Seoul Food: New Burgers @ The Workshop & Hidden Cellar (HBC)
The Workshop & Hidden Cellar (Itaewon/ HBC)
If you’ve been paying attention to the HBC/ Itaewon group or the Restaurant Buzz Seoul page on Facebook you’ll already know that the Workshop and Hidden Cellar in the Haebangchon area of Itaewon has been busy. With the renovations finished, a new brunch menu, drink specials, and live music several nights a week I thought it was impossible for the team to dream up anything else. How wrong I was! Fast for a couple of days, hit the gym, open up that 2nd stomach, then do what we did: taste the entire new burger menu at The Workshop or Hidden Cellar in one night.
The Workshop & Hidden Cellar – New Burger Menu
When I saw that the new menu at the Workshop was primarily burgers I was actually a little disappointed. Everyone in Seoul seems to be doing “craft” or “artisanal” burgers in Itaewon especially. I feel like it must be really hard to get burgers right in Korea as they’ve not been very impressive thus far. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to test out Royale with Cheese (KRW 11, 000), The Saffa (KRW 12, 000), Federale (KRW 11, 000), and the Gorgonzola Burger (12,000).
The burgers on the new menu at the Workshop in Haebangchon have a few things in common. They’re all homemade, incredibly messy (perfect fry dip), well crafted, and are great value. They’re full of high quality ingredients, too – like fresh buns from Le Chien Blanc and the Workshop/ Hidden Cellar’s 200 g homemade burger patty. Scroll down for intimate details on each burger personality!
The Burger Patty @ The Workshop & Hidden Cellar
Each burger is 200 g and is 70% ground chuck and 30% brisket. This seems to be the optimal burger to bun to topping ratio. They cook their burgers medium-well to err on the safe side due to the recent McDonald’s fiasco. When I get a burger, I don’t want the toppings to overwhelm the essence of the dish. The heart and soul of a hamburger is the burger patty itself. If you’re only providing a 125 g – 150 g burger patty I’ll still feel like I need to order a 2nd burger to be satisfied. I’ve had burgers at a popular spot with a brand new location in Hannam and just felt cheated by the wicked-tasting (and wickedly small) burger.
For KRW 11,000 or KRW 12, 000 you get your massive, loaded burger with a reasonable side of fries (ignore the KRW 3,000 on the menu – they say it’s not worth the charge). The value at the Workshop/ Hidden Cellar is excellent, eh? Not only are they a great size, each patty is batched to match the flavour palette of the 4 burgers on offer. 1, 000, 000 points to Gryffindor – er… The Workshop & Hidden Cellar.
Burger #1 @ The Workshop/ Hidden Cellar: Royal with Cheese
The Royale with Cheese is a cheeky little nod to Pulp Fiction. It’s topped with crispy bacon, sharp cheddar, muenster cheese(KRW 11,000 – served with French fries) , tomato, lettuce, onion rings, and the Workshop’s secret spicy mayo sauce. The night we visited to taste test the burgers they had a new cook on the grill. He rocked the big picture of each burger, but smaller elements could use some attention moving forward. I like the idea of the onion ring, but next time it should have less coating and should be fried longer. This is already a fan favourite because it’s such a fatty Kathy burger. The cheesy couple hugs the burger with that special spicy mayo. This is the kind of burger you want to eat before heading out on a night where you know there will be shots.
Burger #2 @ The Workshop/ Hidden Cellar: The Saffa
While there are plenty of South African people in Korea, Saffa food isn’t exactly plentiful. In the summer, there are braais a-plenty, but if you’re craving a bunny chow, boerewors, or potjiekos, you’re hitting up Braai Republic (Itaewon or Pyeontaek). The Workshop/ Hidden Cellar have teamed up with Braai Republic on The Saffa burger (KRW 11,000 – served with French fries). This 200 g beef patty is topped with biltong from Braai Republic, seasoned sour cream, caramelized onions, tomato, lettuce, and a base on the bun of mayo and dijon mustard.
The biltong adds an amazing gamey taste and saltiness to the burger which is balanced by the sour cream. The bun is nice and soft. I could see some people wanting their bun toasted, but I loved squishing the whole burger and letting the drippings make a mess all over my fries. It’s not pretty to eat, but damn does it ever taste good. While I appreciated every burger on the menu, I would suggest giving this one a shot as it’s different from anything else you’ll find in Seoul.
Burger #3 @ The Workshop/ Hidden Cellar: Federale
Federale (KRW 11,000 – served with French fries) comes topped with caramelized onions, bacon, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, and secret sauce. This burger, while fantastic, was probably my least favourite. Due to the guacamole completely sans cilantro but full of zingy onion it left me a bit underwhelmed. If I had had a little more oomph to the guac I’d have been thrilled with the bacon/ guacamole pairing.
With this burger I could taste the cracked black pepper a lot more. I was prompted to ask whether each burger patty is made to match the toppings. Turns out the Workshop/ Hidden Cellar actually does pay attention to that awesome customization. If you typically go for the Mexi-burger at your local, give Federale a try.
Burger #4 @ The Workshop/ Hidden Cellar: Gorgonzola Burger
The Gorgonzola Burger (KRW 11,000 – served with French fries) is one for the foodies. My dining companion wasn’t quite sure what to make of the Gorgonzola burger – a 200 g beef patty with bleu cheese, homemade tomato jam, onions, tomato, lettuce, and sauce. When I read the ingredients I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to make of it either. I mean, gorgonzola tends to be the bold flavour that steals the show. Toss some roasted garlic buds on a burger with gorgonzola and I’m in heaven. With this burger you practically get your money’s worth in the gorgonzola alone. There are giant chunks of it all over this rich, luxurious burger.
Tomato jam had no place mingling with bleu cheese – or did it? If you’re a die-hard gorgonzola fan, don’t shy away just because you see tomato jam. It was actually ridiculously refreshing to have both bold flavours caressing the beef. While it was a little sweet for my taste, the jam recipe (and the entire menu in general) is a work in progress – it is a Workshop, right?
I’m always looking for something new when it comes to burger toppings, so for me it’d be a real toss up between The Saffa and the Gorgonzola Burger. Hungover, I’ll want to throw a fried egg on Royale with Cheese and call it a day. I’m always pretty hesitant to recommend a burger, especially a burger in Seoul, but I can honestly recommend those at the Workshop/ Hidden Cellar. The passion that Reza puts into his food is starting to make me feel like The Workshop & Hidden Cellar might be the new locale for restaurant tastes rather than pub grub. It’s just an exceptional bonus that the drinks are so cheap.
The Vibe @ The Workshop
The Workshop (and Hidden Cellar) are my local haunts for an after work social in Seoul. They have really reasonably priced drinks and are almost always playing some rugby game or another. With the over-sized windows and open concept layout I’ll pretty consistently see someone I know there on my walk home.
The Workshop is kind of like Cheers. The staff are friendly, know the locals, and crack good jokes at your expense if you let ’em. If you’re looking for fine dining then this ain’t the place. The menu is surprisingly spectacular. I still daydream about their deep-friend brie with cranberry sauce. Is it a great date spot? Sure – if you want your love life totally on display (I mean, it is still Itaewon!) Either way it’s a great place to meet other expats in HBC. Head over to play some darts, catch a game, or go downstairs for live music.
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