pan.
It didn’t really matter in the long run. We had ordered (and eaten) enough dishes already. The rice was a bit on the sticky side but the paella itself was packed with flavor so I’m not going to nitpick about the texture.
Spain Club’s wine list, not surprisingly, carries a wide selection of Spanish wines. The manager is very knowledgeable and was quite patient when bombarded with our group’s questions about the list. We followed all of his suggestions and weren’t disappointed.
The wine list comprises of other world wines as well, but as it is rather difficult to find a good selection of Spanish wines at other western restaurants, it would be a pity not to take advantage.
We didn’t sample any salads (no one was in rabbit mood). Dessert choice is rather minimal: crème brulee, pudding, or ice cream. We skipped dessert and just had coffee.
Next time, I’m going for the jamon and Iberico pork dishes, and once again the paella. Maybe even a couple of paellas – I still think paella should come supersized!
Spain Club at Garosugil
- Mon ~ Thur (11:30 ~ 01:00), Fri ~ Sat (11:30 ~ 03:00), Break Time (14:30 ~ 17:30)
- Sun & Holidays (11:30 ~ 23:00), no break
Tel : (02) 515-1118
Address : Seoul, Gangnam-gu Sinsa-dong 524-30
Reservations recommended for weekdays, needed for weekends
Metro station Sinsa (line 3, exit #8)
Walk straight out of the exit, walk until you see Caffe Bene and head into the alley on the left. Turn right when you see at the convenience store GS25 on the corner and walk into the first alley on your left.
Spain Club at Hongdae
- Tue ~ Sun (11:30 ~ 23:30), Closed on Mondays
Tel : (02) 3143-1118
Address : Seoul, Mapo-gu Seogyo-dong 404-24
No parking available
Metro Station Sangsoo (line 6, exit #1) or Hapjung (line 2, exit #3 or #4 and line 6, exit #5 or #6)
No matter which exit you choose, you’ll find yourself in the area full of small streets and alleys so head towards the direction of the Hongdae Parking Street first and then work your way from there.
For more info (Korean only) : http://www.spainclub.kr/