▲ Chocoart offers made-to-order sandwiches, fresh-roasted coffee, cakes and premium chocolate in a warm and relaxing setting. Photos by Tracie Barrett
In the middle of a busy work-day, sometimes there’s nothing better than to take a break and share a tasty lunch with an interesting friend. And if the setting is also warm, welcoming and relaxed, you can even go back to work feeling wonderfully refreshed. So I am rapt to have found the perfect place just steps away from my office in the Venture Maru Building near City Hall.
Chocoart opened in January 2009 and, as the name suggests, focuses on premium chocolate. Though exquisite might be a better adjective as the home-made chocolates the cafe sells are miniature works of art. My favorite in looks are chocolate squares topped with tiny rosebuds, in turn topped with a touch of edible gold as the stamen. But the selection is wide and I’d definitely recommend the cafe as the perfect place to pick up a romantic gift for a loved one or a special present for a friend.
Owner Kim Woo Shil was joined in opening the venture by friend and master coffee roaster Kim Kyeong Bom so, appropriately, there is also a strong focus on beverages. There is a selection of chocolate drinks; espresso machine coffee varieties; hand drip coffee; herb, citron, Earl Grey or green teas; as well as juices, ice cream and shakes.
But the surprise for me the first time I visited was that, in a cafe so obviously determined to provide the best in coffee and chocolate, the food menu is no mere afterthought. It’s not a large selection, granted, but what Chocoart does, it does superbly. Termed a brunch menu, it is actually a selection of quality sandwiches and available until 8 p.m. each night, though the restaurant stays open later. All the bread, and the cafe uses many types, is baked fresh on the premises.
▲ Photo by Yang HoGeun
My personal favorite, thus far, is the bagel sandwich _ a bagel with ham, Dijon mustard, cheese, pickle and tomato plus the unexpected addition of crisp, sliced apple. It’s simple, yes, but fresh and crisp and delicious. One of my workmates prefers the ciabatta chicken fajita, on which spicy marinated chicken breast, onions and peppers are grilled Mediterranean style then served on Italian flat bread. There’s also a campagne sandwich with tuna salad, tomato and salad greens or an Indian bread sandwich containing roasted sausage, pickle onion and tomato. In fact the only thing that doesn’t tempt me is a delicacy I’ve only ever seen in Korea but in various forms _ garlic sauce toast. I admit to never having tried it and it may be perfectly wonderful, but it seems a bizarre idea to me.
Of course, there are bakeries and sandwich stores on every corner and block that offer similar items to these but, to my palate, Chocoart wins hands-down by using top-quality ingredients and making each item to order. All are available as sets, accompanied by an Americano coffee, for 5,000 or 6,000 won. If you need dessert, there’s patbingsu, the shaved ice dessert, or chocolate fondue. Plus a range of cakes, many of which look too good to eat. The cappuccino cake, which I tried on a different visit, tasted of pure chocolate-flavored indulgence. And don’t forget the home-made chocolates of course, which taste fabulous accompanied by coffee.
Add to that the eclectic but very comfortable interior of Chocoart, made even more comfortable by the soft jazz soundtrack, and the cafe becomes a perfect haven from the busy world beyond its doors. The server told us that there is no particular clientele but a broad range of customers and that was evident on the day we lunched. Other diners included “salarymen” in their business suits, housewives, groups dressed as if they’d just been hiking or planned to, and students. One young man on his own who we guessed was a student found the environment so relaxing that he put his head down on the table and dozed after finishing his refreshments.
He was still sleeping when my friend and I went back to our respective offices much the better for our short time away.
Chocoart 1176-76 Ido 2-dong, Jeju City Tel: 064-721-3337 Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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