As my first four days in Seoul were a bit of a disaster (read about the events here), I was desperate to make something of the trip, even if on the last day. Enter, Mingles. As I researched fine dining restaurants in the city, hoping to find one open for lunch, I stumbled upon Mingles. Realizing the venue was listed in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants (specifically, #11 in Asia’s 2018 list), I contacted good friend Zoe, and asked if she might be able to make an introduction. She kindly introduced me to Chef Mingoo Kang, who was kind enough to introduce himself to me during the meal, and my reservation was set.
Obviously, this meal was meant to come together.
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Although schlepping from my side of the river in Hongdae to the Gangnam neighborhood was an expensive Uber ride, really, all the best restaurants in Seoul are in this area of town. If you are in Seoul to eat or have an interest in fine dining, I’d avoid staying where we did (even if it’s a fun and younger area of the city).
The exterior is simple, modern, and clearly signed. As I dined solo, I was seated at the counter (not quite the pass, not quite a sushi bar), and the meal was, in true Korean style, quite quickly paced. Fortunately, as this was my 5th day, I’d adjusted to the nearly frenetic pace in which Koreans seem to approach dining. Have no fear, the Mingles team in no way rushed me, but food comes along at a clip.
The lunch menu is set for five courses, however, there are supplements to enhance the menu, should diners choose to (and I would recommend doing so). My favorite dish of the day was the stunningly simple Zucchini, served with an unbelievably rich consomme (all vegetarian)! While there were other highlights — the Egg Custard, a signature dish, and Creme Brulee were outstanding — overall, the meal was an excellent blend of utilizing seasonal ingredients, with stunning technique and elevated plating. It’s actually very rare that I notice superior knife work, but at Mingles, with so few things on the plate, it was glaringly obvious just how much was involved in each dish.
Overall, what I appreciated most about Mingles was the casual yet elegant approach. This isn’t an over the top establishment, it’s one that’s approachable and relatively informal. For 75,000KRW (about $67 USD), diners can enjoy five courses, with extra for drinks and additional courses. This price feels entirely reasonable.
Is there anything I would improve on at Mingles? Nothing specifically comes to mind, although, because I’ve called out other restaurants on this — the toilets are located a fair distance outside the venue. I have a feeling this has to do more with the construction of the building, but it’s the one thing I would change.
Would I go back to Mingles? Yes, I’m definitely interested in checking out dinner.
Who is Mingles best for? Really, anyone. Much like The Tasting Counter, this is the style of fine dining that is super accessible to everyone.
Where is your favorite place to dine in Seoul? Do you have any favorite Korean dishes?
A to Za’atar received a discounted rate for lunch service at Mingles. Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.
Look no further for modern Korean when visiting Seoul.