Update: Au revoir Atelier Du Saint-Ex aka Le Saint-Ex.
The memory of the old Le Saint-Ex with its black and white chalkboards, vintage wine bottles and dusty old books lined on the shelves still reverberates in the back of my mind. Now, the old French lounge singer has been replaced by a quirky, French-inspired European pop star and for the most part, the change has been well received. However, I do miss some of the old concepts from the original Le Saint-Ex and hope that the owners will integrate them back into the mix.
How to get there: Well the good news is that it is in the exact same location as the old restaurant, so if you have been there before, finding it shouldn’t be a problem. But if not, take the subway to Itaewon station (Line 6) and depart from Exit 1. You will need to make a right up an alley, just take the one right after the KFC and the Hamilton Hotel. Walk up the little hill and then make a right. You will now be behind the Hamilton and you should see The District and Prost. Make a left and start walking. You will walk for about 150 meters and Le Saint Ex will be on your left.
Atmosphere and Service: If there is one thing that is consistent about the Le Saint-Ex brand it is that their service is always impeccable. Their servers are always polite and friendly. They are prompt when you signal to them and they always know their menu thoroughly. Their service is what has always stood out to us and is one reason we choose Le Saint-Ex over other places in Itaewon.
The atmosphere is the most noticeable change since the relaunch. Atelier Du Saint-Ex is now a little hipper and livelier. The music is more upbeat and energetic as opposed to that classical, slow French jazz that they used to play. The interior is more vibrant, colorful and the open concept provides more sunlight and space. My only complaint are the new chairs by the windows. They are really low. I felt like an awkward parent having a parent-teacher conference in one of those tiny kindergarten chairs.
Food and Drink: A feast for lunch. Today we ordered the Cheese Plate, Grilled Pork Ribs, Lamb Stew, Chocolate Mousse and Creme Brûlée for dessert. Overall, it was a lot for lunch and literally left me in a coma for the rest of the day.
Bread and Soup (Free with Blackboard Order): The bread is free all the time. I unfortunately filled up on bread way too early, but it was so good and so fresh. The pumpkin soup was a little bland for Jill’s liking and watery. We were expecting some more creamy. That said, it was hot and fresh.
Grilled Pork Ribs with Potato Puree (25,000KRW): The grilled pork ribs were pretty dry. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed. Ribs should be moist and juicy, so that they fall off the bone. I have high expectations for Atelier Du Saint-Ex and to be honest, with this dish, they did not fulfill those expectations. The sauce was a little tangy, and I used some of it to try a cover up the burn marks on the bottom of the ribs. The Potato Puree was great. However, someone needs to go back and tell the chef how to properly grill ribs.
Lamb Stew (28,000KRW): Jill had the lamb stew and it was in a word: amazing. The lamb is always great here and it is what they do the best in my opinion. The meat fell right off the lamb shank and the broth of the stew was rich with flavor. A baby tomato, some garlic and garnished with a little parsley, this was truly a great dish on a chilly afternoon in Seoul. The lamb stew’s side dish was a bowl of roasted potatoes and mushrooms. Jill’s not a fan of mushrooms, but I tried them and they were great; plump, juicy and fresh.
The Cheese Platter (15,000KRW): You can’t go to a French restaurant and not order a cheese plater. I only wish I had some wine to go with this, but alas, they frown upon coming to work drunk in the education field. Who knew? Anyway, the cheese platter was great. The cheese platter consisted of Brie, Gorgonzola and Emmenthal, or more commonly known as Swiss Cheese. The Gorgonzola is full of flavor. A strong, stinky cheese, but went great with a bread. The Brie was nice a soft, and also went well with the bread. There was a lot of goodness happening here, but seriously, you need the wine to fully experience the flavor.
Creme Brûlée (7,000KRW): The Creme Brûlée was okay. One thing that was lacking was vanilla beans. Normally, a good Creme Brûlée will have vanilla beans in the cream to give it a little extra flavor. However, there were none that we could see. The brûlée was still baked nicely, with a crisp, sweet top.
Chocolate Mousse (7,000KRW): After a whirlwind of food, our stomachs about to pop, but we still had a little room for the Chocolate Mousse. The Chocolate Mousse was great. At first, it seemed a little hard and not that smooth, creamy mousse that we are used to, but as it settled, it gradually softened. The chocolate was rich and easy enough to share for two.
Value: The total billed came to 86,000KRW. That is a lot of money for lunch, but that is the price you pay for quality. The lamb stew was worth the price of admission alone, but they still need to work on that grilled pork if they are going to charge 25,000KRW for it. I really enjoyed my visit to Atelier Du Saint-Ex, but they still need to get some of the kinks out. Also, they really need to bring back French Onion soup. The FOS at Le Saint-Ex was classic and I don’t know how you leave that off of any French menu. The overall feel of the place has improved. Gone is the stuffy French atmosphere, replaced by a more laid-back, hip aura. This will not be my last visit, and we definitely plan to return. Let’s hope they work out a few kinks first.
Who Should Visit Atelier Du Saint-Ex: Fans of the old Le Saint-Ex will not be disappointed. They have kept true to some of their classic dishes and as usual the service and quality are topnotch. Looking for a nice date lunch? We were in and out in an hour and your date will be impressed with your tastes of the finer things in life and your swag French accent.
Who Should Avoid Atelier Du Saint-Ex: Budget travelers beware. There is a Paris Baguette somewhere in Seoul.