Seoul Afterthoughts

Throw a stone in the air and it will probably land on a Singaporean blogger’s 5d4n Seoul itinerary. So I won’t dwell much, just noting some afterthoughts for future reference.

Best place to stay: Myeongdong hotels are where all the action is. More interesting boutique hotels can be found further away, but I would not trade in my convenience. Skypark, Ninetree and Pacific hotel are safe bets.

Things to buy: Korean cosmetics are *arguably* the country’s biggest draw. Do note that Laneige there is about the same price as Singapore though. MUST BUY: IOPE Air Cushion XP. You can’t get it in Singapore and it is definitely the best cushion make up around. Perfectly natural looking dewy finish!

Definitely buy a pair of sunglasses from homegrown brand Gentle Monster. They are the one big thing in Korea and the next big thing worldwide. Their mind blowing flagship store at Garosugil is a MUST VISIT.

Where to shop: Underground shopping at almost every metro station is kinda already shopping heaven. For cheap street shopping, people enjoy going to Ewha and Hongdae. If you prefer something more modern contemporary (like urban outfitters concept), do check out Korea’s pride and glory – Stylenanda and A Land. For high end Korean designs and international designers, Lotte Department store. There is also a Lotte Young Plaza beside it that’s more affordable.

Word of caution; shopping in korea isn’t cheap… BUT if you like cheap, I discovered the gem that is Star 101, a shop at Myeongdong that has nice stuff at nice prices. It is near A Land Myeongdong branch and Spicy Color.

Things to do: Korean perms originated from Korea, duh! Get one here @ Juno Hair Salon.

Spend a day doing the JSA (Panmunjom) tour to see the mysterious North Korea. Highly informative, and now I want to know more! Remember to book the tour through a tour agent online, and provide your passport information a week before. This is very important.

Things to skip: Nami Island, Gangchon Rail Park and Petite France. Trust me on this please.

Time to go: Anytime but summer. There have been Korean dramas like “Winter Sonata”, “Autumn In My Heart”. I’m sure there’s one about spring too. But I bet there aren’t any about Korea’s hot hot summer.

What to eat: Uh where do I start?? I love Korean food so much! My fave was Maple Tree BBQ (MUST VISIT) for a more posh and modern take on Korean bbq. I had fried chicken at Two Two. Andong chicken at Yeolbong Jjimbak. Ginseng chicken at Toksokchon. Seafood at Noryangjin Wholesale market. Dumplings at Myeongdong gyoja. Korean porridge at bonjuk. Chicken galbi. Army stew. Cold noodles. And all the street food!! Never not eating.

Transport: Just take a cab. It’s cheap.

All about the bars

Things have changed a lot since I last wrote about a cocktail bar. I have changed as well. Through new friends made and new places frequented, I have learnt many new things that changed my perspective on cocktails totally.

It all started on 31 December 2014, I was ushering in the new year with a staycation at marina bay sands. While looking for dinner options, we were very lucky to have gotten seats at Cut for the night. If you follow me on Instagram (@stephsiau), you would already know of my Cut obsession.
I fell in love in an instant. Before I knew it, I was back at Cut the next day. Then I was going once to twice a week. And then I guess you can say the rest is history.

My experiences at Cut have taught me a lot about food service and standards. And this rings true for their bar as well.

The things I look for are no longer limited to a strong kick or gimmicky ingredients. I find joy in picking out all the ingredients in the drink (is it laphroaig whiskey?) and understanding the balance in a drink (that jalapeño goes really well with the tequila!) and the reason for each ingredient (egg white adds a texture that allows flavours to shine). Of course all this is impossible without a good bartender to help.

I have come to learn that a good cocktail and bar experience is heavily dependent on a good bartender. Good bartenders offer a wealth of knowledge and experience. The way they carve that ice block (Manhattan @ Regent Hotel even stamps each individual ice cube with their logo), stir your glasses with ice till they are chilled, and even the way their hands are gripping their tools, or where they place their measurements. Everything counts towards being a good bartender. Under a good bartender, nothing goes unnoticed.

Bartenders, when you engage them, can teach you a lot. I have tasted so many whiskeys and learnt my favourite gins thanks to bartenders who like to share their knowledge. I’m deeply grateful for the lessons!

Nowadays, I value being a regular at my favourite bar over checking out hip new bars. I’m never disappointed and I enjoy having my favourite bartenders as a part of my night. I find that many new bars are heavy on concept but fail to deliver on quality. It’s disappointing and a waste of time and money. But I’m always happy to find a good surprise. My next destination is Operation Dagger on bukit pasoh; I have heard that their drinks are simple but their techniques and knowledge are remarkable.

A few notes on Cut:

Cut Singapore has among the longest cocktail lists in all Cut restaurants worldwide. The head bartender is invited to Bahrain, Dubai, to train the new bartenders in the new Cut establishments. Trust me you are in good hands. They would bend over backwards for all their patrons, and they only put out their best.

They only open for dinner, but everyone’s clocked in as early as 10am to get the ball rolling. I have not met a more cohesive and dedicated team. Everyone I have spoken to absolutely love their jobs at Cut. This says a lot.

It also says a lot when the restaurant/bar is filled with regulars. Everyone pretty much knows each other. It’s love all around!

I am very happy that another Wolfgang puck restaurant, Spago, is opening at marina bay sands hotel this year!