Review: Organic Paninis, Ricotta Salads from Longbread in Myeongdong

It's during Seoul's dreary winters that I miss eating out in LA the most.

I'm talking about sitting outside in the patio in 78 degree weather, munching on a big ol' sandwich and a mound of fries as you, in shorts and flip flops, people watch through your tinted shades. The sandwich is chock full of fresh and seasonal veggies, maybe a healthy spread of fresh guac, the bread is made in-house, the deli meat locally sourced and plenty. The thin cut fries are still hot from the fryer and just a few beads of sweat runs down your neck from the California sun, much like the perspiration running down your ice cold glass of soda.

Yes, it's almost laughable at how many stereotypes such a memory fits the bill but if you've gone from year-long gorgeous weather to a place where the winter is just so drab, you'll surely know what I'm talking about.

If anything, I just miss the freshness of California cuisine. There, fruits and veggies are always fresh, seasonal and abundant. The cheeses, breads, spreads and meats are artisan quality but without a stuffy air to them. I just want a fresh sandwich or salad sometimes and not overpay for it in some pretentious atmosphere in Seoul.

I stumbled upon Longbread one day in the dreadful, tourist-centric Myeongdong one gloomy wintry evening. Those who are familiar with Myeongdong know it's a flashy, bright but sterile center of commerce and people. And in the gloomy winter days of Seoul especially, I often have mad cravings for something fresh, natural, and green.



Longbread's parent group is actually Flying Pan which is famous for its overpriced brunch stores around Seoul so I was initially skeptical and hesitant but I just had to have a damn, non-Paris Baguette sandwich that day and I took the chance and entered. Longbread specializes in paninis, salads, soups and such with an emphasis on locally grown and organic ingredients. In fact, a big sign displayed inside has the establishment making promises that it uses organic vegetables with clean water and also lists what specific region/farm their produce- such as the tomatoes and strawberries comes from- and also that the chicken who lay their eggs are raised in a good environment and not fed antibiotics.

It's a contemporary, cafe-style place, akin to places like Panera Bread in the States, where you order at the counter, pick up your food after its made, and sit down. And the salad bar and panini station is all open so you can see them make your food fresh, and right before your eyes.Though I went in on a Saturday evening, there weren't a lot of people and plenty of tables all around.

My friend and I ordered a ham, cheese and pesto panini (7,800 won) and the ricotta cheese salad (9,300). All dishes are made to order, including the salads, and we waited a good five minutes or so before getting paged to pick up our food.

The panini came hot off the press and the cheese still gooey. The warm smell of pesto was evident and lingered all around with the ham and toasted bread. The salad greens in the small side salad, which came with the sandwich, was very fresh and I appreciated the fact it came dressed in a light vinaigrette and not in the heavy, cream-based dressings that are so popular in Korea. It would have been nice if the side salad included some other veggies too, however.


Biting into it, the crunchy exterior of the bread quickly gave way to a mix of comforting flavors. First a bit of dazzle from the pesto spread, then the creamy and melted cheese, the savory ham, and finally finishing with a bit of tang from the tomato slice. 

Korean tomatoes have always left a lot to be desired but this was definitely one of the better tomatoes I've tasted in Korea. Thick and juicy and with a good, hearty umami taste to it, it acted as a good flavor enhancer for the whole sandwich. 

Peering inside the sandwich, I was surprised how much flavor the pesto spread given how it looked to be spread on so thinly on the bread. The vibrant greenness of the basil in the pesto made clear it was also a spread made fresh. The ham was nice and savory without going overboard and reminded me of the deli ham back home. Another slice included wouldn't have hurt though! 


Other panini choices are rather eclectic and include choices like the apple and potato salad (I believe a potato salad-like panini), a cheese panini for cheese lovers (which includes six different types of cheeses in it, no less), a sweet potato, bacon cheese, and yuza panini, and more. Other standard paninis/sandwiches include club sandwich, chicken sandwich, beef sandwich and more. 

