Banh mi, vinyl records, stylish angst, all set in an up-and-coming pocket of Itaewon. What could be more “Seoul 2016”? Mmm Records is essentially a hangout cafe and cultural space, as much Pigalle puff paint tee as it is black turtleneck and beret. Underneath the hipster veneer, however, is an egalitarian place where vinyl lovers old and new can convene. Where else in Seoul can you eat excellent bahn mi while spinning Sade or several hundreds of other records? Where can Seo Taiji-referencing t-shirts be found alongside for-sale used records and vintage boomboxes while you slurp the foam off your egg coffee? The menu, philosophy, and locale behind Mmm Records, a collaboration between L’impasse 81’s Gregoire Michot and Eloquence Magazine, make this a must visit for the multitudes of food, coffee, and music lovers in the city.
Mmm Records’ location makes it a very neighborhood place but one you should go out of your way to visit. Perched atop a steep hill and quite a way down Usadan-ro 10-gil, past the mosque, past the hip new craft and coffee shops, past the deserted storefronts, it’s quite a hike to reach whether you’re coming from Hannam or Itaewon Station(s). However, its altitude gifts it with one of the most stunning rooftops in the city, an uninterrupted panorama that stretches for several kilometers, the kind of view that might make you think of Rihanna’s “run this town tonight” aspirations from “Empire State of Mind”. With ample seating, artificial grass, and a massive vintage 80’s boombox, one’s mind instantly entertains the idea of the bacchanalian scenes that’ll certainly occur up there in good weather.
But what to eat and drink on these occasions? Mmm Record’s banh mi are the most aggressively meaty in the city. You can choose from three options: duck rillette, mortadella, or pâté. Or, since it’s 2016 and you like living on the edge, you can and should opt to throw on all three of the proteins which carry over Michot’s charcuterie magic from his Yeonnam-dong bistro, L’impasse ’81. The baguettes are hefty, definitely closer to French than Vietnamese, but hold up well to the ample do chua, or pickled carrot and daikon, which top the sandwiches.
As for beverages, you can’t have a cafe without coffee. Mmm Record’s Hanoi coffee is exactly what you would expect, a thick Vietnamese brew with ample condensed milk, turbocharged chocolate milk for adults. Egg coffee, for the uninitiated, is a must try. An egg is whipped into a dense foam on top of the basic Hanoi coffee. It’s so rich, it might as well be called butter coffee. For those looking to get a bit more sideways, very reasonably priced bottles of wine, red, white, and sparkling, are on offer.
The restaurant’s interior is such that everything is something. The stripped industrial walls feature urgent declarative slogans and bleak humor. The space’s official artwork is clipped song lyrics and there is even a shrine insisting on David Bowie’s immortality. The furniture is kitsch vintage, mostly suggesting the possibility for seances or blood rites. Even the broom closet gives off a foreboding vibe. And last, the toilet. Don’t forget to check out the upstairs toilet. An impressive amount of thought has been put into everything inch of the space by interior designer/artist Lim Sumi.
So, as much as Mmm Records succeeds as very special, multi-faceted hangout space, the looming question is what, exactly, does it want to be? The fact that it is wonderfully formless, allowing patrons to choose a variety of paths, is a great strength allowing customers to create their own experience. Mmm Records is a one-of-a-kind space that should be treasured, no matter how you wish to do so.
Prices: Bahn mi KRW 7,000-9,000, wine by the glass KRW 6,000, wine by the bottle KRW 28,000-40,000
Recommended dishes: banh mi w/ duck rillette, pate, and mortadella
Drinks: egg coffee, Hanoi coffee, Urmeneta Chilean chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, Cordon Negro cava sparkling wine
Address: Seoul, Yongsan-gu, Hannam-dong 620-152
Hours: Tues-Fri 12pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 12pm-2am