Sunday, October 5, 2008

Apkujeong on a Sunday Morning: Butterfinger Pancakes and 10 Corso Como

Intent on not doing the same thing this Sunday morning I decided to trek from my neighborhood over to the Apkujeong area of Seoul for breakfast. The draw to Apkujeong was Butterfinger Pancakes. Butterfinger Pancakes opened two years ago, but I was a stressed out student at that time. Then my Sunday mornings were spent camped out near a power outlet for typing my thesis into my PDA either in the Sogang University's Loyola library or at a local Starbucks from the morning to, at least, late afternoon. After graduating, things have changed and I have both more money because I'm working again and more free time. Yeah! But that means I'm still behind the curve on certain areas of the city.

The draw of Butterfinger Pancakes is their great Western style breakfast food. I got there around 10:30am this morning. There is always a wait on the weekends, but it wasn't so bad as I'd missed the party until dawn crowd but was a bit ahead of the brunch crowd. Also, I was by myself, and you always get seated quicker when you don't take up a whole table and can be seated at the counter.

If you read my blog, you know I'm a stickler for service. That's simply because I worked in the service industry for a time. If you're a rude bank teller, sales clerk or bartender in the States you're not going to have your job for very long. But I also recognize that I'm not in the States, but in South Korea where the idea of good service differs. This morning the waitress made an error took the order of a couple that were seated after me (actually, it was faux pas on the couple's part because there is a waiting list to be seated but they just strolled in and sat down...ooops). Anyway, she took their order first but when she told them it would be a 20 to 30 minute wait for their food they left. Then she walked off. That's bad service whether it's L.A. or Seoul, so I let the host know that their wait staff really should take orders in the order that people are seated. This is particularly because you usually have to wait just to get a seat. But, okay, no real harm, no real foul.

I then ask if I can substitute the blueberry pancakes for their regular pancakes in one of their sets for an extra charge. Their answer was "no, we can't." I was like "no, you can but you won't." I then just ordered what I wanted individually. However, that is one thing I don't like about Korean food service. It's not just at this particular restaurant, so don't mistake this as a critique solely of Butterfinger Pancake.

It's simply not an accommodating service culture in that respect. In the States, you can sub in or switch up dishes as you like. The restaurant might charge you a bit more for certain substitutions, but I don't have people telling me "no, we can't". That's an issue, like I said, with a lot of restaurants here. Koreans, I guess, don't ask for special substitutions or accommodations, and I can see that's pretty much the case. Here in what is a very homogeneous society, the idea of fair is everyone gets the same thing. Back home, the idea of fair is more flexible, in that you get what works for you.

In the faculty cafeteria at my job it's the same menu for every one on a daily basis. If you're a vegetarian, you're on your own. If you have other dietary restrictions, you're on your own. If you think the menu selection for the day sucks, you're on your own. In contrast, Westerners are used to a more accommodating food culture. This is particularly so if you're from the big city like I am. Since my only real restriction is excessive sweets and that I can control just by what I order, I just point out the distinction between "can't" and "won't" but then I let it go. However, I hope in time the service industry here gets a better clue about accommodating the customer. I ordered the blueberry pancakes and some other goodies. My coffee and breakfast goodies arrived. I had a great breakfast and went out of my way to thank them for the delicious food. I had a great and filling breakfast.

After that, I walked over to 10 Corso Como to browse and have something to drink in their visually stunning cafe. I went to an opening party there which was at the same time as Seoul Collection, now known as "Seoul Fashion Week", last March. However, I always end up thinking about going there again as an afterthought when I'm leaving the Apkujeong area. This time I remembered and I'm happy I did remember them.

Again, the space in 10 Corso Como is just spectacular, they have great merchandise (only a bit of which I'd ever buy because it's simply out of my price range) and in March they had an awesome small exhibit of dresses from the couturier Madame Grès. I was hoping that there was another great fashion exhibit, but sadly, there is no exhibit right now. Maybe they'll put something up in time for fashion week which is happening this month. We'll see.

I settled in for a glass carrot juice and some peace and quiet. The thing I like about spots like that in Seoul is the gawk level is substantially reduced. In these spots, they very well might be snotty or pretentious, but due to that and other factors they're not going to play the gawk or point at the foreigner/black girl game. They're too cool for that and that's awesome when all you want to do is sit down, have a something good to eat or drink and just read or relax.

Some other links on Butterfinger Pancakes:

Another good link on Madame Grès

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