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Bartender and chef get creative for anniversary meal

Aug 30,2019
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Bartender Simone Caporale and chef Son Jong-won of L’Escape Hotel. [L’ESCAPE]
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1. Signature dishes by chef Son Jong-won are being updated for a special dinner tonight at L’Escape Hotel’s restaurant L’Amant Secret. 2. The dinner is paired with cocktails made by renowned bartender Simone Caporale, and one is inspired by the Seoul N Tower on Mount Namsan, central Seoul. 3. Some cocktails have bubbles on top that pop as soon as a diner’s lips touch it. [L’ESCAPE]
Forget the wine that you know and love while eating dinner at L’Escape Hotel’s contemporary restaurant L’Amant Secret tonight.

In honor of the hotel’s first anniversary, the restaurant is teaming up with the hotel’s bar Marque d’Amour for a special one-day event to present a new twist on the drinks you’d expect to be paired with dishes for a Western-style meal. While you may think that you are drinking wine, the drinks may actually be cocktails.

Pairing cocktails with food is common at many restaurants elsewhere in the world, but the combination of the two is rarely done in Korea. Bartender Simone Caporale, a creative partner at the hotel, is working with chef Son Jong-won of the contemporary restaurant on the same floor, and understands what elements are needed to make the flavors on the plate stand out. The unexpected drinks could make the overall dining experience more entertaining, which is what the bartender and chef hope for in order to make a memorable night.

“The way drinks look can be very familiar, just like a good red wine, so the drink can bring out the curiosity of people,” said Caporale, adding that he has been preparing the special cocktails for months. “The pairing shows that two young people can make something very conservative in a different way.”

“Everything is designed to be paired with food made by the chef and is only available for one night.”

To match the quail meat made by Son, Caporale suggested fermented cherry wine for those who would automatically choose red wine. The cherries were fermented for about 30 days so the drink could be filled with minerals and tannins often found in wine. The bartender said he wanted to replicate the texture and flavor profiles seen in wine without using any grapes. He did something similar with hallabong, a locally grafted mandarin orange grown on Jeju Island, as well, thinking that minerals and acidic tastes from the fruit resemble the Riesling grape.

While the cocktails offer a new experience, Son is keeping his food familiar for the guests of the restaurant. For the event, Son has updated many of the most well-received dishes on the menu with garnishes and sauces, or new presentations.

“We wanted to show our gratitude to guests by bringing back slightly different versions of dishes that many have enjoyed over the year, and also show what we will be doing in the coming days,” said the chef.

Son, who loves to provide a wholesome, theater-like experience for his guests, often gets his inspiration from foods available around the hotel. For locals who have been to the Myeong-dong area in central Seoul at one point of their lives, the dishes inspired by popular street foods bring up memories while encouraging international guests to get out and explore the town.

“We want to continue doing what’s fun and things that guests have never experienced elsewhere,” said the chef, who is currently obsessed with coming up with dishes using pine leaves.

“The hope is to make eating here something similar to the feeling you get at a theme park, or at a theater - a very all-inclusive experience.”

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

The collaboration dinner between L’Escape Hotel’s L’Amant Secret and Marque d’Amour is happening today. An eight-course dinner with six cocktails will be served for 250,000 won ($206.19) per person, including tax. The dinner starts at 6 p.m. and only 40 seats are available. To make a reservation, call (02) 317-4003.