Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog, or who follows my Instagram, will suspect that I’m not a particularly regular consumer of salad; anyone who’s met me in person will know it for sure. So, in the interests of living past the age of sixty, I enticed one of my fit, healthy-eating friends to come with me to try out Root, in Hannam-dong, in the hope that it might persuade me to ditch the burgers and gogi at least one or two mealtimes a week.
[Note: No money, free food or other inducement was asked for or received in return for this post. Soju Sunrise accepts freebies only very occasionally and will always explicitly state if this is the case. And it certainly won’t be for a salad.]
The first thing I noticed when we entered Root, on the second floor of a small building near Pizzeria D’Buzza between Itaewon and Hanganjin subway, was the clean minimalist interior design and open-plan kitchen. (The second thing I noticed was that everyone else in the place was female.) It’s got a modern, brunchey feel to it – not my natural foraging environment, but I’m willing to try anything.
The menu is centred round a half dozen or so colour-coded salads – Red Bowl, Orange Bowl etc – as well as soups, some other healthy-sounding options like a brown rice bibimbap, and even a couple of far less healthy, and therefore far more tasty-sounding, choices like a grilled cheese sandwich and even a cheeseburger, presumably aimed at fat-arsed men like me who have wandered in by accident or been dragged there by a girlfriend.
The salads here aren’t particularly cheap, ranging in price for 9,800 to 16,000 won, but I must say that they are of very high quality. The most expensive, the Yellow Bowl (above), is a green salad studded with brown rice and topped with a nicely grilled salmon fillet. Drizzled with sriracha, it was a generously sized salad that didn’t disappoint, though some might find it overly spicy.
The Green Bowl is a bit more modestly priced at 12,500 won and comes with some addictive parmesan chips, chunks of chicken and a gorgeous half-moon of perfectly ripe avocado. I felt like I was playing hunt the chicken after a little while eating this salad, although to be fair that was perhaps due to the large portion of green leaves rather than a stingy portion of chicken per se.
Despite my quibbles with the amount of protein, the salad was really, really good, and even though a bowl loaded with avocado and parmesan probably isn’t on page 1 of the Weightwatcher’s handbook, anything that gets me to eat my greens would make my mum happy.
I’d be lying if I pretended that I wasn’t tempted by the more sinful items on the menu, so pretty soon I was staring at a very enticing-looking chicken guacamole panini.
God damn, this was food to make a fat man enthusiastic – copious quantities of chicken, avocado, a little salsa and some cheese. The sandwich was perfectly toasted and I swear they even melted some butter onto the bread. With the obvious exception of the peerless Casablanca, this was the best sandwich I’ve eaten in 2016. I’m not sure I can go back to Root and eat a salad knowing that this is sitting in the kitchen calling out to me. I’m not sure I’m that strong.
There are a couple of juices and smoothies on the menu – I had an orange, banana and yoghurt which was good, though nothing to write home about. This is an area of the menu that could maybe be usefully expanded; if there’s one thing we know about Seoul it’s that there’s a market for expensive blended fruit juices.
Overall, everything I had at Root was really good and the salads are almost enough to convert me to the rabbit food brigade, though that sandwich will be very hard to resist on my next trip. Open for lunch and dinner every day except Tuesday (see opening hours below), Root is a well-judged mix of the healthy and the decadent and well worth a look, if you don’t mind paying a little more than you might normally do for a bowl of vegetables.
- Category: Brunch
- Price: $$$$
- Must try: Chicken guacamole panini
- Subway: Itaewon Station (이태원역) exit 2 or Hanganjin Station (한강진역) exit 1
- Directions: Root is halfway between two subway stations. From Itaewon, come out of exit 2 and walk up about ten minutes until you pass the Woori Bank. At Trevia pizza, turn left and after thirty seconds you’ll see Root on the right-hand side of the little junction, above Bistro Al’li. From Hangangjin station you can just reverse these directions.
- Hours: 11:30 – 9pm six days a week except Tuesdays, with a break time between 3:30 and 5pm (break time on weekdays only). On Sunday nights they close a little earlier, at 7pm.