(Note: I didn't originally intend to write a post about my dinner here, which is why there aren't any pictures to go with it. However, Spain Club is definitely a destination worth looking up so I decided to go ahead and write about it anyway.)
Spain Club is one of the more memorable choices I’ve found amongst the European-style restaurants crowding all of Seoul’s popular neighborhoods these days. This Japanese import (Spain Club originated overseas, and the owner figured that Seoul would be receptive to his food) offers a break from the usual French or Italian fare: Spanish food is hardly commonplace in Seoul and this restaurant is, thankfully, delicious.
All of dishes on the menu are written in Spanish, but easily decipherable, even if you can’t read the Korean descriptions underneath. As a group of four, my fellow diners and I ordered a salad, a smaller seafood dish and also a pan of mixed seafood paella–which is apparently a bit of a house specialty. We also asked for two glasses of Sangria, which were generous, dark and fruity to taste.
True to its Spanish roots, there seems to be seafood or ham in at least everything: our salad was the “Ensalada de Tomate y Anchoas,” containing bits of salty anchovy-like fish. The smaller seafood dish was “Gambas al Ajillo,” basically a shrimp scampi, sauteed in a butter-garlic sauce. The shrimp dish was sizzling and bubbling when it arrived, and when we figured it was edible without any risk of burnt tongues, we weren’t disappointed. The shrimp was tender and delicious, without being greasy or overly buttery, which was a definite plus.
The “Mixta Pela”–a seafood paella (which takes 30-40 minutes to prepare; the waiter warns you as you order)–arrived shortly after we had finished off the shrimp and salad. Stories of the paella, served in portions fitting for about two, aren’t overrated at all. The dish was wonderfully cooked with the perfect combination of flavors, with the salty tang of the seafood balanced out by the subtle, barely-there taste of lemon juice. The mixed paella is an absolute must–I was personally scared that the mussels would give the entire dish a tough, briny flavor, as sometimes happens, but I had nothing to fear. It’s been a long time since I’ve had seafood that was cooked so well and in harmony with the rest of the ingredients.
Of course, Spain Club isn’t the cheapest restaurant ever. Our meal ran at approximately 80,000 won for the salad, the shrimp dish, the paella and two glasses of wine. This might sound reasonable if the portions weren’t so small: Spain Club isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for a hearty meal. The paella, especially, is deceptive: the layer of rice on the pan is actually fairly thin, and it disappears quickly. Other reviewers seem to share the same opinion regarding the portions, and while many insist Spain Club is “pricey” rather than a “rip-off,” just be warned that you’ll probably leave with a much lighter wallet if you want to leave with a heavier stomach.
In the end, it’ll probably be manners that keeps you from ordering more and more food. The interior is definitely upscale and classy; it doesn’t rely on cheap aesthetic tricks and is heavy on atmosphere and ambiance. When we went, about half of the first floor was reserved and most of the time, the restaurant is said to be busy (we went for a very early dinner, at about 5:30 on a Monday evening). That’s as good as any for validation of the quality of the restaurant. Spain Club is definitely not to be missed, especially if you’re craving something exciting and new.