SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
TASTE OF THE PLACE: KIMCHI, SOJU, AND BIBIMBAP
DIG IN: From the viral popularity of Psy and the singer’s hit “Gangnam Style” to the reliable lines that snake from L.A.’s Kogi BBQ truck for Korean tacos and the success of Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York (named for the Korean vegetable leaf wraps), South Korea has emerged as the Asian country with outsized influence. In food circles, the Korean penchant for fermented foods — particularly its variations of kimchi, a seasoned fermented cabbage dish — has spawned a cult among champions of pickled and aged foods. To visit Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is to immerse in the teeming, chaotic city where tables brim with variations on kimchi, rice, and vegetables and entire streets are devoted to carts serving competing versions of rice cakes or pork and potato soup.
CAN'T MISS MEALS: Indulge in a seemingly endless parade of pork, noodle, fish, and vegetable dishes served with bowls of various kimchi at Baedongbaji (011-82-2-720-9644) in the Samcheong-dong area. Often flavor trumps presentation when it comes to Korean food, but for dishes that look artist-designed — sprinkled with edible flowers, for example — make a reservation at the high-end Siwhadam.
MARK THE DATE: The Korea Traditional Liquor Grand Festival takes place in Seoul each October, celebrating the grain-based liquors makgeolli, cheongju, and soju traditionally made post-harvest.
SHACK UP: The Park Hyatt Seoul houses three restaurants including The Lounge, which serves upscale versions of classics like the rice-based bibimbap, and The Timber House modeled on a traditional Korean hanok, or wooden house, with a sushi, sake, and soju bar as well as live entertainment six nights weekly.