Luckily, the menu was more contemporary European than molecular, as words such as foie gras, veloute, feuille, and jus jumped up at us. The atmosphere of Lab XXIV is sleek as a Mercedes, with polished glass and high-end light fixtures all around. With the glass and the retro seats, it feels like a scene out of the futuristic movie A Clockwork Orange.
As we were about to place our order, we were surprised as Mr. Kwon came over from the kitchen to greet us. He explained that his restaurant was named Lab XXIV because, he, the chef, thought about food 24/7, 365 days a year. “OK, that’s fine,” I thought. He also said the concept of this restaurant was to be a place of culinary education. He said he wanted to teach Korean people how to properly enjoy his food and to learn about the cuisine. He excitedly showed us little cards that accompanied each plate that stated what each dish was.
Our first course was a wet-cappuccino-foam shot of creamy soup. “Nice amuse,” I thought. Then our first courses came out: a crayfish ravoli that had a zebra striped pasta draped over naked shellfish dressed in foam and perfect orbs of green peas. “A very good course,” I mused. We also got the shaved foie gras de canard, the very flaky, yet melting tower of foie gras with savory cubes of gelee and dots of sweet milk. A beautifully, plated dish that looked a bit like the planet Saturn.
My next course was butter poached frog legs. The tear shaped bowl that the deboned leg came in was covered in white foam and garnished with edible flowers. Pulling the perfectly poached frog leg out of the foam made me think of the witch’s scene in Macbeth. The legs tasted delicious—with a hint of truffle oil. I didn’t get to taste my guest’s colorful braised vegetables, but she assured me it was brilliant as she scraped her fork to get the last bits of sauce.
Our next course was a veal loin course with a horseradish emulsion, torched squid and white asparagus. Each was plated in their own row and although they looked and tasted so differently, when each element of the dish was placed together they fused wonderfully. Each flavor and element was separate, but each element was cooked with skill and when brought together the flavor, texture, aroma, and look all complemented each other. “Maybe this chef does really think about food 24/7,” I thought.
The next was an intermission, a pre-dessert: a pecan yokan. Meh, it couldn’t match the flavorful main we just had but that was because what followed was a delicious yuja (citron) curd dessert with flaky sables, meringue beurre and a dollop of chocolate sorbet. The yuja curd is a flavor I think belongs on every dessert I shall have from now on.
Then came coffee and a few more flourishes: a white chocolate-covered cherry, chocolate sables and a little cookie topped with vanilla sorbet and a strawberry hat.
T. (02) 511-4523
Opening hours: 11:30am—2:30pm; 6pm—11pm
Prices: Lunch 45,000—52,000 won; Dinner 85,000—92,000 won
A short taxi ride from Cheongdam Station, Line 7, Exit 9.