I got my F-4 visa yesterday and felt like celebrating, so I asked my coworker and my boss (the three of us work in the same room) to recommend me a restaurant. My coworker mentioned D'Maris, a local chain buffet. He warned that it was a bit upscale. "Around thirty to fifty thousand won?" I asked. He nodded in a way that indicated he wasn't sure of the exact price. I was feeling a bit spendy, so I schlepped over to D'Maris which, per my coworker's directions, was only a couple blocks up the street from our office.
Once you enter the restaurant, someone will guide you down a very long walkway to your table. Along the way, you pass by the entire buffet, all decked out in polished stone and silver and glass, with a dizzying array of international food. Your guide will show you to your seat, then say, "You can start anytime," after which it's up to you to grab a plate and go to town. People refer to D'Maris as a "seafood buffet," but from what I saw, there was no special stress on seafood except at the Japanese station.
All the main courses were nice; I scarfed down three plates' worth before I turned my still-ravenous attention to dessert. Alas, dessert wasn't nearly as good as the main courses. While all the cakes and cookies and confections looked reasonably pretty, they suffered from the typical Korean malady of being too dry and not sweet enough (to be fair, Koreans often have the opposite complaint when they travel to America: our desserts are too heavy and sweet for the Korean palate*). If I go to D'Maris again, I'm just going to forgo dessert.
Here are some pics of yesterday's stuff-a-thon:
Above, you see the "D'Maris" sign up on the building's roof.
Below, the entrance—you have to walk downstairs.
I hope this shot, below, conveys a sense of just how large the buffet is. It's a long walk. Not only that, but I discovered, too late, that I'd been walking the stations backward: the station farthest from my table was the one with all the appetizers. D'oh. I'll know better next time.
Here's my first plate of food. The veggies are there mainly as a symbolic gesture—a nod to the idea that I should eat healthy. That notion went out the window by the second plate. Note the Chinese-ish food cohabiting with Korean haemul-pajeon:
Below, my second plate. Tangsuyuk, spicy Korean pasta, seafood fried rice, Western meatballs, and a tuna roll. All quite good. All quite carb-y.
Round Three continued the East-West theme: batter-fried Korean fish and tofu (tofu in the foreground; it sure looks like fish), Korean jeon (pancakes), Korean-style Western sausage, pizza (surprisingly good), and sweet-potato salad. Oh, and something that was advertised as beef stroganoff. I'm normally used to stroganoff being white and creamy-looking, but I'm aware that it's also a dish that varies widely according to region (Russia and Eastern Europe). This stroganoff went in a brown sauce/red wine direction, and it was delicious.
Finally, dessert. It all looks pretty, yeah? Alas, it was dry, dry, dry. I did enjoy the meringue, though. And the fruit. (Again, the fruit was a symbolic gesture.)
When I went to pay for my meal—which meant hiking twenty miles to the entrance—the cashier couldn't stop giggling nervously at the fact that she was helping a foreigner. I tolerated her giggles while smiling blandly, thanked the staff for a very good meal, then trudged upstairs to the street level and, after pondering taking a cab, opted to walk back to my place. That proved to be a mistake: part of my walk led me past what must have been a sewage-treatment plant. Whatever it was, it reeked.
"What an awful way to end a meal," I thought to myself. Ugh. I regretted not taking a cab.
But despite the stink at the very end, I enjoyed myself at D'Maris. There were so many things I didn't get to try (an entire sector of the buffet was devoted to piles and piles of premium-cut red meat, for example), which means I'll have to go back and try them someday. But not for a while: the meal turned out to cost W37,400, which is definitely steep for one person. (By comparison, a bowl of soondae-guk will set you back W6,000-W8,000.) But I didn't mind paying a steep price: except for dessert, dinner was fantastic.
*I've long pondered the weird paradox of how Koreans love to make and eat main dishes that are marvelously full of bold, spicy, taste-bud-punching flavor... but then, when it comes to dessert, they prefer to gnaw on crumbling cardboard. This bears examining.