One place that caught my attention these days was Lugo. A good friend of mine took a group of people there for lunch recently and got great feedback about the restaurant. I heard from him that they had hand-made mozzarella which got me excited.
Lugo is located right beside ex-Club Circle, near Tribeca or Designer Club, i.e. prime real estate. A restaurant located in probably the most accessible area in Cheongdam definitely deserves the highest of all expectation. I had always wanted to check Lugo, an American-styled Italian restaurant, out, but I never had the chance to until now.
The restaurant already looks fancy to live up to the reputation of Cheongdam-scale fine dining. Almost intimidatingly tall wooden door guards the restaurant as if it were an impossible bouncer outside a private party you cannot get into.
Lugo’s interior doesn’t disappoint. The only phrase I could come up with to describe the ambiance is “modern classic”. As soon as I entered, I felt like I was immediately transported to a venue in Manhattan. I will let the picture do the talking.
Now the biggest question of all is… can the food live up to its interior? I visited restaurants that sported interiors of modern galleries with impeccable service, yet most of them failed to deliver in what mattered the most: food quality.
We tried several dishes that evening, thanks to the manager who arranged it. I will not comment on every dish, but rather point out a few that deserve the most attention.
Out of the appetizers, Caesar salad was one of the most memorable. Not only was its presentation impressive, but also I found the salad dressing to be remarkably different: it was darker in color compared to others I tried previously, and it was more tangy – I thought this was an interesting variation.
Of course, the mozzarella bar didn’t disappoint either. We were presented with two types of mozzarella cheese, and the one that caught my attention in particular was mozzarella with Turkish fig. Texture of sweet fig seeds complimented chewiness observed in the ball of mozzarella quite well. This dish is what Lugo is known for in Seoul — as soon as an order is made, each piece of mozzarella is hand-stretched to provide the freshest cheese available in town. At first I was a little worried that sweetness of Turkish fig could be overwhelming, but the texture of each ingredient was well-balanced to my pleasant surprise.
Before the perfect aroma of fig and mozzarella dissipated from my mouth, 3 pasta dishes arrived. (spaghetti aglio e olio, spaghetti pomodoro, futtuccine al frutti di mare). One distinct characteristic of Lugo’s pasta was apparent in all three of the pasta dishes: the pasta didn’t find itself in the midst of a sauce flood as is commonly observed in other restaurants; in fact if anything, one could even describe the dishes as sauce-deprived — observing this, I was a little worried. But not for long. Aglio e olio was seasoned with garlic and olive oil. This was my favorite out of the three. I would describe it as the margherita of pasta — nothing beats simplicity done right, even for a person who loves strong spices and big flavors. Strands of pasta didn’t find enough sauce pool to swim around in; but I assure you, no flavor was lost. It was also impossible to miss out on texture of the pasta — cooked to perfect timing, it was perfectly chewy. I challenge you to not notice the unique texture of Lugo’s pasta dishes. And compare it with dishes you tried in other restaurants!
Soon after, margherita and mushroom pizzas (funghi misti) found themselves on the table. The margherita pizza was exceptional. I’m a big fan of margherita since it is one dish that proves to the world that simplicity done correctly can beat out anything more sophisticated or complex. The mushroom pizza was definitely worth a note; an interesting blend of roasted wild mushrooms, truffle and onion… I’m a huge fan of all things fungi – mushroom salad, fungi pasta as well as fungi risotto. One thing I had hoped with this dish was that perhaps the juiciness of mushrooms could have been preserved a little more (not to a point where it would wet the crust) to unleash the fungi aroma with a little more force. Then again, I’m a person who just goes crazy over strong and big flavors, so it might not be what the chef had intended.
Then came the risotto samplers. Even the dish names are already a mouthful: Saffron risotto (risotto zafferonao), asparagus risotto (risotto agli asparagi), and seafood risotto (risotto alla pescatore). I actually liked all of them believe it or not; they all had something distinct about them. Now, I’ve had risottos where the dish resembled more of flavored Korean rice porridge… and another extreme was where it tasted like American rice in flavored soup. Lugo had the right consistency of rice: not too chewy, yet not overcooked. I couldn’t quite pinpoint why, but my favorite was the asparagus risotto.
Next up was the meat: veal with lemon caper sauce (vitello piccata), pork with fruit sauce (costoletta di mailale), and tuna with citrus jam (tonno alla griglia). I must say I was a little disappointed with the pork and veal as I found the meat (especially pork) a bit tough and dry; however my disappointment evaporated when I tried the tuna, which was prepared to perfection.
We wrapped up the evening with dessert, which didn’t disappoint at all. While I considered the risotto and pasta dishes to be the highlight of the evening, my lady companions begged to differ. Had I any room left in my belly, I would have stuffed myself with more strands of aglio e olio. But fortunately for my heart and my insurance agents, I decided that I would conclude the night right there at that.
All in all, I was extremely satisfied with overall quality of food that I tried at Lugo, though I did feel like their meat dishes weren’t up to par with the fantastic standards that their pasta and risotto dishes upheld. However, nothing worth having ever comes easy — Lugo is definitely one of the pricier restaurants in Seoul. But everything about Lugo, let it be the quality of food, service, interior and location, substantiate the high prices that Lugo dares its clients with.
- Impeccable service, food quality and interior
- Easy to find (right next to Tribeca, or next to ex-Club Circle, see directions below)
- Valet available
- Heavy pricing (30,000-50,000 Won per person for appetizer and main course, without wine)
- Sauce fanatics might not get their share of sauce with pastas
- Caesar salad & hand stretched mozzarella (Turkish fig)
- Pasta & risotto
- Chocolate cake
By cab/on foot: tell the driver “Apgujeong Designer Club” and get out in front of the yellow building. Walk into an alley to the right side of the yellow building, and keep walking until you see Tribeca on the first intersection. Lugo should be immediately visible on your right.
Landmark nearby: Tribeca, Copacabana, Buy The Way convenient store right across from Tribeca, ex-Club Circle, Designer Club
- (A) on Google map denotes Designer Club. (B) denotes Lugo.