I love Korean food. A lot.
Bibimbap; galbi; chiggae; kaeranchim; jeon… the list goes on. Megan and I even wrote a cookbook about the stuff.
For as much as I love a crackin’ Korean BBQ, it’s generally slim pickings for international cuisine in the Miracle on the Han. Name the restaurants that do Italian well – well, I said – and you can count them on one had even if you’ve lost a few fingers to an angry ajuma. Mexican? Sure, there are a few joints around the block that get it mostly right. If you want to melt your face off in lieu of flavor, a couple Indian eateries have you covered.
I’m generalizing, of course – I’m sure I’ll get a few angry retorts on all the great intl. flavour shacks in the city – but the message remains the same. For a long time, if you wanted tapas, you had to venture to Itaewon and hope whatever room temperature meat you were eating didn’t ruin your stomach.
And then I paid a visit to Bodega.
Bodega does Spanish food. Bodega does it well. And they do their wine even better.
10 Magazine sent me out to shoot the restaurant. Someone else is handling the review on this one (strange…) so all I had to do was focus on the space. And the food. And the wine.
Sometimes, it’s hard to focus. Especially after the wine.
I roll into the restaurant – tucked away neatly across the street from Lotte World – and sit down with the manager, Mr. Moon. He’s as genial as they come, friendly and warm and ready with a bottle of red wine. We discuss the shots I’m here to take, the time it’ll take me to finish and the food he’d like to share with me over lunch. I’m not going to say no to any of this. Perks, you know? I don’t have to remain unbiased.
Chat done, it’s time for work. I am usually prepared with a shot list when I take on a gig like this. It helps me focus when I know that it’s going to be tough to wing something off the cuff.
BODEGA SHOT LIST:
* “Big” interior; wide, low, grandeur shot. The Old Classic.
* Featured food; what Bodega is all about
* New spin on the interior; using the space in a new way, something intimate
* Environmental portraits; manager, bus boys, cooks, etc.
* Details; bottles, unique designs, furniture, etc.
Don’t underestimate lists. The last thing you want to do is forget something while you’re working or miss something because you’re frazzled or running out of time.
Fine wine gets better with age. It gets really good with flash.
I tried to work out some of the interior shots on my own but I wasn’t exactly inspired; for as nice as the space is, there are enormous banners featuring Kim Yuna hawking wine dangling from the ceiling and a giant white screen in the middle of the dance floor, presumably so people can watch themselves dance the flamenco. By the time Tony arrived to help me out I was ready for a break.
We went about picking up detail shots with the ambient light, leaving flash for later. It was relaxing and gave us a better appreciation for the space. By the time Mr. Moon brought out the food I was ready to knock a few frames back. Inspiration begins in the belly.
The light in these shots is incredibly simple; one SB-80DX in a softbox, double diffused, high camera right, a silver reflector camera left (thx, Tony!) and a little ambient from the stage lighting creeping in the back to light the glasses.
Back to the bottle. Our bellies full of tapas, we broke out the flashes and worked the details throughout the bar in a new light. Here the overhead spots are doing the heavy lifting, a flash with a red gel dropping in a little ambiance.
More flash details with the red gel.
Confident in what we’d shot, we moved on to the fun stuff; the environmental portraits. I missed out on shooting the cooks in action. The restaurant was slow so they were sent out for a break before the dinner rush, but I wasn’t going to miss my chance with the dynamic Mr. Moon. Lit with three lights (though I would have done it differently if I had five on me, as noted here): SB-80DX, gelled red, fired through the glass from the cellar. SB-80DX, softbox, double diffused, high camera right. SB-28, gelled blue, slight rim camera left. Silver reflector, low camera left.
I thought the casks added a nice touch so I threw them into the full-body portrait. Sure, there are slight reflections in the glass to the right, but I didn’t notice them in time to set up another gobo (plus Tony isn’t flexible enough to hold onto them with his feet). I blame Tony for most of my mistakes.
At the end of the day we left satisfied with the photos we made and rammed full of food. $100 lunches and $250 bottles of wine are one thing, but when they are on the house, they taste that much sweeter. Like a cherry packed with sugar then dipped in chocolate.
PS: Because posterity is everything, here is the immortal Tonerbaloner himself. He was pissed because I didn’t let him use the monopod (that sounds weird…), but he went about his business regardless.
More from 10 Magazine: www.10magazine.asia
More from Wine Korea: www.winekorea.asia