Cine de Chef: Wine, dine & watch a film
My two main passions in life are cinema and food. Therefore, it’s easy to feel quite spoiled in Korea as tickets are half the price of those in England and — “beondegi” (boiled silkworm pupae) aside — Korean food is great. So while looking for somewhere to take my girlfriend for her birthday, it appeared as if the gods were listening to my prayers when I stumbled across Ciné de Chef.
Situated in Seoul’s stylish Apgujeong area and serving French and Italian food, the Visit Korea website calls CGV’s Ciné de Chef as a “new style restaurant that connects both movie theater and restaurant.” The dining area is described as luxurious and the seven chefs are referred to as exquisite. This alone would have been enough to get me to go, but the cinema itself boasts two high-tech screens with 11.1 surround sound, not to mention the luxurious leather chairs that cost 8 million won apiece.
The restaurant, a two-minute walk from Apgujeong Station, provides a good first impression. The décor was stylish and the staff extremely friendly as they showed us to our table. I was informed that the cinema sat mere meters away, but for the first time in my life, I really didn’t care what was showing as I was more excited about the pre-showing meal. The à la carte menu was impressive, but the best option appeared to be the set menu with courses A, B and C priced at 60,000 won, 80,000 won and 100,000 won, respectively.
The starters looked interesting with a selection of delicious sounding salads or pan-fried pomfret, but it was the main courses that caught the eye. Grilled prime Korean beef tenderloin, oven-baked rack of lamb, pan-fried salmon and gnocchi, pan-fried seasonal fish fillet, and saffron risotto were the options at 60,000 won. For a little extra you can add other options like paella or poached lobster.
While making our choice, head chef Han Jae-hee walked over to the table to introduce himself and talk us through the menu.
An exceptionally pleasant man and very knowledgeable about his craft, he previously worked for Morad Mazouz of Sketch in London. He informed us that he had been working at Ciné de Chef for only a month and that the menu we were looking at, while impressive, was not entirely of his own creation, suggesting we try the new menu he had been working on.
We emphatically accepted his offer.
The result: the Ciné de Chef Experience Set, which featured eight exquisite courses. I never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but the pollock giblets were to die for. The other stand-out dishes were the eggplant roulade in a mozzarella and rucola purée and the poached lobster and grilled prawns on an assorted fruit salsa, but the pièce de résistance was without doubt the main course.
The grilled salmon was amazing, but the Korean beef was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. I thought it strange when we weren’t provided with a steak knife, but it turned out not to be necessary — the steak was soft, succulent, juicy and melted in the mouth. After the eighth course, I was so stuffed that I slouched in my chair in a food-induced bliss, forgetting about the film we had yet to see. The English-language option on this particular night was Cameron Crowe’s “We Bought a Zoo,” which I previewed in January’s issue of Groove Korea.
The curtains draping from the walls reminded me of a throwback to movie theaters of old, and having our jackets removed and our bags put in storage to limit clutter was a nice touch. The setting was perfect for a couple, as our own private sofa gave us the space needed to relax, cuddle up and enjoy a film in total comfort and luxury.
The only negative I could find with the cinema was that it was too comfortable and that I might commit one of the biggest cinema sins of all: falling asleep during the film. With complimentary Heineken and snacks in hand, the film began, and much like I had predicted, “We Bought a Zoo” was a solid, feel-good film, if not a little too sentimental at times.
At 40,000 won for a movie ticket and 80,000 won apiece for the meal, it certainly isn’t something I could do every week, but for a special occasion it was a great choice.
I hope Ciné de Chef is the first attempt of many to find other interesting places to watch movies in Korea. Most venues seem to revolve around food or alcohol, with the Wine Train a future option. That could be another pricey outing, but would also be just right for a special occasion.
Now let me think, who do I know that has a birthday coming up?