FOOD & STYLE

Txitxarro

Natural Wine Captivates Seoul
Natural wine has emerged as a global trend among epicureans, and Seoul is not an exception. To explore Seoul’s wine market for natural wine, head over to the places listed below as a starting point.
Just 2-3 years ago, natural wine was not a common concept to the public. The first natural wine tasting event in Korea, participated by Korea’s natural wine importers, sommeliers, and wine lovers, was held in March 2016. How about now, in the year 2019? If you google “natural wine,” you get about 800,000 search results. From articles on the definition and charm of natural wine to YouTube videos introducing where to buy or enjoy natural wine, the information on the web runs the whole gamut. Natural wine is now being consumed by the general public, not just wine aficionados. As in Paris, Tokyo, and New York, Seoul is currently in love with natural wine.
What on earth is natural wine? Natural wine is made from grapes grown organically and fermented only with the wild yeasts living on the fruit, without adding chemicals such as sulfites. Like Korea’s home-brewed liquor, natural wine is produced in limited quantities in small wineries. The appeal of natural wine is in various flavors and characteristics that follow its origin and maker. It’s like natural wine is asking us to try this or that. Many natural white wines offer a nice acidity. There are consumers choosing natural wine, not because they like the taste, but because they value organic, wholesome food or want to contribute to environmental sustainability.
For those who have never particularly liked wine or tried natural wine, why not start by selecting natural wine, the most trendy alcoholic beverage at present? As a matter of fact, natural wine is gaining popularity fast among open-minded young people in their 30s. With the growing interest in natural wine, more restaurants and wine bars are providing a natural wine list for their customers, and more businesses are specializing in natural wine. As the saying goes, seeing is believing. Only in this case, drinking is believing. The four eateries listed below are the places that seem earnest in their selection of natural wine. Let’s start our natural wine expedition.
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Bar Piknic © Glint

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Baked potato with leek, Romesco sauce and almond, served at Bar Piknic. It goes well with red wine.

Classy Natural Wine and Food, Bar Piknic
Bar Piknic has become the most famous natural wine bar in the first year of its opening. If you visit the place in the daytime, however, you might be perplexed to see its customers drink coffee. Located on the ground floor of Piknic, a complex cultural space, Kafe Piknic turns into a bar selling natural wine at 6 o’clock every afternoon. Hiding small coffee tables behind the curtains on one side of the space, the bar dims the light and prepares only one ultra-wide wooden table. Glamorous yet idyllic, Bar Piknic is now a great space for evening appointments.
Bar Piknic is run by French contemporary restaurant Zero Complex, located on the third floor of the same building. The restaurant is praised for dishes that are faithful to the original flavor of the ingredients, as well as for the natural wine pairings by Clément Thomassin. It received one star in “Michelin Guide 2019”. The French sommelier, a natural wine connoisseur from Alsace, France, is also in charge of the wine list at Bar Piknic. Chef Lee Sung-hoon, a former Zero Complex member, manages the kitchen at Bar Piknic, making sure to avoid artificial touches while cooking and focus on the original flavor that seasonal ingredients provide.
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Plate of cod with peas and zucchini, served with white wine

Lee said about Bar Piknic, “I hoped it would be a cozy space where good food and wine can be enjoyed at a reasonable price.” True to his words, the price on the menu, including entrees like egg and tomato salad, main dishes involving meat or seafood, ranges between 7,000 won and 20,000 won. It is feasible since Zero Complex shares its basic ingredients. Plus there are 50-60 natural wines stocked in its wine seller.
The reasonably-priced yet authentic French-style menu and natural wines served in a cozy yet chic space have lured people out to the tip of Mount Namsan in a hilly Hoehyeon-dong. If you are new to the whole wine scene, Bar Piknic will be a good start. Its four sommeliers will share their knowledge to recommend a perfect natural wine that goes well with your order and preferences.
Address 30 Toegyero 6ga-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul
Phone +82-2-318-3233
Homepage www.piknic.kr
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Interior of Txitxarro

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White anchovy mega crunch with rose wine at Txitxarro

Spanish Tapas and Natural Wine Pairing, Txitxarro
If someone is asked to pick the most vibrant town in Seoul right now, the answer should be none other than Seongsu-dong. The neighborhood once famous for handmade shoe plants now embraces the young generation. It’s now home to an array of unique shops and restaurants. If you are interested in natural wine, you will find Txitxarro worth to check out. Txitxarro is a natural wine bar run by chef Jaden Lee who studied cooking in Basque, Spain, and worked in Belgium and England. Along with the trendy wine selection, Lee presents Spanish cuisine, and his specialty tapas are often served as a main dish.
“I wanted to let people know that tapas can be diversified.” A tapa is any Spanish cuisine served in small portion as a snack to enjoy with drinks. If you put small amounts of ingredients on small plates, you got yourself tapas. It means tapas can be personal and unique. Lee works on his menu, using only the ingredients that are easily found in Korean markets but at the same time must-haves for Spanish cuisine. The top menu at Txitxarro is “White Anchovy Mega Crunch,” a combo of french fries that are familiar to Koreans and anchovies representing Spain, accompanied by mayonnaise with chopped chorizos in it. Anchovies have a firm texture, and french fries are crunchy. Spread some mayo on them, and you will ask for more wine.
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Props inside Txitxarro

