Korean Restaurants range from low to high end in terms of cost and décor. The best Korean food is often found in the small inexpensive restaurants that can be found in every neighborhood. Although chair seating is now available in the majority of places in Seoul, floor seating is still the norm in many.
There is usually no tax added to meals in these restaurants and tipping is not expected. Cutlery is kept in a box on the table: soup-style long-handled spoons and metal chopsticks. Napkins are small (cocktail size).
Water comes in a plastic pitcher and is drunk from thick plastic or metal ‘glasses’. Meals are accompanied by 3 or more side dishes (panchan) at least one of which is always a form of kimchi – the side dishes will be refilled at no charge if you wish for more.
The food generally comes all at once. The server will usually come for your order within seconds of your sitting down and the food will arrive within a few minutes. Koreans eat quickly but you are unlikely to feel pressured if you sit longer.
You pay the bill at the cash register although some restaurants will ask for payment when the food arrives.
Western and other ethnic restaurants are growing in number and improving in quality as more and more Koreans are traveling and/or living abroad. It is also now possible for foreign residents to own restaurants and a number of them are doing so.
Prices are generally higher in Western restaurants, but relatively low in Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern ones. Chinese food is quite cheap in Korea, although it doesn’t taste much like the Chinese food you may be used to.
Tax is applied to your food bill is most Western restaurants (10% VAT generally with some also adding another 5% service charge). The food tax in most hotels comes to 21% (10% + 10%).
Tipping is not the norm in Korea, although it has been introduced in some Western restaurants in the Itaewon area, in particular. The majority of restaurants charge for coffee refills, often the full price.
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Last Updated on 2021-02-20
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