Written and photographed by Justin Ramsay

Portmanteaus (a linguistic blend of two words) seem to be a very popular thing here in South Korea. Seemingly any combination of words can be blended to include the meaning of both or to create a new, hip buzzword of sorts. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of Ronnique, the restaurant’s name perfectly encapsulates the theme and the core dining experience of this fine dining/molecular gastronomy establishment located in the youthful, bustling area of Dongmyeong-dong. According to owner Kim Yong-in, Ronnique is a blend of his English name, Ronnie, and the word unique. The restaurant certainly lives up to this tagline, and most dishes are unique in flavor, presentation, and preparation method. It is more of a dining experience than a simple dinner out, and nowhere in Gwangju can really offer up a similar experience or menu.

The interior of the restaurant is simple yet elegant: white walls and spread-out tables with a few interesting but unobtrusive photos and artworks adorning the space. A large wine rack is seen immediately upon entering, displaying the vast array of wines on offer to be enjoyed with your meal (some pricier than others). A friendly, well-dressed waiter enthusiastically greets us and shows us to our table. The table is set with a pristine white tablecloth and a number of items of cutlery, not the usual spoon and chopstick fare.

There are no paper menus here, but rather our waiter brings an iPad to the table that displays the wine list and the various dining options available. The wine list was long and varied, containing more than 50 different options from France, Chile, Australia, Spain, Italy, and the USA. The price per bottle ranged from 35,000 for a nice Chilean wine to a much heftier 800,000 for Dom Perignon. Fear not if you’re on a budget, though, as a nice glass of the house wine will only set you back 6,000 won.

We decided on our wine, and then looked at the food options, which luckily were far less varied and complicated than the encyclopedia of a wine list. There were a la carte options including lamb rib, duck confit, duck breast, and beef tenderloin, all around the 30–35,000 won price range, various pastas from 14–19,000, and a couple of multi-course set menu options. In order to sample as many different dishes as possible, we decided on the Ballade Set Menu (45,000 won per person).

While waiting for the first course to arrive, we found that the atmosphere and ambiance of the restaurant made it very easy to have a chat and enjoy each other’s company. There is no loud, disruptive vocal tracks but rather soft, instrumental music reminiscent of a French café filling the silence and creating a very warm, intimate atmosphere. When our amuse bouche arrived, we were given a nice explanation of what each dish was by our waiter, who then left us to enjoy our interesting-looking appetizers. These were comprised of escargot with gruyere cheese, egg cooked in truffle oil with beet foam, and a surprisingly delicious palate cleanser of chilled celery juice served in a test tube. The presentation and taste were exquisite in the case of all three appetizers. Chefs often tend to use too much garlic when preparing escargot, but this was not the case, and the taste and texture of the snail was perfectly complimented by the gruyere cheese that it was served with.

Follow-up courses included a delicious, salted raw salmon salad, impossibly smooth, and creamy carrot soup with home-made focaccia, and the restaurant’s signature dish: chicken mousse in a spaghetti dome with bacon and carbonara foam. Every course was phenomenal, the chicken mousse creation being a particular highlight. Before being served our mains, we were given a final palate cleanser of grapefruit sorbet, which again had excellent presentation and tasted great.

There were a few options for the main course, but we tried the duck confit and lamb ribs. The confit was superb, crispy on the outside, and soft and juicy on the inside. It was served with orange sauce and small buttons of beet, carrot, asparagus, and pumpkin. The lamb, too, was very good, served with mashed potatoes, red wine sauce and wine salt, and a side of spring onion. The lamb was juicy and perfectly cooked to a medium rare. By the conclusion of the main course, we felt suitably well fed, and the tea/coffee and small, homemade coconut biscuits rounded the meal off nicely.

Overall, Ronnique is not a daily eatery where those on a strict budget will find themselves very often for lunch and dinner, but it delivers a culinary experience like no other in our lovely city. For special occasions, dates, celebrations, or just as a little treat, I highly recommend that you give Ronnique a try for its interesting menu, friendly and accomplished staff, and overall high standard of service and food.

광주 동구 동계천로 137-13
137-13 Donggyecheon-ro, Dong-gu, Gwangju
Opening hours: Lunch: 11:30 – 15:00
Dinner: 17:30 – 22:30
Reservations: 062-454-4501
E-mail: [email protected]
Price range: 25,000 won – 100,000 won per person.

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