Review: Parc (빠르크)

For all the variety of international restaurants that draws buzz in Itaewon, its Korean restaurants don't necessarily elicit the same response.

Walking into Parc, the Korean-house-turned-restaurant in Hannamdong, you'll notice the interior of this restaurant has more an Italian or French bistro restaurant feel to it and, admittedly, on my first Parc visit I was worried this was a sign that the restaurant was masquerading as another gimmicky fusion restaurant that so often comes and goes in Seoul.

But having heard rave reviews from folks online and off, I gave the restaurant the benefit of the doubt a few years back and since have continued to be rewarded by what Parc makes and puts out. Quite simply put, it has become my go-to Korean restaurant in the Itaewon area to take guests to for its high-quality, seasonal, and diverse range of honest Korean dishes.

Many good restaurants begin with a seed of hope or a desire of sorts which, after careful cultivation, blossoms into something special and that's what goes the same with Parc. The young chef owner spent considerable time living abroad and, like any young individual far away from home, found himself really missing the momma's home cookin. After having his family's recipes and know-hows passed unto him he found a newfound respect for the quality of his mother's recipes and decided to open shop in Seoul based on her cooking.

Receiving the recipe book of all her best dishes- which she had dished out back home in Sooncheon for decades- the owner researched and experimented to rehash it in a contemporary style. No msg, flavor enhancers of sorts are found in Parc and even most of the seasonings and basic Korean condiments are all made in-house. Additionally, the menu changes frequently to reflect what's in season and to bring ingredients that are at their peak to the table.

As a consideration for personal preference and diet, the changing main menu revolves usually around either a seafood, meat, or vegetarian-based meal or you can choose the big sets to enjoy a nice range of fantastic Korean flavors. A sample of a set meal which included an amuse bouche of sorts, daily grilled fish, squid and pork stir fry, soup, salad, side dishes, and more for 15K a person.

In general, the vegetarian and seafood meals will range between the 10-20K range while meat-based dishes are usually above the 20K range. Which is why the sets are some of the better deals for the range of food it offers (and usually between 15 -20 K, though a minimum of 2 persons must order it).

As the rotating menu is seasonal, you can be rest assured that many of the dishes are in their prime.

You can also add various dishes as add-ons to your meal such as jabchae (3K), ssam and ssamjang (3K), different kinds of gyeran mari, various jeons, etc.

Another benefit of Parc is an extensive menu of Korean alcoholic drinks from Hwayo to Hallasan soju, bokbunja, Andong soju, and more. This is another reason I like to bring guests in the Itaewon region to this restaurant as it's not only a great way to introduce Korean food in general but Korean drinks as well.

If you prefer, you can instead opt for the various wines they have available by the glass or bottle. 

The setting is decidedly modern, minimal chicness. White painted walls, potted plants, tables scattered about... this could easily be mistaken for one of the many cafes in Seoul if not for the Korean food that's on everyone's table.

While the decor is decidedly non-Korean in a traditional sense, its plates and utensils are entirely Korean in soul. And really, these little details do matter particularly as the concept of Parc is to offer homemade meals like a Korean mother would make.

The starters for the sets are usually a seasonal vegetable of some kind topped with a sort of relish. I've had it with eggplant and cucumber which, in both cases, seemed to be lightly pickled. It's a vibrant way to kick off a meal as the range of tart, savory, sweet, nutty (from the oil) flavors immediately starts titillating the taste buds while the variety of textures gets your mouth warming up before the meal.

The banchan, or side dishes, are seasonal and likely differ depending on the season.

Using seasonal vegetables like young zucchini or mountain roots in their prime are just the cooking method a Korean mom would do. You can also taste that everything is handmade. These aren't side dishes that are coming from a factory somewhere but ingredients that are purchased by the restaurant, sides and sauces that are made in-house, and put together to offer that home meal goodness.

I love the fact too that the side dishes are always seasoned so well. Side dishes at a lot of Korean restaurants these days are saltier, sweeter, spicier to reflect the trend in taste. The variety here are always seasoned just right to never overpower the main ingredients and their lower sodium, sugar content means it's just the kind your momma would give/want to give you.

No, this is not japchae, this is jellyfish. :)

Rice and soup is essential for a Korean meal. The soup changes up frequently and for the rice, you can opt for the black rice for a healthier option (at no cost). 

Probably the only two things that aren't made in-house are the jeotgal (fermented seafood) and the kimchi.

The jeotgal comes in a trio including squid, pollack roe, and not sure on the last one. With just a drizzle of sesame oil and some chopped scallions and sesame seeds atop, just a great combo with the rice.

The one odd quirk I feel about Parc is their kimchi. They specify their kimchi is from celebrity Hong Jin Young (who has a thriving kimchi empire in Korea) and also states on their menu that kimchi is only offered when asked for it by the customer. Seeing as how they make just about everything down to the jang (sauces) it seems odd they'd just skip making kimchi though admittedly it is a time-consuming effort. 

But even if the kimchi isn't homemade, having it as a requested option only is a rather odd twist considering kimchi is the quintessential side dish to a Korean meal. Still, Hong's kimchi is a standard affair that sits squarely in the middle of the kimchi spectrum between being a light pickle and so-ripe-you-can-smell-it-from-a-mile-away. 

Their heartier sides and mains are always a delight and I have yet to come across anything I've had qualms with. Their fried and braised tofu for example has a wonderful texture and cooked just right to let some of the seasoned soy sauce soak up in the nutty tofu. Little slivers of red chilis adds a touch of luxury and certainly wouldn't look out of place as one of the dishes of a Korean royal banquet meal.

Squid stir-fry with sweet and savory flavors and just a hint of spicy kick. Tasty, fire-kissed seasoning aside, you know it's cooked well when the squid and vegetables still have bite to them.

Pork stir fry. The pork has been marinated in maeshil or Japanese plum to boost its flavor while eliminating gamy smells. Just a touch of smokiness to it that ensures this will please all carnivores.

Mackerel. Look how expertly golden it has been cooked to. Cut beneath that crust to unearth those flaky mounds of seasoned mackerel meat which always pairs beautifully with plain rice. Careful of the bones!

Braised short ribs. Tender and falling apart from the bones. A touch of sweetness that isn't extreme. while the vegetables have soaked up those flavors while retaining their shape and texture. Portion was a bit small, though.

Final thoughts:
Parc stays true to its aim to recreate an excellent homemade meal with the food being the kind of fresh and high quality Korean meals that will remind any Korean of that aunt, grandma, uncle, mom, dad, etc who can whip out a wholesome and delicious spread at any gathering. Nothing (except the kimchi ironically) is outsourced and everything is made fresh to order. It's definitely on the pricier side for a Korean meal but the flip side being they don't cut any corners and comes as an oasis of Korean cuisine to the decisively non-Korean Itaewon neighborhood. 

서울특별시 용산구 이태원로55가길 26-5
26-5, Itaewon-ro 55ga-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea

From exit 1 of Hangangjin Station, turn around and walk along Itaewon-ro southwards (not towards Blue Square) for about 400 meters until you get to Itaewon-ro 49-gil (the street entrance is between a CU convenience store and Audi Dealership). Walk up the road just a bit and the road splits five ways. You want to take the first right up Itaewon-ro 55-gil for just 15 meters or so and you’ll see Parc on the left. The sign isn’t so easily viewable but it’s a big white 2-3 story home-style building. I think there’s a wine bar with an outdoor terrace in the bottom floor of the building you pass. 




A long list of traditional and premium Korean alcohol and wine as well.

Closed on Mondays.

Break time everyday from 3:30PM-5:30PM