Thursday, November 23, 2006

dinde à la française

The place: Millennium Hilton, at the foot of Namsan. A French restaurant with the English name Seasons.

The time: Thanksgiving Day 2006, 6pm.

The action: A French-style (!) Thanksgiving meal, with a price tag that gleefully ripped the guts out of my wallet and cast them all over the floor.

Was it worth it? Yes and no. No, because I do have to fault the service in one important respect: the courses (of which there were seven) arrived too quickly, each on the heels of the other. A more leisurely pace would have been nice; it's a bit low-class for an expensive restaurant to give the impression that turnover is a priority. (Then again, I was looking pretty rough in my half-buttoned plaid shirt, exposed tee shirt, and jeans, so I can't exactly take the moral high ground here.)

But the meal itself was nicely done, very well put together. Were it not for the price tag (which I shan't reveal in public, but which I did anticipate, given that I had ordered the "full course" option), I'd recommend Seasons for the attentive service, the thoughtfully planned meals... and especially for the bread.

It's too bad I didn't have the Koreablogosphere's resident bread expert on hand; I'm pretty sure that, of the three pieces of bread I selected from the bread basket, one was a type of pumpernickel. I couldn't be absolutely sure, though, because I normally think of pumpernickel as dark, earthy brown, sometimes bordering on black. What I nabbed from the basket was dark, all right, but the color (at least in the resto's lighting) struck me as moving simultaneously toward black and purple-- not a shade I normally associate with pumpernickel. In any case, whatever bread that was, it was fresh-baked, still warm, had nuts in it, and was some of the best damn dark bread I've ever had. The bread was more memorable than one or two of the courses.

I should also note that this was probably the daintiest Thanksgiving meal I've experienced. As you might imagine for a French-style meal, servings were small; they were carefully placed on large plates to evoke an air of delicate majesty. I wasn't overwhelmingly stuffed (no pun intended), but I was pleasantly replete by the end.

A quick rundown of the food I remember:

Bread: baguette, some sort of dinner roll, and the presumptive pumpernickel.

Shrimp: boiled shrimp on a bed of chopped onions, topped with delicate greens and some sort of chutney.

Soup: a cream of mushroom soup with an awesome Gruyère topping.

Snails: cooked in a mandu-style pastry and topped with brown sauce and a smattering of thinly sliced vegetables.

Lemon sorbet: a teeny, tiny dollop of it was nested in a spun-sugar cup and placed on top of a hilarious, domed container of dry ice. The purpose of this was to get the palate ready for the main event.

Turkey and trimmins: white meat and dark meat with skin, placed atop a bed of boiled and delicately seasoned beets, with a tiny spear of broccoli, two very small sweet potatoes, and two large medallions of stuffing wrapped in what initially appeared to be bacon; it turned out to be carrots. Ingenious. A modest side of cranberry sauce was ladled onto the plate, and brown sauce was ladled onto the turkey.

Pumpkin pie and tea: a dessert tray was rolled over to me and I had my pick of several different pies, including apple, pecan, and lemon meringue. I got pumpkin. The pie was a disappointingly small slice, and the chef obviously went more for creaminess than for pumpkininity, but it tasted great, especially the crust.

The final chocolate truffle: as with the pies, I was presented with a large selection of sweets. My nervous system is wired to perceive only two kinds: chocolate and not. I unhesitatingly plucked the truffle the way Gloria Steinem might pluck off your testicle. It was good, as chocolate goes, though I couldn't help comparing it to a Lindt blue-label truffle (which is better).

And so I'm back home. Things are blissful now. Very mellow. A nice, quiet, mellow Turkey Day. Let's just... digest for a bit, shall we?


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