▲ Yurikamome's interior is a minimalist paradise of form Photo by Kate Dee
Tapdong. 5 p.m. The sky is blanketed in a husky grey of cloud that seems to dampen the landscape underneath. A quiet Saturday eve; preternaturally quiet given the weekend’s notorious reputation for socializing and, at intervals, excessive debauchery.
Meandering down the road, the massive red box of the Arario Museum stands like a symbolic exclamation point levelled against the grey skies - a big red ‘screw you’ to a dull day; a homage to the power of simple, time-honoured artistic design against the constant flux of nature’s moods.
Just past this building, a few blocks further, is a smaller concrete block with inlays of window and black edging. A sleek, unassuming sign. A Sapporo star.
Standing beside a carved Stone Grandfather like differing generations posing for a photo, Yurikamome (유리카모메) restaurant offers itself as a space where traditional Japanese foods meet the art world; simplicity in form, function, and taste.
The restaurant, which opened earlier this year, hosts the showcasing of ancient food, reduced to essentials. It is here that one pays attention.
A gentle nod to its neighbouring art museum, Yurikamome is a minimalist paradise of form, diverting attention to the essential art of presence in space.
The grey-walled concrete has been maintained in interiority, with a wooden/metallic aesthetic dominating the dining objects within the open and inviting interior space.
Paintings adorn the walls in sections; colour-pallet offerings and art refined to basic colours and textural structures.
A large red canvas winks across the room at the large red museum adjacent, visible outside - and a red aesthetic permeates in a cheeky wink from the red-shirted waiter to the red pouring teapots.
Should you wish to observe, the cooking area is visible alongside many table arrangements.
Our server speaks just enough English to help with understanding the basics of the menu, and his cheerful demeanour and patience make for a welcoming reminder of the power of humanity in a space dominated aesthetically by pseudo-industrial simplicity.
The food is reasonably priced and offers basic entrees and fusion plates alike. A noodle dish runs an average of 7,000 won, whereas fusion of noodle and pork cutlet are 12,000 won.
▲ Onigiri and the comforts of rice-hugged protein Photo by Kate Dee
To begin, a smaller-portioned starter of Onigiri. If the comforts of a rice-hugged protein call to you, this restaurant has a selection of onigiri-esque offerings at 3,000 won apiece.
Bulgogi and Tuna salad were the choices made Saturday night, and they did not disappoint. Two nicely-angled slices of the food arrived with a clear-broth soup.
The temperature at first blush was warm and fresh, the rice texture delicate. The tuna offering contained fish eggs and sesame seeds which gave hints of lively pop to an otherwise relatively supple dish, creamy and fishy and delectable.
Bulgogi had a sloppy-joe kind of feel (to this undignified Western palate); not omnipresent, but well marinated and hearty in taste.
▲ Soba noodles are finely cut, delicate, and come with a posse of side dishes. Photo by Kate Dee
The soba are a finely cut and delicate buckwheat noodle, brought out with a small posse of side dishes (daikon and wasabi, green onions).
In the entree size the soba is more plentiful and comes plated, for those who enjoy refining their noodle dining experience to their taste; but in the combo platter, they are already relaxing leisurely in a bowl of cold broth.
Eating the soba plain allows the interplay of textures and temperatures to come to the fore - the soft noodle and cool mouth feel lending to an outbreath of sweetness; a sugaring of the broth that is like a final light treble note in an otherwise decidedly midrange arrangement.
Adding the wasabi and daikon fills out the high end with a nice punch of heat; a burst of excitement among the softness. This noodle dish is perhaps well-attuned to individuals who enjoy their meals tasty yet unassuming; it is a nice dish with no real surprises, beyond temperature and sweetness.
▲ Udon Noodles are like the soba's more adventurous, bold older brother. Photo by Kate Dee
Udon noodle, alternatively, are like the soba’s more adventurous, bold older brother. Presented in a clear broth with fishcakes and a fried-tofu wrapped package in the middle, it asserts itself immediately as a messier, perhaps more exciting noodle experience.
The thickness of the Udon give it an immediate presence, a pillowy-soft density that makes the noodles feel hearty and satisfying. The broth in this dish is absolutely delicious; fragrant and dense bullion with a nice, deep spice aftertaste that gives it surprising bite.
The fishcakes are standard and satisfying. This is a noodle dish that will fill you up, give your tastebuds some electricity and make you say “ooo-ah!” (at a respectable volume level) in the process.
The Donkatsu, tasted here in the combo dish, is a lightly breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet, cut and served on a metal wire dripping plate. It is a heavenly pairing with the soba noodle. The crisp, crystalline texture of the deep-fry look like a fine caramel stalactites jutting out organically from a beautifully creamy and moist centre.
▲ Donkatsu: multi-layered and enticing. Photo by Kate Dee
First bite proves that texturally, this dish is multi-layered and increasingly enticing: the deep-fry breaks apart with ease at first bite, melting away to reveal the flavourful pork underneath.
A bbq dipping sauce comes with, but standalone flavours buoy the pork tremendously. Its heat, density, flavour and crispness making it a worthy dancing partner with the cool, calm and sweet-natured soba.
To top this off, this restaurant serves Sapporo by the draft. Poured with the correct amount of head, at the perfect temperature, one cannot negate the potency of a meal accompanied by a well-poured glass of fine brew.
Like the tempered experience of viewing art or experiencing the stoic museum atmosphere, Yurikamome is a restaurant that aligns creative simplicity with moments of taste that call one’s mind to attention.
A worthy dining experience in an area that innately blends the old and new, time-honoured and experimental. It is open 6 days a week; Tuesday is a weekly holiday.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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