Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rainy Day Lentil Blues

Let me start off by telling you a few things about my relationship with Le Saint-Ex in Itaewon:

We've known each other for years. I think I first met this lovely little Bistro back in 2002ish when my friend took me there for a bottle of red wine and a plate of cold cuts, and I immediately fell in love with the place. Small, cosy, filled with dark wood, deep reds and cream walls, it reminded me of a France that I miss very much. An idealised little bistro where the menu is chalked up on a blackboard and wine can be had by the "pot". One of the very few restaurants in Itaewon to serve butter with their generous helping of bread, its 16,000 won lunch set has always held a special place in my heart and is deeply appreciated by my rather voluminous stomach. The staff have always been very friendly, the food has never disappointed and the table full of desserts that greets you as you enter is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of even the most hard-hearted of gastronauts.

With all this in mind I'll tell you about my lunch today...

Le Saint Ex

I was having coffee and watermelon with friends this morning, and as the rain poured down we discussed our favourite monsoon treats - the meals that really satisfy us when the clouds are dark and the weather is stormy. Certainly pancakes are a Korean rainy day favourite, but when the heavens open, the streets are flooded and my socks are soaked, the one thing to brighten my mood is an old fashioned meat stew. After we drained our dregs and spat out a few final pips, I trudged my watery way back to Itaewon in search of sustenance.

Le Saint-Ex seemed like the perfect place to weather out the rain, so I sat myself down on a crimson banquette and perused the menu. The lunch set consisted of soup or salad, beef parmentier (a french style cottage pie) and dessert, but I fancied something a little heavier and stew like... My eyes fixed on the "Seared Pork Tenderloin with Lentil Stew" (25,000 won plus tax) and I felt that it would be the perfect antidote to this gloomy Tuesday.

Within minutes a large basket of bread and a pat of butter were placed in front of me and in the blink of an eye my main course made it to the table...

Le Saint Ex

Four pieces of well cooked pork tenderloin sitting atop a very traditional lentil stew with a generous scattering of olive slices. A real taste of French home cooking, this simple dish was delicious. The pork was tender and the lentils were cooked to perfection, but for me something was missing...

Le Saint Ex

For 16,000 won I could have soup, a main course and dessert; yet for 25,000 won all I receive is this admittedly delicious plate of pork and lentils? Where were the potatoes? Where was the chunky veg? Why did it feel as if I was eating only half a main course?

If this had come out as part of the lunch set I would have been more than satisfied, but after paying an extra 9,000 won for my meal, I was sort of expecting a little extra wonder for my won. The menu had not lied in its description of the dish, but I still looked over at a nearby table's portion of frites with a real sense of longing. Where was my greasy carbohydrate? Surely the chef could have whipped up a gratin dauphinoise, a bowl of fries or even a couple of boiled spuds.

A scattering of lentils are not enough to fill a grown gourmand's appetite, so I ended up inhaling the rest of the bread basket in the hopes that my rumbling stomach would forgive me.

Saint-Ex HDR

I love Le Saint-Ex, but I'll be sticking to the reasonably priced lunch set from now on. To get there, get off at Itaewon Station head down the alley next to KFC, turn left and walk right down to the end. Le Saint-Ex is on the left hand side opposite the 3 Alleys Pub. You can call them on 02 795 2465, but remember to order an extra portion of chips...

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