Friday, June 25, 2010

Bärlin, German food in Gwanghwamun (Jongno)

Price: 60,000-100,000 for two people, including drinks (scroll to bottom of post for directions)

The first thing that strikes one entering Bärlin is the atmosphere. The interior is elegant, pleasant, and relaxed. It is located on the first floor of the Somerset Palace Hotel, a four-star hotel across the street from Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Upon looking at the menu, one immediately feels that one is in for a very authentic German meal. Indeed, everything sounded so delicious that I had to stop myself from ordering seven or eight dishes. The menu includes such enticing-sounding combinations as beef tartar with rye bread; smoked salmon with horseradish sauce and potato cakes; marinated herring with apple cream & red beet sauce and potatoes; oven-roasted silver cod fish fillet with carmelized apples, chestnuts, and buttered potatoes, beef broth soup...

So many excellent German flavors to imagine as one reads the menu! The menu reminded me poignantly how many unique tastes Germany has to offer, but also how absent truly authentic German cuisine is from Seoul's dining scene.

You can find the full menu here if you want to peruse it before going:
(There is some cheesy soft jazz that plays when you go to the website, but you can turn it off at the bottom of the screen.)

When Meg and I went, we ordered the Original Berliner Sausage with North German Potato Salad, and the Rostocker Smoked Sausage with South German Potato Salad. We also got cheese spatzle off the "Go-Between" menu, since... how can you go to a German restaurant without getting some spatzle? We also got some of their draft beers: an Erdinger Dark and a Krombacher Pils.

The beer, of course, was excellent, as were the potato salads. Potato salad preferences differ across Germany as the creamy dill North potato salad was much richer than the lighter tasting mustard and vinegar potato salad of the South. The flavor in both was well-crafted and fit well with the sausages. Unfortunately, the Original Berliner Sausage was essentially a glorified, extra-long hot dog. But as far as hot dogs do, it was high-quality. We also received a garnish for the sausages that was described as "pork fat fried with vegetables," which I had never heard of before but was excellent.

One complaint, however, is that there was not much food for the price (one sausage and a bit of potato salad for 20,000 won). Nevertheless, Bärlin definitely satisfies a craving for good German food.

Next time I go, I will probably order something from the "Exquisite Side of the German Kitchen" portion of the menu, in order to test out the full power of Bärlin's German kitchen.


View Bärlin in a larger map
There are three different subway stops you can go to that are all very close to each other, so you can choose the subway stop that is fastest for you to get to:

1. Take Line 1 to Jonggak. Get out at Exit 2 and go down the street until you hit a very large street. Turn left and walk until you see the Somerset Palace Hotel.
2. Take Line 3 to Anguk. Get out at Exit 6 and walk down the street until you find the Somerset Palace Hotel.
3. Take Line 5 to Gwanghwamun. Get out at Exit 2 and walk up the street until you hit the large street across from the palace. Turn right and walk until you see the Somerset Palace Hotel.


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