Restaurants that focus on serving a variety of pasta dishes are proving popular these days.
Reservations for restaurants that offer bar seating in front of the kitchen are particularly difficult to find, as diners want to enjoy the sights and smells of their meals while the food is being prepared.
One such restaurant is Bawi Pasta Bar, a small restaurant in Seongsu, Seongdong district east of Seoul. The restaurant, which opened at the end of 2019, is located in a residential area and can seat around eight guests. It first gained attention on social media about a year ago with its handmade pasta.
It is known to rarely have seats available and the foodie community often asks for advice on how to make a reservation.
The interior of the restaurant is painted black, which adds to the drama of the culinary performance.
At Bawi, chef Kim Hyun-joong makes and cuts pasta right in front of the guests. Although it is difficult to actually speak to the chef during service, as he is the only person preparing the dishes for the entire restaurant, he accompanies diners through the process of preparing the pasta.
It’s fun and informative to watch him come and go between the hot stove and the pasta machines to create his own Italian-inspired creation. It serves pasta dishes as part of a set menu and the dishes are subject to change depending on the season and the chef’s preferences.
âSince many locals here are used to having carbohydrates in their meals, people consider a pasta dish to be a complete meal and even seem to prefer it,â said Chef Kim. âOn top of that, the concept of eating their pasta around the bar seats seems to really appeal to diners as it feels a bit different from other pasta restaurants they’ve visited before.â
When Bawi was inundated with Instagram messages and calls, the restaurant used a new rule that it only takes reservations through the Catchtable app, a Korean equivalent of OpenTable.
Bawi’s menu typically consists of an appetizer, four pasta dishes, and dessert, priced at 75,000 won ($ 64) per person. Kim, however, says he actually prefers to offer diners an a la carte menu, to allow them to choose from more options, but that has become impossible to sustain with the influx of guests. He switched to the set menu and only takes one reservation every hour. Bawi is expected to move in a few months and Kim plans to bring the a la carte menu back when he does.
âThe charm of pasta is that it is comfortable and exciting for diners to eat and fun for chefs to prepare,â Kim said, adding that he wanted to serve his food in a larger place with more staff to accommodate. more guests.
âA chef I worked with in Japan once said that choosing pasta ingredients should be as simple and easy as choosing what to wear every day. Pasta is something very comfortable and I think that is why this particular food is so popular.
Evidence Seoul, which opened in November, has bar seating similar to Bawi’s, as well as individual tables. Located in Cheongdam in the Gangnam district of South Seoul, the restaurant also offers pasta as part of a set menu. Chef Lee Tae-woo makes all the pasta from scratch and also includes the dish ingredients in the batter. For example, if truffle is the main ingredient in a certain dish, then truffle is added to the pasta.
âWe try to use dough in many different forms other than the long spaghetti noodles that people are most familiar with, like making pie crusts for appetizers,â Lee said. “I even want to make desserts with pasta dough so that diners can really have a full pasta experience.”
At Evidence, pasta doesn’t necessarily feel Italian. The chef takes the flavors and cooking techniques used in many different cuisines around the world to create more contemporary dishes.
âPeople seem to have knowledge of foreign words and concepts related to making pasta, such as lasagna, bolognese, pomodoro, or putanesca,â Lee said.
“They seem to like going to a restaurant where they feel familiar with the concept which also offers a twist.”
Uovo Pasta Bar, also in Seongsu, opened in May and already requires reservations at least a month in advance. Chef Im Jung-seob also does everything from scratch.
Im explains that new chef owners prefer bar style restaurants because they can work on their own without any additional manpower, which drastically cuts costs.
“Such a concept was born out of necessity, but with the opening of more and more restaurants of this type, consumers now see it as a trendy thing that they must visit and experience,” said Chef Im. who said he had always wanted to open a pasta restaurant. He started out on his own in Uovo but with the influx of bookings he has since hired a manager to take charge of the operations.
Uovo offers an a la carte menu and pasta dishes starting at 19,000 won.
Perigee, a newcomer to the restaurant scene in Seoul, also immediately gained popularity. Just about two weeks after opening in June, the restaurant saw reservations immediately soar on Catchtable.
Started by two chefs, married couple Lim Hong-keun and Shin Ga-young, the restaurant has now hired three more employees to better serve customers. The couple initially debated whether to create a bar-style restaurant, but decided at the last minute that it might be more comfortable for diners to sit at a larger table for their meal. .
After Chef Lim worked at Michelin-starred Italian restaurant Marea in New York City in 2013, he decided he would one day open his own pasta restaurant.
âCompared to other western style dishes like French, what is put on a pasta plate can be simpler and that means pasta can be relatively inexpensive for diners to eat on a daily basis,â the chef said. Lim.
âHandmade pasta isn’t a new concept at all as there have been other restaurants that have done what we really appreciate these days, but the [infamous reservation war] in Bawi had made more people rediscover this particular style of pasta.
Also part of the pasta craze is Campo in Gangdong District, east of Seoul. Originally opened in December in a more residential area away from restaurant-rich areas like Gangnam and Mapo, the restaurant run by chef Lim Eung-gyu offers a variety of pasta dishes in a bar-style restaurant with a table additional. He also runs the restaurant on his own.
BY LEE SUN-MIN [[email protected]]