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Publication Date : 01-03-2013
Star eats put spotlight on food at two new spots
Sure coffee is on the menu, but when a cafe dishes out great eats and sweets as well, then the shop is not just a place for a good brew, it is where one can go for a meal, dessert, or both.
Newcomers La Taverna and Glamorous Penguin are two such spots. The grub, the cake, and the cookies merit the extra time required to settle down, pick up a fork and dig in.
Owners Paolo De Maria and Genie De Maria moved chef De Maria’s namesake trattoria from Seorae Village to Hannam-dong and also opened an adjoining cafe-bar next door about a month ago.
Christened La Taverna, the De Marias originally intended to open the two-story butter-hued space as a birerria that would serve up hot panini with beer but ended up expanding the concept into a cafe-meets-pub deal that also dishes out pizza, dessert and breakfast-friendly croissants.
What you get is co-owner and chef Paolo De Maria’s mouthwatering fare in a casual, low key atmosphere
Two or three can tuck into one of De Maria’s superb eight-slice pizzas, fresh out of the wood-fired oven.
Even the simplest of pizzas on the menu, the classic Margherita, is a must, thanks to the crisp crust, which boasts just enough substance to steer clear of soggy, but not to the point where it becomes excessively bready.
Desserts can be had for 5,000 won (US$4.60), including the establishment’s knockout hazelnut cake, which according to the De Marias, is gluten-free.
“There are only hazelnuts, no flour,” said chef Paolo De Maria, 45.
Served up warm with a dollop of citrus-inflected creme anglaise, the fondant-like, moist, rich hazelnut cake topped with a crackly crust is sensational.
As originally planned, La Taverna serves panini. The foccacia is made in-house as well as the piadine (Italian flatbread) which is also used to make sandwiches. While the sandwich list is pretty varied, a meatball panini is slated to join the line-up.
“We will also keep changing the desserts,” co-owner Genie De Maria, 41, said.
A-dong, 657-115 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul/(02) 792-9936/ www.paolodemaria.com.
Open 10am to 2am daily.
Pizza costs 15,000 won to 24,000 won, bruschette, piadine and panini cost 9,000 won to 15,000 won, desserts cost 5,000 won
When owner Yoo Min-joo opened her cafe in Hannam-dong five months ago, she definitely had dessert in mind.
Yoo, who put down roots in Canada as a young teenager, knew exactly what she wanted to serve. Glamorous Penguin would specialize in big cakes that tasted of home, the kind of cakes that mothers baked for their daughters and their daughters’ friends.
Yoo went for desserts that reflected her own aesthetic as well, treats that focused on the natural flavors of the fruit and other ingredients while tamping down on sugar, a habit Yoo says she picked up from her mother.
Yoo and team spent a great deal of time figuring exactly how much sugar could be reduced without compromising the taste. The resulting cakes and cookies are soft and light.
The cafe’s maple apple layer cake gets its sweet hit from the maple-cream cheese frosting, its richness from the pecans, sliced almonds and walnuts adorning it and the cake itself is incredibly moist thanks to the five whole apples that go into each cake.
Apple crumble cake is dense and moist without feeling heavy. The thin layer of crumble on top is not only sweet, but nutty as well from the oatmeal and pecans that go into it.
Orange cookies, a new cookie jar addition, are equally good, riding the line between shortbread and soft sugar cookie, with nuggets of orange zest giving each morsel a refreshing zing.
Other cookies include vegan cranberry oatmeal and peanut butter.
Yoo, 31, also said that “once a month we feature a new cake; we rotate.”
On her list of potentials for the month of March is a clementine cake fashioned from tangerines. Plans are to also bring back the cafe’s orange polenta cake.
Any other cakes that might be popping up on one of the cafe’s cake stands?
“We are considering doing a coconut layer cake.”
Yongsan-gu, Seoul/(02) 790-7178.
Open 9am to 10pm Mondays through Saturdays, noon to 10pm Sundays.
Cakes cost 6,500 won to 7,000 won per slice, cookies cost 2,000 won to 3,000 won each.
US$1 = 1,082 won