Had the pleasure of dining with a few friends in Hongdae at a farm-to-table restaurant called Cafe Slobbie (pronounced “Slow-bee,” stands for “slow but better”). They are one of the few places that support the growing slow food movement, sourcing their ingredients from local farmers and focusing on mainly vegan/vegetarian dishes. In addition to being a healthy, eco-friendly restaurant, they also support various causes domestically and globally. At home, they train and support underprivileged youth through the Young Chef’s internship and mentoring program. Abroad, proceeds from their in-house Eco-Shop, which sells handcrafted items and kitchenware, support children in Cambodia. And if this weren’t enough, they hold regular cooking classes, publish a bi-monthly magazine focusing on healthier eating and living, and much more.
So about the food…..I have always held the belief that healthy eating usually equates to less-than-tasty food, and sadly, that was the case here at Slobbie. I can’t say the food was ALL that bad, but there was a lot of blandness going on. In a group of four with each ordering a different dish, you would think at least one would get our attention. It didn’t. As for my dish, bulgogi dupbab (thin beef rice bowl), the beef seemed like it was thawed out via stove top instead of thawing at room temperature. The result was shredded beef pieces that had a cardboard-like consistency (harsh words I know) and didn’t have that deep flavors that bulgogi is knwon. To mask this unwanted texture, I ate it with plenty of rice and the fresh banchan (side dishes were good). Fortunately, my friends’ dishes were much better; they finished off their meals without giving me “the look” and seemed to enjoy their dishes. On a high note, the different makgeolli varieties (fermented rice wine) was a nice post-meal recovery and gave us time to talk about something other than food. All in all, this is not a bad restaurant for those seeking out healthier and alternative fare at a reasonable price. When time permits, I will make a second trip for their other dishes.
I should have stated this in the beginning, but they have a Jeju branch that I fell in love with a few months ago. It was so good that my partner and I ordered three main dishes, finishing them off like uncivilized human beings. After hearing there was a branch in Seoul, I must admit that expectations were high, probably too high. All I wanted was the Char siu Ogyupsal that I had in Jeju and subsequently had dreams about. With that said, it is unfair for me expect the same fare here in Seoul. And so, I will go on record and say that I recommend this restaurant (ahem, except the bulgogi dish) for not only leading movement that is badly needed in Korea but also trying to make customers aware of the bigger picture. There is nothing better than a business that supports local farmers, the environment, the community, social/civic programs, and most importantly, a sustainable lifestyle focusing on the needs of the people.
Directions: Come out Hongik University Station (Line 2, Exit 9) and turn left at the side street. Go up a little and take a right at Dunkin Doughnuts. Head straight for a good while until you reach Olive Young to your left. The restaurant is on the 5th floor.