Unless your name is Madonna and you have the uncanny ability to reinvent yourself every five years, it’s safe to assume that you will one day be forgotten. Likewise, the trendiest pockets of Seoul stand no chance to fickle crowds in search of the next best thing so it won’t come as a big surprise if Garosugil, the darling restaurant and cafe row of the chic and the restless, eventually dims. Good thing there’s Saerosugil.
Saerosugil (새로수길) is the local neighborhood speak for the “new” streets west of Garosugil that run parallel to the main street. Neatly tucked in a T-intersection on a burgeoning part of Saerosugil is Stephanie Cafe, one of the district’s smallest and most intimate dining spaces. The entire restaurant is only about the size of a comfortable one-room studio in Seoul. With only five small tables and tiny kitchen in plain sight, it feels comfortably like home, and its staff, like family. During off-peak dining hours, you can expect a complimentary small plate of tiny homemade organic cookies to start your order. Much of their menu is organic, from the tea cookies to imported teas and even the cocktails. But as much accolades Stephanie Cafe has received for its homemade baked goods, it also offers a full and varied lunch and dinner menu.
One thing is for sure; substance is not a virtue in this establishment. The portions are European—stingy, even—but their kind of ambiance isn’t conducive to consumption anyway. Instead it allows you to indulge in conversation, nostalgia and a bit of romance.
Their simplest dish is also their greatest asset. It is also, quite possibly, the only “true” pink pasta in Seoul; other restaurants that think pink usually serve a concoction of tomato and cream sauces and chili powder. But for Stephanie, pink comes rather naturally from their not-so-secret ingredient: beets. The beet cream pasta is an excellent cream-based dish that doesn’t overwhelm, with noodles that are pleasantly al dente for Korea. Bits of bacon give added flavor, but not so much substance. One thing is for sure; substance is not a virtue in this establishment. The portions are European—stingy, even—but their kind of ambiance isn’t conducive to consumption anyway. Instead it allows you to indulge in conversation, nostalgia and a bit of romance.
Another highlight from their menu is the chicken mushroom pie, Stephanie Cafe’s rendition of the Yorkshire pudding. Served with chunks of chicken and creamy mushroom baked into the pie and topped with a precarious mound of mash potato and pea, it’s a hearty companion to any pasta dish. As a solo act, the pie could taste a bit dry, but the drizzle of dark gravy, a side of green salad and other cream pasta dishes you may order can serve as atonement.
Stephanie Cafe is actually a perfect date destination if you want to impress in all the right ways. Not obvious, but with understated charm. Unpretentious and warm, with flavors beyond expectations. Kind of like you, wouldn’t you agree?
Menu suggestions: Beet cream pasta, olive oil and anchovies pasta, chicken mushroom pie
Dessert: Chocolate fudge cake (ask for it à la mode), or head over to the neighboring Le Alaska Bakery for pastry and generous helpings of coffee.