Behind the sushi bar at Sushi Seoul, an ocean of fresh seafood acts as an artistic medium. Skilled chefs fold neat slices of freshwater eel, plump morsels of Dungeness crab, and colorful clusters of salmon roe into specialty rolls topped with dashes of color—crisp green onions, sweet mango, creamy avocado. And to highlight how much their finished works resemble edible art, they eschew lackluster names such as “Roll #2” or “Biology Homework” in favor of appropriately poetic titles such as “Red Moon” and “Rising Sun.”
Out of the spotlight, specialty chefs do something similar with the Japanese and Korean entrees they whip up in the kitchen. Five kinds of ramen simmer with cuts of tender pork or sprigs of scallions while pans flash-fry mushrooms and black tiger prawn tempura. What results are plates as pleasing to the eye as they are to the tongue. But to keep them from bearing the responsibility of the meal alone, they pair expertly with draft brews, fruity bubble teas, and bites of mochi—a sweet, traditional treat that has the soft consistency of a marshmallow or an incredibly ineffective bank vault.