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Best known for top notch fashion boutiques thriving in its ritzy neighborhood, Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, is also the fine-dining capital of Seoul, featuring an abundance of posh restaurants and cafes. Quite understandably, a typical upscale Cheongdam-dong diner is not considered accessible for many people as far as prices go.

As the economy still struggles through a slow recovery, however, one of the first-generation Cheongdam-dong fine diners is seeking to attract a wider spectrum of customers by offering special deals.

Xian, a French-Asian fusion restaurant located about 200 meters away from the Gangnam Nanta Theater, has recently introduced its brand new menu of Chinese-style tapas - small plates of canapes and snacks - served at 9,900 won per each plate everyday from 9 p.m.

The special offerings are selected from the restaurant's more than 130 original a la carte menu choices, which are the essence of the 37 years' culinary expertise of its chef Ji Hong-cho. Some 50 tapas dishes will allow food enthusiasts to enjoy a wide range of Chinese-Western fusion dishes that has made the Chinese-Korean chef famous on the country's culinary scene at comparatively reasonable prices.

"I always want Xian's unique delicacies, ambience and dining culture to be enjoyed by a larger spectrum of people, not just by well-to-do people," Lee Sang-min, the restaurant's owner, explained. Lee also runs 11 other upscale diners under seven different brands - Tani, Tani Next Door, Little Xian, Yum China, Chaya and la Spiga - in Cheongdam-dong and other areas of Seoul.

The late night tapas treats are categorized into six different types depending on their taste: hot, spicy, sweet and sour, salty, mild and refreshing. They include some experimental dishes of the chef including "odori ganjang chili nyeongo (stir fried prawn & rice cake in soy chili sauce)" and "shrimp in strawberry sauce," as well as classic Chinese delicacies such as "Mapa tofu (tofu with minced pork in hot spicy chilly sauce)" and "seafood fried rice."

Besides the tapas menu, the restaurant is also trying to lure new customers with special events. Friday, for example, is "Lady's Night," when female customers who come to have dinner or drinks are entitled to all the house Champaign they want.

Every Friday and Saturday, Xian turns into a club where an eclectic DJ takes its customers on a musical journey through vibe music. For every table that orders any one of the tapas plates, the restaurant offers a free bottle of "Xian Sparkling Red," a special house-made concoction from "soju (Korean liquor), red vinegar and Perrier.

Also available at the diner are 100 different kinds of wines plus various different types of traditional Korean, Chinese and Japanese liquors, not to mention beer and whisky.

At a village in Sunchang County in North Jeolla Province, local residents prepare the fermentation process for "meju" or blocks of ground soybean paste ahead of the coming spring season.


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