Pino Pasta in the Lotte Department Store – Great Location and Family Friendly, yet Underwhelming Food.

So after the Freshhouse debacle, we decided it would be better just to head back to Lotte Hotel to have dinner. The hotel is located right beside the Charlotte Theatre. Since we were going to the Charlotte anyway, we decided to stay local. My mind was focused on buffet, and we discovered that there is a buffet restaurant in hotel. We head up there, and the  maitre d’ approached us and asked us if we would like to be seated. The place looked awesome, the smells coming from the kitchen were mouth watering, and the restaurant seemed very modern. There was a menu outside, but unfortunately it was all in Korean with four different prices. I asked him how much it was, and he informed me that the dinner buffet was 89,000WON per person. Ouch! With a little one on the way, 180,000WON for dinner is a little steep. We politely declined and continued the search.

The Lotte Department store is connected to the hotel, so we headed up the escalators to search the 10th floor for a restaurant. There were a variety of different restaurants including Korean, Japanese and Chinese. There were two Italian/Steakhouse restaurants, and since we were starving, we went with the familiar flavors and decided on Pino Pasta.

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How to get there: We arrived by taxi, and the quickest way to get there is to ask your driver to take you to the Lotte Hotel by Lotte World. He will know where to go, since it is one of the biggest attractions in the city. If you are coming by subway, you need to take the subway to Jamsil station (Line 8). Depart from Exit 3 and the department store in on your right, with big bright flashy lights. Go into the store, and head up to the 10th floor.

Service and Atmosphere: The service was pretty good, and they went out of their way to make us feel welcome. Many times at restaurants, they bring out your food all at the same time. However, the hostess came up and asked us in great English if we wanted our appetizers first. Of course! Also, our table was a little wobbly, and she switched us up. The booths were spacious and the interior was simple. The walls were made of cement, but they did their best to make it appear stone, as though we were in the Italian countryside. Also, another little perk was that the tables were spaced out comfortably, which for a seven and a half month pregnant lady, and a big white boy, this was welcome.

Food and Drink: It’s rare that an appetizer outshines a main course, but this was the case at Pino Pasta. I ordered a Caesar salad to start and it arrived at the table fairly quickly with a side order of bread. The salad was great. The croutons were fresh, and the bacon was cooked well, and not burnt. The romaine lettuce leaves were huge, not soggy and were generously drizzled with Caesar dressing. There were also little pieces of grilled chicken and tomatoes (that were tossed to the side). It was one of the better salads I’ve had in Korea. Now, I’m not much of a salad guy, but if I was on a health kick and was looking for a quick, healthy lunch, I would go back and order the salad. It was the highlight of the meal. I guess that’s not a good thing.

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The highlight of the meal. One of the better Caesar salads I’ve eaten in Korea.

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Bread in picture is bigger than they appear.

Jill ordered pasta with asparagus, ricotta cheese with a nutmeg cream sauce. It was an average serving of pasta, and the broccoli and asparagus added nice flavor to the dish. However, the nutmeg cream sauce was very underwhelming. The sauce was bland, which was surprising because nutmeg has a such a distinctive and robust flavor. This might be a moment of lost in translation. There were nuts in the sauce, but no nutmeg.

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The sauce looks like a nutmeg sauce, but they forgot a crucial ingredient known as nutmeg.

I ordered the Janus Pizza, which according to the menu was a pizza in tomato and cream sauce, topped with grilled chicken. Instead, what I received was more on the lines of a BBQ chicken pizza you can purchase at any local Korean pizza joint. It came out, covered in Bullseye BBQ sauce, and little or any cream sauce. The chicken was grilled, but was lifeless. There was a scattering of peppers on the pizza to compliment the chicken. A Overall, a pretty disappointing pie (even by Korea standards). I could have bought the same thing at Nilli’s Pizza and Pasta, or even Pizza School. Normally, I wouldn’t be too disappointed. I’m not exactly expecting authentic Italian cuisine in the Lotte Department store, but at the same time, try to separate yourself from other restaurants. It was only after, that we discovered Mad For Garlic nearby, and a long sigh of depression consumed the taxi.

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Mystery of the day. Why does BBQ sauce skip slices? Also, the cream sauce is on hiatus until further notice.

We ordered some lemonade and a Coke. Free refills for those little shot glasses of cola. Horray!

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Value: The Janus Pizza (16000KRW), the pasta with asparagus and ricotta cheese and nut?(meg) sauce (15000KRW), and a Caesar salad (12000KRW) and two sodas came to a grand total of 51000KRW. Meh. For that price, I would spend the extra money and head to Mad For Garlic, which is inside Lotte World. Well, live and learn I guess.

Who should go to Pino Pasta: People with families, who need a quick break from shopping in the Lotte Department Store. What you will spend in that place, Pino Pasta will seem minimal. Also, if you happen to be an employee of the Lotte Department Store, and you can read English, I would recommend the Caesar salad for a quick lunch!

Who should avoid Pino Pasta: Anyone who wants to have a delightful culinary experience. There are hundreds of Pino Pasta places all over Seoul. If you are in the mood for Italian, I would highly recommend Mad For Garlic, which is right next door. It’s an excellent place to take a date, with an intimate, but casual atmosphere.

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