Bagdad Cafe Indian restaurant, Jeju, South Korea
Bagdad Cafe Indian restaurant: Good food and good atmosphere
Story and photos by Brian Miller
By now most foreigners in Jeju will be familiar with Bagdad Café. Since opening in 2006, the restaurant has established itself as one of the most popular expat haunts on the island, and has built a reputation for offering authentic Indian cuisine in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Bagdad owner and Jeju native Hyun Ju-Roung named the place after a 1987 West German film called Out of Rosenheim, about a group of people whose lives change after connecting in a rundown café in Bagdad, California. The movie was re-released in America a year later as Bagdad Café. The film is one of Hyun’s favourites, and helped to inspire her venture into the restaurant business. She says she wanted her own Bagdad Café to be a place for locals and out-of-towners to meet and connect in friendly surroundings here in Jeju.
Hyun places a strong focus on quality and authenticity. When she needed chefs for her fledging restaurant, she sent her business partner, Sobu, out to India to find them. He visited various restaurants and sampled the food, with a keen focus on excellence and taste. When he found something he liked, he made a visit to the kitchen. Sobu’s search for capable cooks netted him current Bagdad chefs Nandu, Pran and Ram, who were all recruited out of Delhi. To enable them to cook real Indian cuisine here in Korea, Hyun imported tandoor ovens at great expense. Each oven costs 1,700,000 won, with an additional Korean import tax of 600,000 won. As if that weren’t enough, each tandoor oven is made of clay and must be replaced every 18 months. Nevertheless, Hyun says that’s a price she’s willing to pay in order to provide her customers with fresh naan and genuine tandoori style chicken. Other items on the menu, such as fruit, vegetables and chicken, come from farms in Jeju. Lamb is flown in from Seoul, where it’s first imported from Australia and New Zealand.
Though Hyun earned her degree in tourism management, she’s always had an interest in interior design. She took a very hands-on approach to building Bagdad- starting by drawing up plans for the restaurant’s interior. She decorated the restaurant herself and took part in some of the painting. Hyun also created Bagdad’s unique logo and even designed the tables, which were crafted by a company in Seoul before being shipped back to Jeju.
Outside of Bagdad, Hyun has taken a lively role in Jeju’s foreign community. She’s an avid supporter of Jeju’s Ultimate Frisbee team, for whom she designed uniforms. She’s also helping to find accommodations for participants in this year’s annual Ultimate Tournament.
Bagdad Café remains the only place to find authentic Indian cuisine on the island. But Hyun stresses that her restaurant is about more than just great food. She wants Bagdad Café to become your place in Jeju to find good times and good friends. So stop in and visit for coffee or a drink. You can take advantage of the free internet access or simply sit back and enjoy the cozy atmosphere.
- Bagdad Cafe is located in the City Hall area of Jeju City.
- Address and telephone number:
대한민국 제주특별자치도 제주시 이도2동 1188-16
- More photographs including food and interiors here.
+ Image courtesy: http://dandyguy.egloos.com/1396199
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