Motor City Revs Up in Itaewon

Restaurant Guide

Motor City Revs Up in Itaewon

by: Andy Hume | Groove Korea (groovekorea.com) | January 27, 2017
Motor CityCuisine: Pizza
Price: n/a
Review: n/a
Hours:
Address:
140-1, Itaewon-ro
Yongsan-gu , 11
South Korea
Phone: 0507-1437-8877
Email:
Menu:
URL:

Detroit. A place that inspires strong, almost fanatical loyalty from some, and indifference verging on hostility from others. Maybe that’s why Motor City is such a perfect fit for the main street of Itaewon, another somewhat-beloved national landmark whose best days either lie behind it or ahead, depending on who you ask.

The latest venture from Team Manimal, who have been bringing American BBQ to hungry Seoulites since 2015, Motor City trades in the smoker for the pizza oven and offers a menu centered on deep dish Detroit-style pizza, which has hitherto been harder to find in Korea than a supporter of Park Geun-Hye. Co-owner John Kim learned from world champion pizza maker Shawn Randazzo and ate his way around the city’s famous pizza joints, including the legendary Buddy’s, where it all began after the war. Having noticed the vogue for Chicago and New York pizza styles in recent years, Detroit pizza seemed a natural way for the Manimal team to try to stay ahead of Seoul’s notoriously trend-driven foodies.

“The latest venture from Team Manimal, who have been bringing American BBQ to hungry Seoulites since 2015, Motor City trades in the smoker for the pizza oven and offers a menu centered on deep dish Detroit-style pizza, which has hitherto been harder to find in Korea than a supporter of Park Geun-Hye.

Legend has it that the pizza makers of Detroit, looking for something cheap and abundant in which to bake their deep dish pies, hit upon the idea of using steel pans from the city’s many automobile factories, thus giving rise to the signature Detroit “square” pizza. Whether or not this origin story is strictly true, what is undeniable is that the pan shapes the pie in more than just a geometrical sense. A well- seasoned and oiled pan will give the crust a crunchy, almost deep-fried texture quite unlike that of its Chicago counterpart. Add to that the unique layering of the toppings on a Detroit square —- the tomato sauce is the last thing to be ladled over the pizza, not the first, thus giving rise to the “red top” so beloved of aficionados —- and the result is something quite different to anything else most Seoul residents will ever have tried, your reviewer very much included.

The restaurant has a nice, unobtrusive, industrial chic motif going on, from the ceiling right down to the tables and chairs. As expected, the main items of interest on the menu are the pizzas. There are about a dozen of these on offer, from the basic “Detroit Red Top” cheese and tomato sauce through to variations boasting more esoteric ingredients like feta cheese, andouille sausage, and onion marmalade. Unusually, though, there’s also a pretty big selection of starters, sides, and non-pizza dishes on offer, including vegetable dishes — like fried eggplant or a beet salad —, some tempting meat-based options, and three varieties of chicken wings.

On the day I visited, I got the La Mafia pizza. It’s a blend of sausage, ham, roasted peppers, honey, and parmesan — a salty-sweet mix of toppings that seems to work just right. The crust tastes almost like it’s been fried, as it should, and the thickness of the pie helps it stay hot longer in the unlikely event that it sits around on the table very long. If the list of fancy ingredients puts you off, you can’t really beat the pepperoni “Classic” or the “Motown Supreme,”- which comes topped with sausage, pepperoni, green pepper, and olive.

The Manimal group’s stamp of quality extends to the non-pizza choices, as well. The pork belly queso should really come with a voucher for a free cardiologist visit, such is its calorific punch, but we defy you not to love a pan full of melted cheese with chunks of pork hidden inside like some gloriously decadent fusion spin on fondue. Grilled broccoli with basil pesto was almost enough to convert this reviewer to green vegetables, an accolade worth as much to a kitchen as any number of Michelin stars. The chicken wings are perhaps less of a standout, tending towards the small; nothing to write home about.

On the other hand, Motor City offers something which most Itaewon restaurants don’t in the shape of a full bar program: half a dozen quality vodkas, bourbons, and tequilas, over twenty single malts, and a number of specially-designed cocktails which you can knock back with your pizza, or at a bar stool, as well as some good quality wines and draft beers. It’s an unusual offering for a casual dining restaurant in the area, and it’ll be interesting to see if it catches on.

If there’s one criticism of Motor City’s pizza selection as a whole, most of which Groove has sampled on several enthusiastic visits, it’s that after a while the different flavors tend to taste pretty similar, and Detroit natives in particular may quibble with some of the more adventurous varieties. Prices are reasonable but in line with the rising costs of Itaewon;, and starters, sides, and drinks will all add to your bill.

In a city full of forgettable pizza, there’s no doubt that the Manimal tribe’s newest venture is a innovative and thoroughly delicious alternative which is well worth a visit, and you’re highly unlikely to leave disappointed. Motor City is on the move again.

Prices: Pizzas are between KRW 16,800 -and  25,900won. Starters and sides mostly range from KRW 6,500 -to 20,000won and draft beers are available from KRW 8,500won.

More Info:

Prices: Pizzas are between KRW 16,800 -and  25,900won. Starters and sides mostly range from KRW 6,500 -to 20,000won and draft beers are available from KRW 8,500won.

Recommended dishes: Motown Supreme pizza (KRW 22,000won), La Mafia pizza (KRW 25,900won)

Address: Seoul Yongsan-gu Itaewon-ro 140-1

Hours: Lunch and dinner 6 days a week (Mondays dinner only) with last orders at 10pm. Closed Tuesdays.
Phone: 0507-1437-8877

groovekorea.com