Ha Nul Jung Won is a recently opened Italian restaurant right outside Dongguk University subway station exit #1. This is the area around the Shilla Hotel and the Sofitel Ambassador Seoul.
Before I start complaining, I better get what I liked out of the way first. The restaurant is in an old house, though not hanok. It has a nice patio (not too useful this time of year) and the inside is going for a rustic look. It is a pretty good atmosphere for a quick lunch and probably good for a long dinner.
I went there for lunch. Lunch has a fixed menu that changes daily (or at least should). It was basic, but good. They had a table with salad and bread that people could serve themselves. It reminded me of a kimchi table at many restaurants and cafeterias. Both the salad, with an onion vinegarette, and the bread were good. We ate a lot of these, though not just because they were good (see problems below). They served oil/vinegar at the table and a kind of pickled cucumber (standard in Korea). The main dish was “pasta with cream sauce.” It was a light cream sauce with mushrooms, onions, and green/yellow/red peppers and a mix of pasta types: fettuccini, bowtie, and rigatoni. I was skeptic, but these were all pretty good. Lastly, and rather importantly, the meal was only W8,500, which is pretty good for Italian in Seoul.
Now the bad and I’ll be quick about it (though they weren’t). Service was terrible. This was probably due to the fact that the kitchen couldn’t get these simple dishes out quickly. We waited for 30 minutes for the ONE dish that they were making that day. The serving staff couldn’t keep track of who to give the food to when it did come out. My wife was served then they served a couple other tables around me, then I was served. As I mentioned before, we tore into the salad and bread as we waited. However, they ran out of both (or said they did) as we got our meal. I would have loved some bread with that cream sauce.
That’s it. The good and the bad of this new place. The price was right and the food was too. If they get over the lousy service (not easy in Seoul), they will have a killer place. This is a business area with few western food options, which helps to explain why they were packed for lunch on a Tuesday.
You can probably tell that I’m writing this really fast. That’s mostly what you’ll get from me: mistakes, poor style, and all. I’m going to try to get more of these reviews up from now on in order to add to the greater body of food knowledge here in Seoul/Korea. I’m not very good at getting pictures (can’t get them from my phone), so you’ll have to gaze at the words on the page 🙂