Italian bistro in South Korea satisfies a three-year risotto craving
By MATTHEW KEELER | Stars and Stripes | Published: July 4, 2019
It was 2015 the last time I was here in South Korea, in the city of Uijeongbu, and got my first taste of an Italian mushroom risotto at a local restaurant.
That same year, our family relocated to Fort Bragg, N.C., and wasted little time searching for a restaurant that served that same great dish just the way we found it in Uijeongbu. We found several basic Italian restaurants but nearly all offered only the basics: pizza, pasta and variety of wines.
Returning to the peninsula nearly five years later, my wife and I were excited to find an Italian menu nearby that offered our favorite choice.
The Kitchen Del Vino, just outside of the Pyeongtaek train station, or AK Plaza as most people refer to it, is an extremely convenient Italian bistro that should be on everyone’s radar during their stay in Korea.
Owner and chef Kim Gwang Sub mastered his French and Italian cooking during a decade at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Seoul. The Ritz has since closed and reopened as the Le Meridien.
Kim opened this relaxing, one-of-a-kind restaurant seven years ago.
The Kitchen has a simple seven-page menu offering various styles of salad, pasta, pizza, steak and desserts in both English and Korean. Nearly a dozen different beers are available, along with house wine, and dozens more varieties of fancier wine from around the globe if your pockets are deep enough. His most expensive bottle, a French vintage, will set you back 290,000 won (about $250).
Don’t be alarmed, though; his food was delicious and is reasonably affordable (minus the overpriced steaks) for anyone looking for a great meal with friends or loved ones.
During my visit, an American couple celebrated their wedding anniversary at The Kitchen and were very pleased with their salad and pizza. They chose The Kitchen over all the other options in the city based on online reviews and word of mouth, they said.
I knew exactly what I wanted just from the first page of the menu, the mushroom cream risotto (15,000 won). Topped with at least three varieties of mushrooms, this was a delight after waiting more than three years to find.
My wife had the seafood cream pasta, which included shrimp, clams and scallops. The seasoning was spot on and even when she thought she was full, she refused to let any go to waste.
We also ordered a tiramisu to share, and when the English-speaking waiter brought it to our table, the chef personally brought along some complimentary ice cream topped with espresso. What a great-tasting combo. The tiramisu left me wanting more and the espresso topping on the ice cream is a must for anyone who has to have their morning cup every day.
For 42,000 won (about $36), my wife and I had a great experience in this quiet little bistro and see ourselves returning next time we are craving the cuisine. For those with picky eaters, the owner was kind enough to allow me to get our daughter a kid’s meal from around the corner.
Location: 2F Rodeostar, 291-2, Pyeongtaek-dong, Pyeongtaek-si, Gyeonggi-do, or GPS 36.992056, 127.089497
Hours: 4:00 p.m. to 1 a.m.; closed Mondays
Prices: Entrees range from 13,000-20,000 won; desserts, about 6,000 won; and steaks, 49,000 won
Directions: Less than a 5-minute walk from Pyeongtaek Station, or AK Plaza.