Mingles, Seoul

It was our first day in Seoul. It is a bad idea to schedule a big meal on the night you arrive, especially if there is a time difference. Even more so if you came on an overnight flight... but that is exactly what I did. I have regretted this so many times, but gosh – I still never learn.

Mingles was my first foray into fine Korean cuisine and I brought with me little knowledge beyond the KBBQs and Bibimbabs (which I love). Even though I had little idea on what to expect, reading about the accolades of Chef Mingoo already set the highest expectations.

The dining room at Mingles is filled with dramatic lighting that accentuates the black and wooden interiors. When I visited, above the beautiful counter was a spread of cotton plants. Their light and fluffy characteristic brought a unique charm.

In the Chef’s own words, Mingles’s philosophy is “Mingling contrasting elements into harmony”. That is cute play on his name. While that phrase was initially puzzling, opening their menu made its meaning immediately apparent. Chef Mingoo injected Korean elements, infusing their traditional pastes and fermentation techniques with western ideas. Over the meal, we were also treated to plenty of locally-sourced ingredients (think beef from Gang Won, fish from Jeju, as well as 101 kinds of Korean chilli peppers).

Spring – Abalone Porridge with Korean Green Pepper. Kombu Cha, with Strawberry and Eel. Fermented Vinegar.

First to arrive was a shot of vinegar, infused with rosemary and fermented for several days. This brought an exciting punch, well whetting my appetite. Fantastic, because that got the tired me all ready for the big meal.

We came to Seoul for the Cherry Blossoms, which meant the start of beautiful spring. The abalone porridge is a “spring special” that celebrates this season. This was flavourful, thick, and smooth – just the way I like it. While the abalone is the star, the use of chilli peppers in this dish was equally prominent.

I love how the chef injects these little ideas that assertively claims “No, this is not Chinese Porridge. This is not Cantonese Porridge”. He deliciously reminds us that we are in Korea, and as we will see throughout the meal, respectfully pays homage to their culinary heritage.

Seasonality – Halibut Carpaccio, Pickled Vegetables, and Shiso, on Tomato Jelly.

Spring Clam – Fermented Fish Egg, Radish, Clam Ceviche with Makgeolli Sauce.

Rainbow Dubu – 두부 (Korean Tofu) wrapped in root vegetables. This was presented as intricate folds of rainbow. Subsequently, a thick brown stock of carrots and mushrooms was poured over. The chef was inspired by temple cuisine, and in using simple austere ingredients, he brought about harmony and balance. Dipping the side of Makgeolli Rice Cake with Carrot core into this rich stock was especially perfumed.

Makgeolli Rice Cake, with carrot core.

Spring Eggs – Spring Herbs Egg Custard with Chorizo. Deep Fried Spinach with Ricotta Cheese (background). Very very tasty, one of the best egg custards I have had. I was lucky to have 2 of these, since my mother doesn’t eat eggs that are not fully cooked.

Equally good were the deep-fried spinach with cheese, encased within the crisp wanton skin. This was deceptively simple but criminally delicious – each plump pocket was flavourful and oozing with creamy ricotta.

Conger Eel – Lightly Fried Conger Eel and Anchovy from Jeju, seaweed “Bu Gak”. The team at Mingles fry really really well. We learnt that they use a traditional technique of sticky rice batter “glue”, where the paste was applied on the surface, then dried and subsequently fried. The result was a light, crispy coating that gives a delightful crunch. The yuzu zest brings an added dimension to the sweet and sour sauce pairing.

Mingles Style Seasonal Fish – Red tile fish in Korean Pepper Oil. Broth of fish, seasonal clams and Korean herbs. As expected, the fish was tender and its flavours robust. Unfortunately, the Korean Pepper Oil just doesn’t work for me.

Palete Cleanser – Red wine vinegar

Roasted duck and seasonal vegetables, sourced from a local farm.

Charred lamb, “Doen-jang” vegetable ash, seasonal vegetables.

Gang Won Beef from Eastern Korea. Truffle “Jang” Sauce, Seasonal Vegetables. There were 3 main courses to choose from and our family of 3 just went with one of each. Having tried them all, definitely go for the beef. It was perfect– the decadent slices were a true indulgence. They simply melt in your mouth and go amazingly with the truffle jang.

The main dishes were delicious, but at the same time fun and innovative. Dessert time was equally creative.

As the mains came to an end, we were presented this peculiar set of flasks. There was a choice of Jerusalem Artichoke, Mulberry Leaves, Buckwheat, and Coffee. We went with the first 3, to have them brewed as accompaniment to our sweets.

Doraji – Doraji (balloon flower root) sorbet, Korean traditional cinnamon snack, Rice ice cream, Ginger compote.

Jang Trio – “Doen-jang” crème brulee, “Gan-jang” pecan, “Gochu-jang” blackrice, Vanilla ice cream, Whisky foam. Chef Mingoo takes soybean paste, soy sauce, and red chilli paste, integrating their salted, spicy flavours into a dessert item. The flavours go really well, and together they bring a lovely marriage of silky, crunchy, and velvety textures. As much as these seasonings are iconic of Korean cuisine, I would say this dessert is iconic of his restaurant.

Spring Cheese – Brie Cheese Mousse, “Deodeok” compote, Makgeolli Sorbet. This was both sweet and savoury. It is no contradiction, but a harmonious pairing that works. Any cheese lover will go head over heels.

Tea, Fritz, & Sweet – Lemon puff, Jelly. Korean Traditional Cookie. Pumpkin Paste with Pine Nut. Red Bean Paste with Rice Cake Centre.

Ahhh, Korean food is so much more than KBBQ and Bibimbab. This meal wasn’t merely a simple enjoyment; it was an education on Korean cuisine.

The dedicated team at Mingles are real food nerds. They know everything about every dish, and they passionately explained them one by one.

Mingles, Seoul

레스토랑 밍글스
서울특별시 강남구 논현동 94-9 더 채플 웨딩홀 1층
Gangnam-gu, Nonhyun-dong 94-9, 1st floor, Seoul, South Korea

(+82) 2-515-7306