On a typical Saturday morning of mine where I wake up early in respect of my effort to learn Korean,
I sit among other foreigners in my Korean language class. A Japanese girl who never speaks, told
us of a new restaurant opening in Itaewon. Because she hardly speaks, she’s developed this
clever trick where whatever she says seems important.
The restaurant is newly parked at the center of the street responsible for many of our nights of
entertainment behind Hamilton Hotel. You may have seen it, it’s called Oreno, but what is it?
For anyone familiar with Japan, it’s a restaurant that hails from our neighboring country and I didn’t
know either but it’s kind of a big deal. Oreno boasts a line of chefs who have worked at Michelin-star restaurants.
They serve French-Italian gourmet dishes featuring premium ingredients like lobster, foie gras,
and wagyu beef. By the time the restaurant opens, people have already been lining up outside to
not have a seat at this place.
What? Well, there are no seats at this place. You’ll be standing to eat.
This is the catch for the high-quality food that comes at unbelievable prices. And the owner Takashi
Sakamoto has been manipulating masses to ditch sitting at the dinner table at his restaurants for
quite some time.
12-hour marinated Norwegian Salmon in Tofu Cream Sauce (8,900 won)
It all sounded fun and unique but also after hearing they open at 4pm which means, they don’t offer
lunch, it became suspicious to me as to how this business stayed profitable. In actuality it was
calculated operations and strategy at its finest.
When you and your party enter Oreno, you’re given a two-hour time limit. With this time limit and the
reality of eating while you stand, groups with tired legs leave before the two-hour mark.
Girls in heels, I give it an hour and a half max. It creates a speedy turnover of the number of heads
served each night.
The customer gets to reap all the benefits with the cheap prices and quality food as the restaurant
barely makes any profit from the actual food. I found it highly respectable that the business model
finally put us customers at the top.
Prosciutto, Mortadella, Chorizo Ham (8,900 won)
"It's not enough to just serve good food anymore," Sakmoto said. "It needs to be delicious and
affordable. That's when the lines really start forming."
The dessert menu
This alternate dining world created by Takashi Sakamoto, having already taken over Japan, has
Seoul already intrigued. On weekends, the lines that have formed outside Oreno in Itaewon have
people queued up to even two-hours. You've been warned, best to try for the weekdays.
I’ve never been to a standing restaurant, and to be honest I’m scared I'll start getting uncomfortable.
For those who see themselves being a pussy like me, there are actually some seats. Good luck
though because you’re gonna have to fight someone for them, we've heard it’s mission impossible.