The Blue House is Korea’s White House where their president stays. Just down the road from the Blue House in Gangwhamun in the middle of Seoul across the street from Gyeonbuk Palace, there is an interesting restaurant. It is called Smith. It is in a traditional Korean Hanoak, the old style Korean home, and it serves Italian food. The name of the restaurant is Smith, and all this seems a contradiction. The decor, the food, and the name are all from different places, but it is a good combination. We all enjoyed the restaurant.
I went with the Um family, my daughter’s in laws. It was Mrs. Moon’s birthday. She is married to Mr. Um. It is the norm in Korea for the wife not to take the husband’s wife. It is our tradition in the west for the wife to take the husband’s name when they get married, but it is not the tradition in Korea. When my daughter and son in law got married, she wanted to take his name, but it was really strange to him for her to suggest taking his name because in Korea, the wives don’t use the husband’s name.
The Um family came from China many generations ago as teachers for the royal family of Korea when there were Korean emperors, and they have never forgotten. They were part of the upper class society, and they still function in the same way. Mr. Um would never be caught at McDonald’s or Burger King. Even when we went to the Outback Steakhouse, he didn’t complete accept it because it is a chain restaurant. Mr. Um must go to a more sophisticated restaurant to be happy, and Mrs. Moon completely supports his ideas. When my daughter married their son, Mrs. Moon sent a hair dresser and a makeup artist to our house before the wedding to do our hair and makeup, had my dress tailor made, and even had my shoes especially made for me to wear at the wedding. Everything had to be perfect! At the Korean wedding, I made my daughter’s wedding dress, but it was really hard for Mrs. Moon to accept what I did. However, in the end, she had to admit she liked the dress. In the western style wedding, my daughter wore that dress, and then there was a Korean style ceremony, and they put the clothes of a Korean princess on my daughter and the clothes of a Korean nobleman on my son in law. Mr. Um and Mrs. Moon insist on keeping the tradition to which Mr. Um was born into. This restaurant was not any different.
Usually, Korean restaurants are completely noisy, but this one was calm and quiet. It was hot outside, but the air conditioning was nice in this restaurant. As you go into the front, it is a court yard because it is a traditional Hanoak, and the restaurant is all around the court yard. When you go in the main entrance where the cash register is, the first thing you see is several wine bottles. There were only two kinds of soda pop on the menu, Coca Cola and Sprite, but the pages of different kinds of wine went on and on. However, no one in our group drinks. Mr. Um is a preacher and a scholar. He is still carrying on the station of life he was born into as a scholar. In old Korea, the scholars were the upper crust. He was born into it, and he stays there. Mr. Um and Mrs. Moon truly know how to conduct themselves in a very proper manner.
When the waiter comes to the table, they begin by bringing water and bread. The bread is sour dough and black bread with squid ink. I ordered soup and salad. The day had been long and hot, and I wasn’t ready for something heavy. Mrs. Moon ordered a pasta dish. Mr. Um ordered sea food risotto. My daughter and her husband decide to order pizza and a steak and split them both. My son in law’s brother orders a pasta dish with mushroom sauce.
The drinks came right away. The only ones who ordered something to drink besides water were my daughter, son in law, and I. They brought me a glass of ice, a can of Coca Cola, and three straws. My daughter and son in law planned to order a Coke for each of them, but the waiter misunderstood and brought them the same thing he brought me, just one can and one glass for two people. In Korea, it is very normal for people to share their drinks. That is why there were three straws. They expected my daughter, son in law, and his brother to share one Coke, and Mr. Um, Mrs. Moon, and I to share the other, but we didn’t. However, my daughter and son in law shared the one Coke the waiter brought them.
The food arrived quickly! Mine came first, and I was surprised, and quickly, one after another, the other dishes arrived. My salad came first, then my soup, then Mrs. Moon’s pasta, then my son in law’s brother’s pasta, then Mr. Um’s risotto, then the pizza, and finally the steak. Everything was good! Koreans often share food with the people they are eating with, but none of us felt like sharing even though Mrs. Moon suggested it. My daughter and son in law ordered their steak well done, but this restaurant showed what most of the other restaurants have shown. Koreans don’t know how to make a steak well done. Their steak was rare. Regardless of the rare steak, everyone enjoyed the food!
After we ate, the Um family wanted to go somewhere else, and I was confused when they all piled into my car. I didn’t know where to go. They took me back into the neighborhood by the Blue House down all the little narrow roads until we came to another place called Smith. They explained that both of these places were owned by the same people. They wanted to go to a desert cafe there. It was up on the second floor, and the air conditioning there was very nice too.
My daughter chose ice cream. I chose a piece of cheese cake because I hadn’t eaten anything like that forever. The Um family decided on pat bean soo, a traditional Korean desert that is wonderful! It is shaved ice with ice cream, sweet red bean paste, sweet cream, small pieces of rice cake, nuts, and sometimes fruit, but I don’t think theirs had any fruit in it. You buy one big dish, and everyone eats out of the same dish. It was all good.
When we were finished, Mrs. Moon made a comment that she thought I was tired, and she was right. In fact, my day had been so long I was tired when we arrived at the first restaurant. She suggested we all go home, so we did. This time, the Um family went home with public transportation, and my daughter, son in law, and I went with my car. Mrs. Moon is the only one in the family who drives, but she often takes public transportation. Mr. Um is scared of cars, and would much rather take public transportation. In Korea, it is very normal to take public transportation.