Written by Rae
Photos by Ben and Rae
The playground in Hongdae. You’ve been there, drinking cheap beer and listening to indie bands on a late Friday or Saturday night – or maybe even a weeknight. Or maybe you were there to enjoy the Free Market on a Saturday morning if you were fortunate enough to wake up without a massive hangover which came from drinking at the park the night before. Too old for that or looking for a change? Have kids entered the scene? Well, now there’s a new way to enjoy the beloved playground in Hongdae, welcome, The Beastro.
The Beastro, owned and operated by brother and sister Matthew and Catherine Chung, serves up what is called New American cuisine. The menu offers refined American comfort food, while still managing to be down to earth and grounded. It has class, yet isn’t the least bit pretentious. You feel right at home dining in or on the rooftop. But you don’t have to be American to enjoy the menu. The food here is something everyone will enjoy.
One thing we like about The Beastro is that the menu is very focused. Each dish, including the cocktails, seem to have had a great deal of thought put into them in terms of creativity and use of fresh and seasonal ingredients. The dishes stay very true to the concept.
For starters, we ordered two cocktails, The Malt Shoppe and the Icy Hot. The Malt Shoppe is a boozy concoction of tequila and a strawberry shake. It’s topped with whipped cream, a maraschino cherry and rainbow sprinkles! Ben really enjoyed this drink because he has a huge sweet tooth. For me, it was a nice homage to childhood with the maraschino cherry and the rainbow sprinkles.
The Icy Hot was made with gin, aloe, cucumber, and lime juice. The drink itself was refreshing, but the best part of the drink was the rim which was coated in a sweet and spicy mixture of sugar and chili powder. It kicked the drink up a notch and the heat offered a nice balance to the coolness of the aloe and cucumber.
For appetizers, we ordered the Kale and Ricotta salad and the Charred Squid salad (a new item on his menu).
The Kale salad was nice because the kale was finely shredded, almost like grass. This made it very easy and enjoyable to eat. It was reminiscent of spring. The chicken breast was moist and tender, and the house made ricotta added something special to the salad (like the rainbow sprinkles to the shake, great attention to detail). It was dressed with vinaigrette which came through for us mostly while eating the kale, while the rest of the plate seemed to generously dressed in olive oil.
The squid salad was a seasonal beauty with the watermelon, cucumber, and the almost psychedelic way the squid ink, avocado puree, and olive oil vinaigrette mix together. The squid was tender, and the baby arugula was awesome. We preferred this salad to the kale one (though both are excellent) because the flavors were really bold. The bitterness of the arugula, the sweetness of the watermelon and cucumber and the sourness of the vinaigrette was all harnessed and brought back down to earth by the squid. Yum!
After we finished both salads there was still more. We ordered the Southern Fried Chicken Platter and the Pork Cheeks and Corn Succotash as our main dishes.
The Southern Fried Chicken is the bomb (yeah, we said it)!!! It is truly one of the best items on the menu. Like the squid dish, it was also a real beauty to look at. A nice big piece of crispy fried chicken sits on top of mashed potatoes, and is garnished with pink pickled onions (could it be a bow to Korean friend chicken?) and mustard seeds. The whole thing is surrounded by a sweet and sour sauce, and a garlicky bagna cauda. It is accompanied by a quaint flaky biscuit. The batter around the chicken is well seasoned and nice and crispy, no sogginess here! The chicken is countered well with the acidity of the onions and the sweet, sour, and pungent sauces. It’s a true American (and now Korean) classic with a gastronomic touch.
The Pork and Corn Succotash was excellent as well. The flavors were reminiscent of American barbecue. The best part of this dish was how everything was charred. Some people see little black marks on their food and think cancer! But when we see the charred corn and peppers, and the crispy outside of the pork cheek, we think flavor! It is dressed with chimichurri sauce and tomato butter, which has a really rich tomato flavor.
For the side, we ordered the Buffalo Mac and Cheese. Hello, America! This dish is good as well, and would also be something kids would like. It’s very cheesy and gooey. Please don’t make Kraft boxed macaroni with tobacco sauce at home (if you are American, you probably did this, and maybe even in the microwave), because this is so much better! It was served in a mini cast iron skillet with bread crumbs on top. Be careful because the handle is hot!
At last the desserts . . . By this point in the meal we were already full. But we’re passionate about desserts so we took the Olive Oil Cake and Peach Ice Cream and the Cookies and Milk.
Our favorite element our of the desserts was the Peach Ice Cream. It was nice and peachy. It was refreshing without being too creamy or heavy. The pickled cherries were a nice addition to the ice cream and the olive oil cake.
The cookies and milk were another homage to childhood, and undoubtedly American. The cookies had the flavor of America that we love. Although they were moist, they were a little bit flimsy, probably due to the copious amount of brown butter which goes inside (we’re guessing melted). They were served with a thick chocolate milk. Benoit liked the thickness of the chocolate milk, but I would have preferred it with lots of ice (just my preference, though).
Overall the meal was superb, and we will definitely be going back. The restaurant has a great concept, and there is a niche for this kind of food in Seoul, where you can enjoy great American food without going to a bar . . . in Itaewon. The attention to detail, seasonal ingredients and each element of the dishes is not something that went unnoticed. To reiterate, it is refined food without being the least bit pretentious. The food still has that down home feel and taste, and the restaurant feels the same way: polished but homey, with a comfortable and inviting atmosphere which would be good for kids and families or anyone looking to enjoy a pleasant meal.
The prices are also incredible for the quality of food you get, and you can take a look at the menu below. The main dishes are quite big. One would be enough for two people if you intend to order a salad or any of the sides. Though we recommend trying multiple dishes – we ordered too much and I was popping out of my skirt by the time I left the restaurant.
The restaurant has three floors, including the terrace which overlooks the playground.
This is the new way to enjoy Hongdae!
To get there: Go to the edge of the playground in Hongdae. It’s above the MAC store on the second floor.
The address is Mapo-gu, Seogkyo-dong 358-32 (마포구 서교동 358-32).