Where is it? We have so many Seoul restaurants driven more by trend chasing and fame hunting. I feel like puking these days whenever I see a restaurant bragging how the chef was on MasterChef Korea or received Michelin stars. Chefs don’t get Michelin stars. Restaurants do. Who knows if the chef was actually the one earning the stars or was just the one chopping the carrots?
What we need is more passion. Young French chef Anton Lombard exudes it as he cooks for his little bistro La Planque. It’s a space with little seating. The menu constantly changes according to seasonality and the chef’s inspiration. Yet at its heart it is a classic neighborhood French bistro with no pretensions, just quality food made with devotion.
La Planque’s strength looks to be seafood and steak. Fresh shrimp come out simple: grilled with onions, scallions and parsley and served with crusty bread to sop up the juices. The cod filet is gently poached and served under a refreshing salsa of roasted peppers, tomatoes and olive oil. Steak is cooked medium rare with potatoes, onions and mushrooms.
What shines at La Planque is the service, run by Yeji Pyo. It’s highly attentive, informative and shares that same passion Chef Anton exhibits. The menu is on a blackboard as it regularly shifts. Unless there is something you are dying to try, it’s best to ask Ms. Pyo for her recommendations. She’ll tell you what Chef Anton is excited about and then give you the lowdown on what she personally likes. The La Planque dining experience makes you feel like you’re part of an exclusive circle.
The wine list is small but well curated, and wines by the glass are available. You may even feel up to trying French concoction using absinthe.
I was gravely mistaken earlier. La Planque’s strength is definitely the crème brûlée. It deserves to be ranked best in Seoul. It meets the challenge of being smooth, silky, custardy. The shell isn’t grainy. It’s that pure smoky caramel that makes shattering it such a pleasure. It’s such a sexy dessert that the Korea Communication Standards Commission would ban pics of it on the Internet.
As the weather cools this will be the prime place for a date that won’t break the bank and a nice quiet hangout with a close friend. This isn’t a restaurant. It’s home.
How to get there:
Itaewon Station, exit 4. Head south and take the first right. Then take the first left. La Planque is on the right, below Maddux Pizzeria.
Itaewon-ro 26-gil 26, Yongsan-gu