Topped toast and shakshuka at new Seoul cafe

Topped toast and shakshuka at new Seoul cafe
Taken by Lee Sang-sub
PHOTO: Korea Herald/ANN

Underyard -- a new cafe that opened less than a month ago -- has all the trappings of a hit.

Insta-worthy interior and plating? Check. Chic fare with a healthy attitude? Check. Plenty of caffeine? Check.

The day the new hangout tossed an LP onto its old school turntable, flipped on its espresso machine and started assembling uber-hip topped toast, it seemed destined to attract lines, and, it did.

That day was Dec. 21, about a year after she and her husband first started planning to open Underyard, recalls co-owner Suh Jung-kyung

"I had contracted this spot as an office for me," Suh, 35, then explained how original plans were tossed to transform the small, semi-underground space into a cafe.

Suh, an interior designer, and her husband, a stylist and fashion editor-at-large, combined their expertise to create a space that evoked a "natural" aesthetic, with weathered white walls, brick floors and dark marble tables and counters.

That aesthetic extends to the food, with "a menu that is very simple, where you can taste the ingredients."

The chill, no-frills approach is spot-on.

"Right when we opened, we got a lot more customers than expected," said Suh.

The wait for one of 14 seats inside the small space can get pretty intense, even past 3 p.m., long after lunch is over and well before dinner.

Suh finds this puzzling, given the hard-to-find location on a narrow street near Seoul's Dosan Park intersection.

Yet, somehow word spread, spurred, Suh believes, by SNS, and now people come and wait for a bite and a sip.

Once seated, one can kick off the meal with topped toast aka open-faced sandwiches such as Underyard's smoked salmon and shrimp variation, one of their most popular eats, according to Suh.

The dish, when it arrives, is almost too pretty to eat, with paper-thin slices of dill-garnished cucumber adorning a triple layer of egg, smoked salmon and shrimp-studded mayo over toast.

There is also Underyard's version of the viral food hit -- avocado toast.

Underyard's toast begins with their old school vertical toaster, where Suh pops a couple of campagne bread slices in before topping the crisp, crusty bread with avocado, hard-boiled egg, cilantro, olive oil, chili flakes and a bit of salt.

Both eggs and cilantro also make an appearance in Underyard's take on the Middle Eastern dish, shakshuka, which is served up piping hot, in a cast iron skillet, with slices of baguette that can be used to scoop up the stew-like dish of tomatoes and eggs.

One can also dip into breakfast-friendly bowls of tart yogurt topped with granola, blueberries and fanned out slices of apple -- a snap-worthy eat that leaves one feeling wholesome, and thanks to the generous drizzle of honey on top, sweetly satisfied as well.

All this can be enjoyed with coffee brewed from beans sourced from a local artisan roaster.

If one arrives early enough, one might just be able to enjoy a hot mug in blissful silence, before the crowds come in.

Underyard

- 62-20 Nonhyeon-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul - (02) 3443-3356 - Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, closed Sundays and every first and third Monday of the month.

Sandwiches cost 12,000 won, shakshuka costs 8,500 won to 13,500 won, yogurt-granola-fruit bowl costs 8,000 won, coffee-based drinks cost 4,500 won to 6,000 won.

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