The Xef

We discovered the best restaurant last night…Spanish tapas. A couple of days ago, we took a stroll back in a little hilly neighborhood a few blocks from our building. It’s like being in a whole different world from this glossy high-rise world we are living in.

The roads back there are narrow and steep, with small houses, cleaning businesses, beauty shops, and the ever-present motorcycle repair shop. ‘Most everything is constructed of dark brick, in stark contrast to the steel and glass just a block or two away.

As we topped a hill, we spotted the tiny restaurant on the corner, checked out the menu posted outside, and made plans to come back the next night.

We got there early last night (for Seoul) but still had to wait for a few minutes, as there are only four tables. The young chef, tall, dark, and handsome, was busy at work in the tiny kitchen, which is a part of the small dining area (all Korean kitchens are open and completely visible to the patrons).

He was doing a little kitchen-ballet, sautéing, chopping, adding pinches of salt from a foot away-just like in the movies. The chef’s assistant shared the tiny space, polishing wine glasses until they gleamed, holding them up to the light to make sure that every spot was removed. Chef’s wife, a lovely Korean woman, took orders and served the wine.

Our table was right in the big front window and service was slow. Slow in that good, Spanish way where every dish is created when it’s ordered and served from the chef’s hand. So, we were able to watch the sun go down and the full moon rise over the skyscrapers of Seoul.

People walked by, wrangling their babies and dogs, carrying home their groceries and cleaning. A stray tabby took up residence on the steps.

The food was great – full of anchovies and squid, mussels and mushrooms. The Cava was cold and the Sangria was spicy and fruity. As the night wound down and the chef’s work came to a close, he came over to chat (we do kinda stand out, having most of the gray hair in Korea right on top of our two heads🙂).



Mack told him about my love of Spain and particularly my love of the Camino de Santiago. He lit up at that, saying that his family home is on “the way” in Galicia, and that one day, he hopes to make the pilgrimage.

Small world.

We have put The Xef by Manu Manzano right smack in the middle of our regular rotation. When you come to visit, we’ll take you there, too

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