Since the first time I stepped foot in the Insa-dong area of Seoul, I have wanted to try out a restaurant called Sanchon (mountain village). The restaurant is run by a former Buddhist monk. The selections at the restaurant depend on the vegetables that are grown organically for the restaurant near the old temple. Outside the restaurant, there is no menu, but there is a backlit box with a New York Times article praising the place. Next to the NYT article is an Asian Wall Street Journal article from 1995 saying that Sanchon was the #6 restaurant in Asia (and the only ranking one in Korea).

The New York Times article in question said the 20 course meal costs 10,000 won ($12). I assumed since the exchange rate was similar to what it is now, the article was written relatively recently. It was a bit of a shock when I went in, was seated, and saw the menu stating that the price is actually 35,200 won per person. Double that for me, since I was treating a friend I met in Hainan. After discussing this with my friend, she asked if I looked at the date on the article. Then it became quite clear why the price was different. The article proudly displayed by the restaurant outside was published 6 August 1986.

While the reviewer found the food to be too much, the fact I eat a lot of raw food on my own (mostly I like the taste and texture better) meant I was able to finish off everything and an additional dessert plate no problem. Many of the vegetables would be expensive if purchased separately (even if they were not organic) and had detox properties, justifying the cost of the meal. I also had my first vegetarian dumpling in Korea. The very first dish served was a bowl of pumpkin rice porridge, which, unlike most restaurants, did not have sugar added. The flavour was plain and natural.

At some point, a performance was done on stage in the restaurant. It wasn’t special for me – I have seen many other traditional Korean performances, but it was special to watch the other tourists’ reaction. One woman seemed to have a ‘WTF?’ face throughout the performance. She later smiled, but I thought it was quite odd to have such an expression for her ordinary face to people. I tried to take some good pictures, but not having my Nikon anymore, there was significant lag between button press and the actual photo.


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