Real bread hits Gyeongnidan
At first the mozzarella sandwich looks innocuous.
A cross-section reveals a large slice of pure, white mozzarella cheese sitting between two slices of tomato, sitting between two slices of Ciabatta. It looks good, especially that big slice of cheese in the middle, but mozzarella is a little too mild to anchor a sandwich, right? Then you take a bite. Not bad. Then you chew. Wow, that Ciabatta sure does have a lot of texture. Chew some more. Is that pesto? Some more. Balsamic? More. Big piece of soft mozzarella. By the time you take that last bite, the sandwich is innocuous no longer. It’s chewy and soft and subtle. You will be sad to see that last bite go.
It’s one of several sandwiches on the menu at The Bakers Table, a new bakery/café in Gyeongnidan. The bakery specializes in hearty, European-style breads that are pretty much non-existent elsewhere.
Michael Richter and Min Kyung co-own the bakery. Richter, a native of Germany, pastry chef and restaurateur (Gecko’s was one of his first ventures), lends three generations of baking expertise to the operation. A black and white photo of his grandfather mixing dough hangs on the wall not far from the giant mixer he uses to make all the bakery’s bread. Yes, this isn’t one of those “we get our bread from xxx” bakeries. They make their own. Most of it is so studded with seeds and oats and grains that a loaf could sustain you on a trek through Mordor. They also make brownies, tarts, carrot cake and jams in funky flavors.
The kitchen here is a craftsman’s workshop, filled with raw materials and the tools to transform them. Chickpeas soaking in a big bowl is a good sign in a place that sells hummus. There are bags of oats and seeds and 20-kilogram sacks of flour (“high-quality USA”) stacked around the place. They do their baking with a wall of high-heat industrial ovens.
The ciabatta dough Richter uses for his mozzarella sandwiches is left to ferment for 12 to 16 hours before it’s baked. That accounts for the chewiness of the bread and the subtle flavors that come out during chewing. He also makes a BLT, ham and cheese, and crunchy panini sandwiches. They’re between 4,500 won and 7,500 won. They have specials every day. When we went they were bratwurst and potatoes (11,500 won) and pan-fried chicken (12,500 won).
The space inside Bakers Table is limited, but windows all around help keep it from feeling cramped. There are several tables in the bakery, and Richter has Smithwick’s Irish Ale on tap for those wanting to lounge.
“Now is a good time to do this in Korea,” Richter said. “Many Korean people are opening up to this.”
Directions: To get to The Bakers Table, walk straight out of Noksapyeong Station, exit 2. Continue walking straight at the traffic lights. Turn right and cross over the street on the green footbridge. The Bakers Table is at the bottom of the footbridge on the other side.