When my wife tells me about her summer days in Spain, she never talks her guapo boyfriends, neh, the conversations always come back to the food. I have never experienced tapas before, but since I’ve heard about tapas consistently when discussing European cuisine with my love, it feels as though I know tapas, like an old mutual acquaintance. Shim’s Tapas has been on our list for quite sometime, and after a long day of culinary disappointments (See my Paul post) we decided to head to Hongdae to turn our luck around. We were not disappointed.
Lonely Planet Description: Three sisters are the driving force behind this adorable tapas bar. They whip up authentic and creative Spanish-style nibbles including light as a feather tortilla and homemade anchovies. Wash them down with a sangria, glass of cava or one of their fine dry martinis. (3141 2386;Hongdae; tapas 5000 -15000 Won; Line 2 to Hongik University, Exit 8)
How to get there: First of all, after spending most of the day in the sun, we decided to take a taxi, but for you gentle reader, we decided to trace the steps from Exit 8. Now, we looked up other ways to get to Shim’s including online, including heading out Exit 4. First, heading out from Exit 8 is a pain in the ass, and is like walking through the canopy jungle with a blind man, just avoid it. Second, Exit 4 is a little easier, except that you have to cross a busy street to get to the real exit, which is Exit 7. Exit 7 is the easiest and most efficient way to get there, don’t trust the other blogs, they are out of date and there has been serious renovations to the Hongik University station since then.
Step 1: Exit through number 7. We had a pay a subway fee to enter into the line because it was connected to another line. Essentially, we had to pay double fair in order to get to exit 7. It was weird, but for the 1100W and the convenience, I would do it again. You’ll walk out of exit 7 and essentially see a bunch of open space. In the corner of this open space, you’ll see a little walkway, with walls painted as though we are in Berlin circa 1985. Head down that little walkway.
Step 2: Now walk straight down that alleyway and make a right. There is some construction there right now (August 2013), so you need to kind of stay to the right. There are some places to look for that will help you find you way down the right street including “Oui Cafe” which will be on your left. Walk down that street and you’ll see the yellow, funky sign that says “Shim’s Tapas”
Here’s a map. Although even that one doesn’t include the new line that goes through Hongdae.
First Impressions and Atmosphere: From the outside, Shim’s Tapas has that cute, European cafe look. As you enter, you feel as though you are walking into the house of a struggling artist who has more books than living essentials. Regardless, the atmosphere is comforting, cozy and friendly. Although Shim’s Tapas isn’t big, you don’t feel cramped, instead the cozy atmosphere creates more intimacy.
Service: Although the server didn’t speak much English, she was very polite and friendly. She had an amazing smile, and was kind of cute when she tried to speak English. She really went out of her way to make us feel comfortable. She took our orders and repeated it back to us to verify its accuracy. After the meal, we met with Shim herself! She talked about her trip to Spain and why she decided to open up her restaurant. She was really friendly and appreciated that we came down to visit.
Food: The wife, unborn spawn and I decided to start with the tapas sampler of four. Now, there was a bit of confusion, and this was really the only negative of the night. We thought we could pick the sampler because there was no description on the menu. It simply said: Tapas Sampler, 4 tapas, 10k WON. Now, for some reason, we assumed we could pick the sampler from the menu. However, this is not the case. It is a set menu that is one the wall, over by the big menu.
From this menu we had the Jamon (Ham) Serrano, Mash with Chorizo (Spanish Sausage), Crabmeat Roll and the Spanish Tortilla (A potato omelette). All four came out, and they were neatly prepared, and equally delicious. We didn’t eat the crabmeat roll because it was wrapped in a red pepper, and I’m not the biggest fan of either crabmeat or peppers, and the wife can’t eat crabmeat right now because of my prince growing inside of her. The Jamon Serrano, was almost like a prosciutto ham, cured and laid upon a fresh piece of baguette. The Spanish Tortilla was like a quiche, but without an exorbitant amount of eggs. It had a nice balance between the potato and the egg. All in all, it came to 10k Won.
Next, came the main course. Now, with tapas, there really isn’t a main course, just a bunch of small plates of food that you share family style. We ordered the Herbed Chicken (7500W), the Potato Wedges with Aioli (6000W), Spanish Meatballs in an Onion Sauce (8500W) and Aubergine dip (eggplant for you North Americans; 7500W). The herbed chicken came out first. It was on a plate of lettuce and was covered with a creamy sauce, with a hint of zest. It tasted like a bit like horseradish. The sauce was not overwhelming, and left room for the herbs on the chicken to work their magic. The aubergine dip came out next. The aubergine was mixed with onions, I want a say a hint of cilantro and the eggplant. The aubergine was fresh, especially in the summer heat, but had a little bit of spice to give it some flavor. Next, the Spanish meatballs. In my opinion, the highlight of the night. These were delicious. I could have ordered another plate. They were placed on a bed of lettuce, covered in grilled onions with a side of bread. They were seasoned perfectly. Amazing! Finally, the potato wedges with aioli. Now, I’ve never tried aioli before, but it was combination of garlic, lemon juice and some egg yolks. Now, it tastes like mayo, but with the flavor of garlic, and a little hint of zest from the lemon. We used it to dip the potato wedges in, and it was delicious. Also, I indulged in a sangria, which had an overwhelming taste of nutmeg; a little stronger than I normally like. My partner in crime had a lemonade. Overall, this was an amazing meal, and as an authentic tapas as you’re likely to find in Korea. They kept the dishes as authentic as possible, and didn’t try to infuse any Korean into it to satisfy local tastebuds. A great meal!
Value: We ordered five menu items, including two drinks (one alcoholic) and the total bill came to 53k Won. Great value for the quantity and quality of food here. Any traveler who has a taste for Spanish cuisine, or are just curious, get down to Hongdae!
Who should go there: Travelers who are looking for a break from Korean food, and want to try some Spanish cuisine without paying too much money. Also, travelers who want to impress their girlfriends/boyfriends with their cultured sauve, and fake Spanish accents.
Who should avoid: Might not really be a family restaurant, but that said, I would take my kid here because there are items on the menu that are kid friendly. The atmosphere might be a little more geared towards adults (aka not a McDonalds or Chuck-E-Cheese).