The wine selection at Txitxarro is handled by CEO Kang Hye-mi, who is Lee’s business partner and wife. The couple learned about natural wine by chance while they were living in Europe, and took an interest. Having worked at restaurants such as Soigné and Jungsik Seoul after returning to Korea, Lee started his own restaurant and started considering selling natural wine. “Natural wine has acidity. I think acidity plays a big role in cooking. If you artificially add acidity to food, it could taste a bit off or ruin the taste of other foods as it lingers in your mouth. I thought the unrefined acidity of natural wine would go well with my dishes. Besides there are some uncommonly-scented natural wines that if paired well, would complement the food in a way that cooking can’t. Txitxarro carries over 20 brands of natural wines, and white wine takes up a greater proportion than Rose wine.
The word txitxarro is a local dialect of Basque and refers to horse mackerel or the likes of it with blue on the upper body. Lee named the bar after the fish that reminds him of his trainee days in Spain. The interior design of the place also reflects his past. A cozy space with five round tables is decorated with the plates and objets his parents gave, a painting he’s had since childhood, and photographs taken in Europe. He carefully arranged tables and chairs so that his customers can feel at home. “I wanted to recreate the feeling of good food and homey atmosphere for my bar.” His wishes did come true. Finding Spanish tapas and natural wine together here feels perfectly normal.
Address 22 Wangsimni-ro 14-gil, Seongdong-gu, Seoul
Phone +82-2-462-0990
Homepage www.instagram.com/txitxarro_seoul
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Reveat

Dreamy Gourmet Food Feast in Hideout, Reveat
Walking on the roadside in Seogyo-dong, you’d find a store with a glass wall front and red lights inside. You try looking for the store sign of that charming place, but fail. Ironically, it means you’re in the right place. Reveat, combining French word “rêve” and English “eat,” is a dining bar run by chef Lee Su-hwan who wishes his customers would have a dreamy experience, just like the bar name. There may not be a sign to determine what the place is for, but everything at Reveat, from the chef and bartenders, to the vigor and energy of the customers, is open to the outside world through the front floor-to-ceiling window. 
Lee offers his dishes and alcoholic beverage pairings. Based on French cuisine, he still tries to use mostly Korean and natural ingredients, and makes his own dressings to bring out a deep flavor. He has a wide spectrum of recipes including foie gras and escargot. At Reveat, the journey to taste something exquisite begins at a casual, bracket-shaped bar table.
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Beverages at Reveat

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Shelled oysters from Geoje Island

The Reveat signature is shelled oysters from Geoje Island. Triploid oysters, which has been served at the bar from the very beginning, do not breed and are available in all four seasons. Larger than other regular oysters, the triploids are known for their softer texture, and served with lemon, olive oil, hot sauce, and a Reveat original sauce. Mussels are most popular these days. The ingredient itself is the name of the dish. As in France, mussels are braised with white wine.
With oysters and mussels, you need to have white wine. The wine list at Reveat mostly comprises natural wine, accounting for 70-80 percent. The chef and bartenders select wines carefully after tasting, to meet various tastes including the ones with strong aroma and flavors as well as some safe choices to please a wider customer base. Reveat also offers vodka, whiskey, cocktails and so on, and gin, with over 30 different kinds to choose from, is just as popular as natural wine.
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Chef Lee Su-hwan at work

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Braised mussels with white wine

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Bar table in the shape of an open rectangle

The first level is a space for the bar where the chef and customers interact freely, the second level is a private room requiring advance booking, except in summer when it’s closed. It has a maximum capacity of eight. The carpeted floor and couches are perfect for throwing a cozy party. In Seoul, where you can find new businesses opening or existing ones closing every corner around the city, Reveat has been operating successfully for 3 years since December 2017. The ambience of the bar with its refined interior decor, Lee’s immaculate cooking style, and natural wines—Reveat is trendy yet remains unaffected by the trends of the day.
Address 112 Donggyo-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Phone +82-70-7724-1208
Homepage www.instagram.com/reveat_seoul
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Lamb Kima & Couscous, grape salad and red wine at Wildduck Canteen

Perfect for Chillin’, Wildduck Canteen
If there were a cafeteria like this in my company, I would go and eat there everyday. Wildduck Canteen is similar to a sister shop of Wildduck & Co, which sells exhibition posters collected from art museums around Europe. Wildduck CEO Hong Won-ki, chef Choi Sang-jae, and baker Shin Su-jeong joined hands to open the business. Being friends, the three owners wanted the place to be a comfy, casual restaurant open to everyone, as the name “canteen” signifies.
You can easily spot Wildduck Canteen on the hill of Haebangchon, near Itaewon, if you look for its green awning. Open the door and you see a big wooden table in the center. There are impressive posters and photographs on the wall and vintage items here and there. The three owners each brought what they liked to decorate the interior. The poster was chosen by Hong and vintage European lighting, chairs, and ornaments by all three. It’s odd that the store looks uncluttered. It’s also fun to examine each decorating element that creates such a harmonious ambience.
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Exterior of Wildduck Canteen

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Counter filled with vintage props and posters

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New by the glass wines for every week

If you visit Wildduck Canteen in the day, you can have a scone or open sandwich, along with mushroom soup for brunch. In the evening, you may order a small plate of tasty dish and enjoy it with natural wine. Five different wines by the glass, changed weekly, give a perfect option for those who want to drink lightly. Sipping wine with a charming acidity while sitting on the terrace in broad daylight is a fun experience. It’s like a summer vacation in itself.
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Roasted cauliflower with blue cheese sauce

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Window-side table with plenty of light

For dinnertime, “Lamb Kima & Couscous” served with yogurt can fill your empty stomach. Wildduck’s grape salad with pepper and coriander, and roasted cauliflower served with blue cheese sauce are rarities. For your information, there’s no separate wine list here. A member of Wildduck Canteen would figure out one out of 50 natural wines to suggest, after chitchatting with the customer.
Address 33 Sinheung-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone +82-10-9964-3357
Homepage www.instagram.com/wildduck_canteen
August 2019 Editor:Kim Hyewon
Photographer:Hae Ran

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