The salad was a pretty little thing to look at and, again, quite evidently fresh. A few cherry tomatoes and green grapes were scattered about on top of the greens and two toasted, and still warm, bread slices on the side. The greens were so fresh they could have just as well been picked just moments outside by a Korean grandmother in her field, washed, and then thrown together into the salad. There was a good variety to the greens and very little iceberg lettuce. Of course, for just this salad alone at 9,300 won would have been grossly overpriced if it had been only greens but the star of the salad, in a sort of ironic way, was the giant mound of homemade ricotta cheese sitting in the center. 


A pesto dressing was provided on the side and you could see it was an in-house made dressing with some shaking required to mix the oil and other stuff together. After a few vigorous shakes, I opened the dressing and gave the salad its pesto dressing shower.



The dressing was excellent with the pesto taste and scent, melding well with the bits of cheese, garlic, and a subtle blanketing by the oil. I've found salad dressings in Korea tend to either be overly creamy (meaning lots of mayo) or overly sweet but this was the perfect, light dressing to shine but still let the high quality and fresh ingredients be the star of the whole thing. The grapes and cherry tomatoes were perfectly ripe and gave occasional sweet notes to the savory salad. Longbread also makes it a point to include fruit that's in season so, depending on when you visit, the fruits and vegetables in your salad may be different but always fresh! 

As for the giant mound of ricotta cheese, you certainly couldn't argue that they skimped out on it. In recent years, Korea has been on somewhat of a ricotta cheese wave with establishments like Cafe Mamas still seeing long lines for its ricotta cheese salads. The prices at these eateries are steep for what you could make at home, but if you're looking to avoid the hassle, Longbread's ricotta cheese does not disappoint. Both creamy and cheesy, their in-house made ricotta cheese has the texture and similar flavors of cream cheese and is perfect for shmearing on the bread provided. The toasted walnuts and almond pieces embedded on top give a welcome crunchy texture and nutty flavor to every bite and is a perfect alternate to the pesto salad. 



Blurry phone cam picture but you can envision the taste and texture already, can't you? :)

The other salads offered by Longbread looked just as enticing and fresh and really reminded me of the food choices back home.The cold pasta salad has black olives, nuts, and penne pasta served over greens with their pesto dressing. The salmon dip and salad comes with Norwegian smoked salmon, dill, lemon juice, and their special creamy dressing. The oh! my chicken salad (yes, exclamation point included) is your standard chicken salad but doesn't use standard chicken breasts but the inner, tenderloin (?) part, which is usually softer than the regular parts of the chicken breast. There's also a chicken curry salad in which chicken is tossed in a curry yogurt dressing for a non-Korean kick. 

Longbread also offers 100% fresh-squeezed juices using fruits that are in-season. The menu lists choices like banana, watermelon, plum, strawberry, orange, grapefruit and more. Their brownies are advertised as using chocolate from France but I didn't try either the brownies or the juices. 

It was a simple yet delicious meal and it also brought back memories of the food in LA. With the organic and local produce market slowly growing in Korea, it was nice to see an eatery that emphasizes it without overloading your budget. Would love the place to spin-off a Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation kind of salad, soups, and baked goods buffet which doesn't seem likely but one can dream, right? 

It's a casual joint with almost a Panera Bread-like feel from the States making it a great place to grab a quick and healthy bite with friends. The Myeongdong branch that I visited is also much quieter than the hustle and bustle of Myeongdong so no wait times and more space and privacy! 

Ratings: 3 out of 4 stars
Healthy and local food at decent prices are the biggest draws but the bonus factor is that the food tastes great and things like their dressings and sauces made in-store. There's no pretentious feeling in the laid back atmosphere and it's much quieter than the eateries in the Myeongdong area.

Address: 

서울특별시 중구 남대문로24가 123
123, Namdaemun-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul
It's connected to the first floor of the Lotte Young Plaza mall with another front entrance on that main street between Lotte Young Plaza and Lotte Avenue L.

Other branches are in Yeoksam, Gangnam, Yeoido, and Seorae Maeul. Click here for the info on the other branches.

Telephone: 02-2118-5173

Parking: Parking available in the Lotte Young Plaza mall for diners but be advised the lot gets full and car lines really long... especially on weekends! It is Myeongdong after all, so leaving your car behind is best.

Alcohol: None. 

Tip: In line with the emphasis on fresh and in-season produce, Longbread's homepage and FB page usually shares what in-season fruit or veggies they're serving at the moment.

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