Holidays away from home can be difficult. Especially when your far from home and things aren’t the same. As I mentioned in my previous post, cooking in South Korea can be difficult. Not completely impossible but depending on where you live and what you have access to can make a big difference. Cooking for Thanksgiving was practically impossible for me but I managed to make deviled eggs thanks to bringing spices from home. I didn’t really want to try to cook for myself on Christmas and Nathalie mentioned WinK so we made reservations for their Christmas Dinner.
WinK is an acronym for “When in Korea” and is travel company that also owns a restaurant/bar in Seoul. Their restaurant is on the 2nd floor and a short walk from the Seoul National University of Education Station (교대역) on the number 2 green line exit 14. There are other Seoul National University stations so be careful. WinK specializes in foreign foods (for Korea)and tries to make Korea feel a little more like home on the holidays. They are open not just on holidays but also for brunch and dinner. They also host open mic nights and have a collection of games to play like Cards Against Humanity.
The staff at WinK speaks English and were in the festive swing, wearing holiday sweaters and Santa hats and antlers. The restaurant was decorated and all the music in the background was Christmas music. We were reserved for two seats at the bar, but the bar had been filled so we were lucky and got to grab an actual table. After we settled in the owner came over to ask us what we wanted to drink, suggesting his picks of the wines that came with the Christmas dinner. I’m not a huge fan of wine, or beer, or ale (all of which was possible drink choices for dinner) but I had noticed mulled wine dinner list, so I requested that since I had enjoyed it when I was in Prague. It cost a little extra but it was worth it since I don’t have the right ingredients to make it myself yet.
Nathalie’s wine came in a nice wine glass and my mulled wine came in a paper cup. I also requested some water. Dinner included oven roasted turkey (hard to find in Korea), roasted garlic mashed potatoes with home style gravy, red wine cranberry sauce (I could taste the wine and it was sweet), cheesy broccoli gratin with mustard crumble, roasted brussel sprouts and chestnuts with bacon and maple vinaigrette (Nathalie and I thought it was just roasted onions and didn’t realize that was the brussels sprouts), and chipotle honey glazed pumpkin (a korean pumpkin which is small and green on the outside, it was really spicy for me but sweet).
I had this idea I was looking forward to of just all these foreigners crammed into a bar at a big table, making new friends and enjoying the holiday season and festive foods. But the way the restaurant was set up, everyone was on their own. There were only a few groups but it was mostly couples or people on their own. It seemed totally possible to have a quiet solo dinner at the bar, only talking to the bar tender.
After dinner they asked if we were ready for dessert. Dessert was freshly baked oatmeal cranberry cookies and warm chocolate chip cookies and a shot of pumpkin eggnog (also hard to find in Korea).
By the end of the meal we were more sleepy then anything, which is probably how most people are after Christmas dinner, I assume it’s like after a Thanksgiving meal. I wouldn’t know, even though my family celebrates Christmas we’ve never done dinner, instead we always made a bigger deal about brunch. My family went out for Chinese food this year and last year. So this was my first Christmas dinner. I’ll toss it in with the baseball game I attended as “traditionally American things I’ve done for the first time in Korea”.
It was really nice though and mostly familiar foods, which I don’t get too much of. Christmas in Korea isn’t as big of a deal as it is in the USA and other countries. You can buy small fake trees and find stockings and Christmas cards but most people buy Christmas cakes (which are beautiful) and celebrate with a significant other. But you can still find things to do. The amusement parks go all out, like they did with Halloween and there are trees and lights, but it’s different if you’re use to spending the time with your family. I did get the day off which was nice and through some technical difficulties managed to skype with my family for a bit. But this year just didn’t feel like Christmas (the lack of snow probably didn’t help).