NORMAL by Ryunique: A Taste of Simple Elegance in Seoul, South Korea

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During my most recent trip to Seoul this year, I was invited to Bistro Normal by Ryunique in Gangnam to have a taste of one of their popular tasting menus. Normal is the second venture of Ryu Tae-Hwan, the chef responsible for the 2017 Michelin guide's best French fine dining restaurants in Seoul, Ryunique. Though easily mislead by its name, Normal is really not as normal as it may sound. You can expect a more casual atmosphere here than at Ryunique but the food definitely does not disappoint.

My friend and I had the pleasure of tasting the KEEP RYUNIQUE tasting menu which rang in at 80,000W/pp - which I thought was wildly worth for all the quality food that rolled up.

amuse

RUSSIAN STYLE PANCAKE

not available a la carte
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It was my first time tasting something like this - but think a bite-sized, soft pancake with an onion mayo spread, topped with sardines, beet powder, and dill. A nice, light opener for the meal and presented quite nicely on a stone block as well.

 

amuse

ARTICHOKE MUSHROOM SOUP

not available a la carte
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You may think this is just another ordinary soup, but don't let looks deceive you. This isn't some cream of mushroom soup, its texture is much more airy and "fluffy" (I would compare it to what I envision "soft peaks" to feel like - for any bakers out there!) The garlic chips, though topped as a garnish, adds a nice roasted flavour to mix with the mushrooms. The biggest surprise comes in the form of a small poached egg in the middle of the soup - which when mixed with the soup, gives the dish a more creamy and saltier taste. I love how interesting and fun this dish is, it's almost like uncovering treasure with every bite.

 

starter

"TOMATO BUBBLE", CUCUMBER

a la carte: 18,000W
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My friend and I both agree that this is our favourite dish of the entire course just because the concept is so simple but the flavours are so robust. This "salad" is a mix of frozen tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges, and grapes drizzled with mango juice and topped with bubbles that taste like sugar. The game-changer is in the tomatoes which taste almost like candy or watermelon. This chilled starter is also paired with dill which I find opened up my appetite. To be honest, I was thinking about this course for the entire meal haha!

 

starter

DUCK LEG, TOMATO SAUCE, MUSHROOM TORTELLINI

a la carte: 22,000W
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Served in a mini cast iron pot, this ragu is rich and flavourful - made from a mix of tomatoes and duck leg. The tortellini is thin and soft, and filled with a cheesy mushroom filling (yum). Eat each one with a thin slice of provolone cheese to deepen the flavour. Overall, a very hearty dish which is presented well and has nice simple flavours.

 

starter

BRAISED PORK BELLY, GREEN CHILI SALSA

a la carte: 23,000W
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The next starter dish is presented as braised pork belly on top of chopped eggplants, topped with lightly puffed fish skin, and served with a side of green chilli salsa which is "swished" on the side. It's all presented well but not sure if I'm a fan of the chili salsa or the leanness of the pork - though the flavours were quite aromatic and the dish was not too heavy. I would much more prefer the previous tortellini dish over this.

 

starter

LANGOUSTINE RAMEN, SLOW COOKED EGG

a la carte: 18,000W
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At last, a dish with a more Asian touch to it. This ramen and its ingredients are actually served separately and require you to mix them together to allow them to cook. An interesting concept which kind of pays homage to a classic Korean stone pot bibimbap where you mix the ingredients in the bowl together to let them cook. The noodles themselves were nothing really out of the ordinary, though I did like the light citrus notes and the texture of the Jeju langoustines.

 

main

WILD TURBOT, MUSSEL

not available a la carte
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This is one of those dishes where you want your camera out before they serve it to you. The wild turbot is done sous-vide style which allows the fish to be much jucier than normal. This is paired with veggies on the side and a lovely cucumber-miso broth which is both light and flavourful. Once again topped with some dill, I really enjoyed the lightness of this dish (especially since I was really starting to get full at this point in the meal).

 

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DUCK

not available a la carte
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The last of the mains features slices of perfectly cooked duck paired with citrus sauce and a little mound of chopped meat and a lettuce wrap. I actually love duck as an alternative to chicken as the flavour is much bolder and the meat is less dry. All in all, another great main dish which wasn't too heavy but had a good balance of flavours.

 

dessert

YOGURT, VANILLA MOUSSE

a la carte: 15,000W (today's dessert average price)
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What better way to end a multi-course meal than with a light vanilla bean panna cotta? The refreshing taste is paired with cracker and pistachio crumble, jam, strawberries, and cream cheese. You really can't go wrong with the simple flavours in this.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

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Overall, a love, simple, and relaxing experience at Normal by Ryunique. I love how we were able to taste such a variety of food which at first glance, seem "normal", but surprised me at first bite. I thought the starters were the highlights of the meal for me, though I also enjoyed the transition from lighter veggies and fruits to slightly heavier meats and sauces. Service was attentive and warm - though it would have been better if my friend and I were fluent in Korean. Nonetheless, the servers did their best to serve us in English, which we really appreciated. At the 80,000W/pp price tag, Normal by Ryunique is a worthwhile experience if you're ever in Seoul, and most definitely great for an upscale date spot without breaking the bank.


R E V I E W.

+ food quality: 8.5/10 
+ price/affordability: 9/10
+ atmosphere: 9/10
+ overall: 8.75/10
 
 

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