Image of this shitty restaurant shamelessly stolen from A Fat Girl's Food Guide to Eating in Korea
Kervan is a second story Turkish restaurant in Itaewon conveniently located off-a Exit 4, next to the shit across the street from the who gives a fuck. The meat is dry. The prices are outrageous. The rice pudding sucks.The décor is nice, but the prices are outrageous. The only redeeming quality about Kervan is the one non-Korean waitress: Not only was she competent enough to take orders and serve food at a Western level of decency and competence, the ass was fat.
Really it was my fault- High prices are sometimes a reasonable heuristic to assume high quality, but the ratio of Korean to Western customers was a blaring “Get the fuck out of here” alarm. In any other country, you look for restaurants frequented by locals in order to avoid tourist traps and eat good food. In Korea, the opposite is true.
I used to think this was some racist bullshit observation perpetuated by the whiny expat circlejerk, but I’ve been burned enough times to know better now. Koreans have vastly different tastes than the rest of the world. Yes, people in India prefer different flavors to people in Spain, this is true of all countries, but not nearly to the extent it is true in Korea. I used to think Chinese people liked weird stuff, particularly the ma2 la4 numbing spice popular in Henan and Szechuan provinces, but the Korean palate makes that look normal.
If Koreans like the way something tastes, there is a high chance you may not. Almost all of my Korean coworkers have had no appreciation for ethnic foods- even the one who loves French culture dislikes French food. The inverse is not true of my Westerner friends, by the way. We know what food we love in Korea, but we know how hard it is to find, and how disappointing the rest of the cuisine is.
Kervan is just one of the many examples of restaurants who went to shit after getting featured on some Korean TV show. The impressionable consumers of Seoul flocked to Kervan in droves, causing Kervan to change their menus to suit the demands of their client. The Kervan experience is now more Korean than it is Turkish: Menu prices reflect Korean insensitivity to price when purchasing a high-status good. Kebab is served alongside white rice. Food is served by Korean waitstaff with Korean manners, to Korean clientele with Korean manners. Expect to see people taking endless cell phone /tablet pictures of themselves and their food. The only respite from Korean culture to be found in Kervan comes from its faux-rich décor which discourages spitting, mucus activities, smoking, being noisy and sexual harassment. I believe this respite is only possible because the Koreans attracted to the nouvaeu-riche fauxreign experiences tend to be young females, but this is only anecdotal- I have yet to meet an ajeossi interested in eating my cum. The women are a different story.
By the end of our meal at Kervan, I was sure that I’d been ripped off. I insisted my friend leave with me and go straight to Pasha, a hole in the wall kebab restaurant across the street from the Hamilton Hotel, halfway between the subway and the Hill. The kebabs here are 5k won, and unlike most hole in the wall kebab shops, they offer dishes beyond the standard chicken and lamb kebab. We ordered a lamb, olive, pepper, and cheese pide. It was served promptly, covered in toasted black and white sesame seeds, and cost less than half of what the pide at Kervan cost. I recommend Pasha as much as I curse Kervan. The only Turkish restaurant worse than Kervan is that aborted filth being served at the basement restaurant at Pusan National University.
Pasha can be found 3 minutes from Itaewon exit 3.
Kervan can be found in the news headlines under ‘Arson’, god-willing.
One other thing: Foodie blogs written by expats in Korea are worthless.* Reading them you’d think every single restaurant in Korea has a Michelin star. These restaurant reviews are written by tasteless idiots. Sometimes I feel like every other new expat I meet is either a classless savage or a pretentious hipster dickface.
*Except for Fat Girl. Ironically, she seems to be one of the few expats with reasonable standards for what she’ll put in her mouth. How she found Kervan acceptable is beyond me.