Everyone enjoys dining out and celebrities are no exception. Celebrities in Korea mainly head to restaurants near broadcasting stations for a quick meal between takes or for a dinner party with their staff afterwards. That way, they don’t have to travel far and it is convenient to go as a group.
Young stars go to clubs, bars and restaurants in Apgujeong-dong or Cheongdam-dong. If you are lucky, you can see them and get an autograph from them. One such example will be Cofioca bubble tea place located in Apgujeong. While I was there, I could see the walls of the bubble tea shop covered with autographs from members of U-Kiss, Kara, Rainbow, SHINee and Super Junior. This bubble tea joint is located near SM Entertainment, who knows; you might be lucky and be able to spot SM idol celebrities hanging out at this place? (Refer here to more information on Cofioca bubble tea)
Instead of heading to one of those celebrities hang out places, you can also try dinning in one of the many “star restaurants” in Korea. Recently, the number of celebrating stars owning restaurants is increasing with a number of locals flocking to these “star restaurants”. While dinning at these “star restaurants”, you’ll be able to have a chance to view works and memorabilia by the celebrities.
If you hope to bump into the stars at these “star restaurants” you might be in for a little disappointment. The stars are rarely at their restaurants as most are busy broadcasting or are at other events. In most cases, their family, relatives, or acquaintances manage the restaurant. In other cases, the stars are the investors and hire professional managers to run their business. However there is a slim chance of stars showing up at the restaurants sometimes. At Tovou, Ahn Jeong-hwan and his wife show up occasionally for magazine photos or interviews.
Here’s a few recommendations courtesy of the Korea Tourism Organization in Singapore:
1. Bae Yong-Joon’s Gorilla in the Kitchen
Gorilla in the Kitchen is owned by Korean Hallyu star Bae Yong-joon. The unique name comes from the animal known for its energy and wisdom – the gorilla. Gorilla in the Kitchen is also known as “Yon-sama’s restaurant”.
With health as the main theme of the menu, you won’t find fries or any dishes using butter here. The amount of salt is also controlled according to the recommended daily intake. Diners can also find detailed information on the ingredients and cooking methods as well as information on nutrition, weight, and calories. If you want a smaller portion, order “human” or choose “gorilla” for a bigger portion.
Recommended health dishes are tagged as “Muscle Smart” in the menu. Non-Korean speakers will be relieved to learn that there is an English menu.
For all you Bae Yong-Joon fans out there, you might be a little disappointed in this, but there are no items or photos of the star on display at the restaurant as it reflects the philosophy of the restaurant where it hopes to attract a clientele based on the quality of their food rather than the popularity of Bae Yong-Joon being a celebrity.
Details of Bae Yong-Joon’s Gorilla in the Kitchen
Address: Sinsa-dong 650, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: Weekdays 11:00~23:00, weekends 10:00~23:00
Closed: on New Year’s Day and Chuseok holiday
Main Menu: Smart Lunch Set 35,000-45,000 won, Smart Dinner Set 45,000-52,000 won, Crispy Rice Sushi 21,000 won, 7 Grilled Veggies on Oven-Baked Pizza 21,000 won, ‘Tobiko’ Pasta 19,000 won, Tenderloin Steak 37,000 won, Very Berry smoothie 7,000-9,000 won, sweet pumpkin latte 9,000 won
Tel: +82-2-3442-1688 (Korean, English, Japanese)
Language: Service is available in English and Japanese. Menu comes in both Korean and English.
How to Get There: Take subway Line 3 to Apgujeong Station, and go out of Exit 3. Take a taxi to Dosan Park and get out in front of the front gate of the park (should cost the basic fare). Facing the gate, go to the right and you will see the restaurant.
Homepage: http://www.gorillakitchen.co.kr/ (Korean, English)
2. Kwon Sang-Woo’s TEA’US
Korea’s famous Hallyu star Kwon Sang-Woo opened TEA’US in Myeong-dong in May 2009. Its name, TEA’US came from the celebrity’s nickname, “Mr. Tears”. It also means a place where you can have a cup of tea with people you love. The café is conveniently located in the Myeong-dong area, a very popular shopping area among foreign tourists.
Staple items on the menu include coffee and gelato ice cream. Various beverages such as tea and fruit juice and snacks including waffles, cakes and sandwiches are also served.
Life-size photos of the star are printed on the wall of the stairway leading up to the second floor. Almost all of the visitors take pictures here. On entering the café, visitors can see many photos of the actor, which makes you feel as if you are in the star’s fan club house. In one corner, TV dramas or movies featuring Kwon Sang-Woo are screened all the time. The café also sells mugs printed with the star’s autograph and T-shirts with TEA’US logo. Many Japanese tourists visit the café, which shows how popular Kwon Sang-Woo is in Japan. The café is the perfect place for tourists to relax and recover from their shopping trip.
Details of Kwon Sang-Woo’s TEA’US
Address: Seoul Jung-gu Chungmuro 2-ga, 65-9 Hi Harriet Building 2F
Opening Hours: 07:00~24:00 (Open all year round)
Menu: Coffee 3,800 ~ 5,500 won, Tea, Fruit Juice, Waffle & Gelato Ice Cream 10,000 won, Cup Cake 5,000 won
Inquiries: +82-2-2079-0990 (Korean, English, Japanese)
Getting There: Come out of exit# 6 of Myeongdong station (subway line 4) and walk straight, you will see Café Tea’us in the building on your right. Look for the striking white door with the strange shape.
Homepage: http://www.tea-us.co.kr (Korean)
3. Ahn Jung-hwan Couple’s Tovou
Tovou is owned and operated by soccer player Ahn Jung-hwan and his wife Lee Hye-won. Referred to as the “Beckham of Korea”, Ahn has both the looks and the athletic ability. His wife is also well known as a former Miss Korea contestant. The name comes from Hebrew, meaning ‘After creating heaven and earth, and God saw that it was good.’ Tovou mainly offers Korean cuisine, with some dishes that offer fusion-style food that combines Italian and Japanese cuisine to suit the palates and tastes of foreign visitors.
Easiest to order is the Korean course meal. The lunch special comes with porridge, kimchi, a salad, wheat pancakes, and yogurt cream shrimp as well as dessert. If you come in a big group, you can order a few dishes to share. Women enjoy the yogurt cream shrimp and pineapple smoked salmon, while men often order duck or nurungji stew (crispy, delicious rice that sticks to the bottom of the rice cooker). You can also try the hot and spicy octopus dish that is a favorite among Koreans.
Details of Ahn Jung-hwan Couple’s Tovou
Address : 10-4, Naeson-dong, Uiwang-si, Gyeonggi-do province
Opening Hours: 12:00~22:00
Closed: on Sundays
Main Menu: Lunch special 17,000 won, Tovou combo 25,000 won, Tovou of Choice (Course A) 35,000 won, Tovou of Choice (Course B) 50,000 won, Yogurt cream shrimp 23,000 won
Tel: 82-31-426-7001 (Korean)
Language: No foreign language available.
How to Get There: Take Subway Line 4 to Indeogwon Station, and go out of Exit 2. Take the regional bus No. 5 or 6 and get off at Baegun Lake (30-minute bus ride, buses depart every 30mins).
Source: Korea Tourism Organization Singapore