Charming European dining in the heart of Seomyeon, Busan

Charming European dining in the heart of Seomyeon, Busan

by Jeff Liebsch
haps Magazine Korea

Rewriting the rule book when it comes to dining is nothing new, but chef/proprietor Kim Sang-jin has taken a bold approach to his latest gastronomic venture, Vito Bistro.

Kim had built the very popular Vito’s Italian restaurant in Seomyeon back in 2011 which brought accolades among Korean and expat diners for its authenticity in his dishes.

After six years of building up the well-known eatery, Kim changed gears and went soul searching for a new direction.

On trips to France, he fell in love with the small wine bistros scattered throughout Paris where diners came to experience wine and a select few dishes that would bring an inimitable dining experience he’d never seen in Busan.

The nearly 20-year veteran of the kitchen who has diplomas from Le Cordon Bleu and the Italian Culinary Insititute decided this was new calling — bringing this taste of Europe back home.

The Vibe

His bright and welcoming bistro blends East with West, with floor tiles reminiscent of a New York hotel and bricks from Pakistan giving it a unique atmosphere and includes a large, picture glass window amongst the textured space — though the food is still the star of the show.

While tucked away in a back alley, the second-floor bistro brings a clientele of young professionals and foodies looking to try something new.

The Food and Drink

His menu is small but brings two classic cuisines together — about 10 French and Italian items which range from aperitifs including Beef Tartare, Foie Gras Pate, Escargot, Mushroom and Asparagus Salad as well as some main dishes including Trippa, Acqua Pazza, Papippote, and Lasagna.

Each dish offers specific wine recommendations he has meticulously paired for each dish.

Prices are reasonable, with most starters running around 15,000 won and main dishes around 20,000 won.

He carries a nice selection of wines from around the world, rose, champagne, three premium beers and a Highball option for those looking to imbibe which are well-priced and about 80% of the wines are offered by the glass.

Bottles of wine run between 35,000 won to 160,000 won.

Escargot with focaccia bread

Kim’s main pride, of course, is sourcing local ingredients to make his dishes the freshest possible.

A typical day sees him up at 6 a.m. where he shops for his daily ingredients from Bujeon Market just a few minutes away.

Foie Gras Pate

“I used to think everything, the ingredients and ways to cook, must be almost the same as the food in France and Italy. But with time, I realized with fresh local ingredients, adding my knowledge and experience, I can make my style French dishes that still taste great and people love,” he explains.

Chef/Owner Kim Sang-jin

“Ingredients from where is not important but the freshness is. If I have fresh local ingredients, I can make better dishes. With my experience, I sometimes try different ingredients that I know perfectly. For example, I use miso (Japanese soybean paste) and leek for my French dishes. I like to give a little change.”

What to expect

It’s a bit of an adventure to find, tucked away among the myriad of restaurants on the back streets of Seomyeon, but well worth the trip if you’re looking for a quality meal off-the-beaten-path.

Not your typical trattoria, you can expect a quality meal with a dining experience more suited for those more inclined to enjoy a journey of flavors which the dishes do themselves.

For those who remember the original Vito’s, there’s been no compromise on taste, yet don’t expect the regular pasta or pizza most Italian restaurants here have come to offer.

The menu does rotate occasionally, but Kim sticks true to his passion by serving dishes he loves to prepare.

Restaurant Information
Vito Bistro
Open: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. – Tuesday through Saturday
Address: Jungang-daero, 680beonga-gil 80-10, Busanjin-gu, Busan
Phone: 051-806-5868
Parking: No
Take-out: No
Reservation: Possible
Price Range: Mid-range

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