After my lunch at Starbucks yesterday, I met up with my cousin Jiyoung in 홍대 (Hongdae), a neighborhood just one subway stop away from where I’m living. Hongdae is similar to Sinchon in that it’s also a bit of a college town; it’s home to Hongik University.
Lots of side streets/alleys branch off of the main road and are lined with little shops, food carts, and cafes. There are swarms of shoppers, microphone-sporting sales people, and the occasional car or motorbike. Jiyoung took me to a small café called 비야 (Viya, pronounced Bee-yah), which was located on the fifth floor of a building tucked away in one of the less crowded alleys.
As you might be able to tell, we were seated on the floor. Sitting on the floor is the traditional Korean way of enjoying a meal, but this café was by no means traditional. Instead of tables and chairs, there were little “booths” lined with blankets and large pillows, separated from one another by sheer, draped mesh fabric. We took our shoes off at the entrance, and I was given a blanket to cover my legs since I was wearing a dress (how thoughtful!). I felt like I walked into a fairytale land.
Jiyoung hadn’t eaten lunch yet, so she ordered a seafood marinara dish, while I had an iced green tea latte (both pictured below). Both were impressively good. Seafood in Korea is really fresh since it’s such a small peninsula, but bad seasoning or sauce can ruin even the best seafood. Fortunately for us, the marinara was just right: light, simple, and savory. My latte, which Jiyoung recommended, had a texture that complemented the green tea flavor perfectly and was similar in consistency to an ultra-light smoothie. It would’ve been better a little colder, but hey, that’s what the ice was for.
So Viya obviously passed the test of having delicious, (relatively) unique menu items, but what about the other “perfect café” criteria? Unfortunately, everything on the menu was pretty pricey, including a measly can of Welch’s grape soda that cost no less than 5,000 won (for a single can!). The music was so-so; maybe it just stood out to me because they started playing songs in English about ten minutes after we sat down (coincidence?). We didn’t sit by a window, but there were booths by large windows, and I imagine there was a decent view since it was up on the fifth floor. The free wifi connection was strong, but I don’t know how much longer I could’ve sat on the hard floor with my computer (we were there for a couple of hours). Overall, it was a cute, one-of-a-kind café, but it’s not the one. The search goes on…
Here are few other highlights from our Hongdae excursion:
We also saw a really cool noodle advertisement… I took a video, but am still figuring out how to embed it into a post. Keep an eye out!
All in all, it was a great afternoon in Hongdae. Good thing it’s close to Sinchon!