A few months ago I was lucky enough to be invited to enjoy an incredible 16 course tasting menu at Ryunique. And, since my visit, Chef Ryu has been very busy opening up a new bistro called Normal. The food is, unsurprisingly, a simpler version of the theatrically styled gastronomy he does at Ryunique. While the menu would lead you to believe that the food is standard bistro fare, I knew from my previous dinner that it would be anything but simple. There seems to be a bit of an influx of new bistros opening in the last month, and the few that I have been to haven’t really impressed me all that much, despite receiving high praise from other reviewers. So I was very interested to find out how Normal would compare.
The restaurant itself is located in the street running parallel to the main Garosugil shopping street in Sinsa, and is located just above the most adorable flower shop. Once inside a stylish yet modern restaurant awaits. While the small second floor eaterie oozes chicness, the yellow and gray design elements add a real playfulness to the decor.
The menu is small as a bistro menu should be, half a dozen starters and main courses and a collection of desserts. We started with some complimentary bread and decided to stick with juice for our drinks. I’m not sure why I wasn’t drinking, perhaps I was heavily medicated. I had the Omija Juice (6,000) while TFB had the Cucumber Juice (6,000). Both very refreshing and packed with flavour. I think the cucumber one would have benefited from a shot of gin though!
To start the chef recommended that we try the Tomato Bubble Salad (18,000). A medley of tomatoes,home-made ricotta, grapes, tangerine, and bubbled tomato syrup. The tomatoes were all different but the peeled ones were outstanding, when bitten into they released a river of juice that must have been injected it was so flavourful. The ricotta was also the creamiest I’ve ever had, and I’ve had plenty. I make my own frequently but I’ve never had one like this, it honestly tasted like he had made it out of cream and not milk. The bubble element came from a homemade tomato syrup, I’ve no idea how they created the bubbles from it but it was very impressive. A fabulous salad and a great way to start the meal.
For our appetisers I went for the Cheese Ravioli (15,000). A cream cheese and walnut stuffed pasta, with a honey cheese sauce. I honestly didn’t know what to think when I saw the word honey cheese, it kind of put me in mind of that god forsaken flavour, honey butter. But this was a marvellous dish, and the sauce was plate lickingly good. The pasta itself was perfectly cooked. I’ve had pasta a few times recently which has been on the wrong side of al dente, but this was lovely and melt in the mouth. The walnuts inside provided a nice crunch and and then a creaminess exuded from the filling. It was perfect for a starter, though I would’t have minded eating a second plate for my main too.
TFB had the Beef Tartar (23,000) which was immaculately presented on a marble slab. The beef tartar was topped with apple chutney which provided a real sweetness, I never knew that beef and apple went so well together! The little crackers were made with tapioca and provided a nice crunch as well as balancing out the sweetness from the chutney. The yellow on top comes from a grated egg yolk which along with providing a bit of colour on the plate also added an extra richness. My only complaint was that I wanted more, so many more, I could have eaten them for days.
For my main course I chose the Pork Belly (28,000). It is always one of my favourite dishes, so I couldn’t resist trying this one. It came with a side of grilled veggies and we also got a separate side dish of seaweed butter rice with a poached egg which we both adored. The pork was crispy to look at and I was even concerned it may have been overdone. But on closer inspection it was wonderfully soft and cut through like melted butter, as you can imagine, it disappeared rather quickly!
My beloved opted for the Duck Breast with Orange Puree (32,000) for his main. I’m rarely that fond of French duck but this one was supreme. The fat was well rendered and the meat was juicy and flavourful. It sat atop the slightly salty confit. It was really good. It was served with the same selection of veggies as the pork belly, and they accompanied the dish nicely.
For dessert we shared the Choco (15,000). A chocolate cake that was darker than sin, and a rich and decadent chocolate cream. It was adorned with mint leaves which gave little pops of freshness. There were a couple of other desserts on the menu too, but we rather enjoyed this one.
If you are looking for a good neighbourhood bistro then you have found it. Everything we ate was excellent. While it wont win any prizes for being the cheapest bistro in town, the food is outstanding and it is a great way to indulge in chef Ryu’s culinary creations without having to rob a bank to eat at Ryunique.
Normal is located at 520-8, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Sinsa Station (line 3) and come out of exit 8. Walk straight then take the second left, walk to the end then take the next left street which is diagonal and runs parallel to Garosugil. normal is about half way down just before the 4th left turn. For more information you can call them on 02-6405-9279 or check out their facebook page.