Saturday, July 9, 2011

ilot: Café of Dreams

When I heard last year that Kiwi was planning to open a café in Gangneung, I was impressed, but assumed it would be a typical Korean café (which assumes a fairly uniform appearance modeled after Hollywood movie cafés). Not so. Kiwi has gone out of his way to transform every inch of the café into an expression of his own artistic taste.

The name ilot, which apparently means a "small, cozy space" in French, was chosen by his sister Jusu. Kiwi used one of her self-portraits (shown above on the exterior
café sign to decorate the café napkins, mugs, business cards, and a few other things. Just like I learned a lot about DIY home repairs when we bought our house in Athens, Kiwi has taught himself lots of basic carpentry, masonry, and electric work in order to transfer his ideas from his head to the café .

My sole contribution so far has been to rewrite the menu. Apparently having the mind of a 33-year-old and the physical writing skills of a 7-year-old gives my Korean a distinct look that Koreans think is quite comical.

The café is open from 11 am to 11 pm seven days a week which makes it all-encompassing for Kiwi, especially since he just had to let half of his staff go (now he has one helper). The upside of this consistency is that he is started to lure in a few regulars. I'm becoming a regular myself as I spend most of my time away from the hotel here reading, journaling, studying, or in conversation with someone.

I'm excited to see Jusu's reaction when she comes to the coffeehouse for the first time here in the next few months. So far, she has only had a couple public exhibitions of her artwork and so she will be pleased to see that her paintings are everywhere.

Kiwi has redone everything in the place, even the floor. I'm not sure how he managed this combo of wood and marble, but it looks amazing.

Some of the featured drinks of the menu are the 12 Grain Latte, the Sea Salt Latte and the Pat Bing Su (a traditional Korean drink/food with shaved ice, sweet red beans, rice cake, and milk).

Of course, I have to admit that I'm highly attracted to the new part-time employee.

So I have found the coffeehouse satisfying both in terms of personal reflection time and for socializing with Kiwi's friends.

To top it all off, this is the view from right outside the cafe (shown both at day and at night)...

Even though I've visited Joo's hometown many times before, I rarely have had the opportunity to just sit and enjoy the rhythmic waves of the ocean.

So, as long as one remembers to "be saf" near the water, ilot is truly a coffeehouse of dreams.

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