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Signature Dish: Grilled Abalone

Grilled abalone with Hapjajang (Extract mussel broth) sauce is a signature dish at Solbam. It is presented to guests through an elegant gueridon service.

Chef Eom Taejun's innovative gueridon service was introduced at Solbam in spring 2023, incorporating various ideas into the creation of each dish.

"Our aim has always been to serve our guests in a more personalized manner, and gueridon service has been a crucial part of that. We not only deliberated on the dishes we wanted to showcase but also designed a cart that harmonizes with the restaurant's ambiance. The result is what you see today."

Solbam's gueridon cart is intentionally designed to be slightly shorter in height, ensuring that guests can easily observe the chef as they cook, maintaining eye contact at table level. The burning charcoal and the aroma of the grilling abalone provide a synesthetic experience, crafted to perfection as envisioned by the chef.

"Our restaurant draws inspiration from the 'Art Museum,' striving for simplicity without unnecessary elements. We want guests to enjoy their meals as if they were admiring a piece of art. That's why we opted for a specially designed gueridon cart instead of a commercial one. It resembles a beverage cart but is structured like a stable table that expands for gueridon service. By using the same material and color as the long service table in the hall, we aimed to create the impression of a seamless extension. The final product underwent multiple iterations, from design to sample production, to achieve the desired outcome."

The menu 'Solbam's Abalone,' presented with a gueridon cart, embodies the chef's long-standing dedication and attention to detail.

"I spent about a year contemplating the grilled abalone menu and experimented with various recipes. Fresh abalone was meticulously trimmed, vacuum-packed, and refrigerated for over three days to achieve a tender texture. We lightly grill it over charcoal and serve it with seasonal garnishes, but it felt like there was one missing piece of the puzzle—the ideal sauce to maximize the flavor."

ⓒ hungrymatty

Last winter, Chef Eom discovered the answer in Tongyeong, a picturesque coastal village in southern Korea.

"To delve into Tongyeong's cuisine and ingredients, I embarked on a journey with my fellow chefs. It was a fascinating experience to meet Lee Sang-hee, a Tongyeong food researcher who has devoted over 30 years to studying local cuisine. Through my culinary career, including my time in the United States, I realized there is still much to learn from the abundant culinary heritage of different regions in Korea."

Tongyeong cuisine is vibrant and possesses a unique character distinct from Jeolla-do and Gyeongsang-do. The locals use an abundance of seafood ingredients, utilizing them for seasoning, stocks, and bases. Among them, the Hapjajang, an extract derived from mussel broth, left a lasting impression. Hapjajang is a labor-intensive dish and not commonly found in Tongyeong nowadays. It is made by boiling natural mussels, extracting just 1 liter of sauce from 100 kilograms of mussels. This meticulous process makes it understandably expensive and time-consuming. However, the resulting black, thick, and concentrated extract is simply extraordinary.

ⓒ hungrymatty

"During Lee Sang-hee's Tongyeong cooking lecture, I had the opportunity to taste his hapjajang sauce, and at that moment, it felt like the missing piece of the puzzle had been found. The concentrated flavor was remarkably natural and intense, with an excellent representation of the unique sea flavor. As I envisioned the combination of charcoal-flavored abalone with hapjajang sauce, I knew I didn't need to think about anything else. Upon returning to the restaurant after my Tongyeong experience, I conducted various tests based on this inspiration. Solbam's hapjajang sauce was finally perfected by incorporating the sweet taste of plum and adding depth with oil. The sweetness amplifies the savory flavor, while the oil blends the sauce seamlessly, leaving a lingering aftertaste. It also enhances the aroma of the charcoal. With great affection invested in this dish, I am committed to continuously developing and presenting it as a true representation of Solbam's identity."

At Solbam, we aim to provide a diverse culinary experience, and we offer our guests a small card with a concise description of the hapjajang sauce. To allow diners to truly savor the original taste of hapjajang, which is not easily accessible, we provide a drop of the sauce on a small teaspoon as an introductory taste. The chef then applies the sauce to the well-aged abalone on the table and grills it over charcoal. We will continue refining this dish, ensuring that it conveys our sincerity and dedication in every bite.


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