I’m Home (Jukjeon café street)

Sunday, May 2, 2010. A day to go down in history. For on this day, I discovered I’m Home.

One of my friends had had an exhausting day (he has kids), so instead of meeting up for dinner with the family, I ended up just meeting him for coffee. I’d heard rumors about this so-called “café street” in Jukjeon, which was about a short 15 min. local (yellow) bus ride away from my place, and conveniently equidistant between my place and my friend’s. After walking around a bit, a place called I’m Home looked attractive, especially since it had a number of people inside and a poster advertising their uses of Valrhona chocolate outside. It looked like they knew their stuff! So we checked it out.

Four postings ago (Liegen Haus), I noted how much I love chocolate. I’m a guy with a sweet tooth. A chocolate tooth. My friend is almost the same. On the menu we found something that looked interesting, a “fondant chocolat”.

Fondant Chocolat at I’m Home

You did click on the picture to see it large, right? Well let me assure you, it was more than interesting. It was as rich and as delicious as it looks. It’s beautiful. It’s chocolate. It’s one of THE BEST DESSERTS I HAVE EVER TRIED IN MY LIFE!!!

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The fondant chocolat is a little cake with melted, gooey, warm, exquisitely mouth-watering chocolate on the inside. Beside it is a scoop of vanilla ice cream that complements the heat and the chocolate perfectly. On the ice cream scoop are pieces of chocolate bar. And swirled on the plate are, well, chocolate swirls. I savored this to the utmost… slow and enjoying every bite. My friend savored it to the utmost… eating it as quickly as a 5 year old, or faster, and completely forgetting he was with me. It was one of those first times trying a new food that I will remember forever. All the struggles of the past day, month, or year were forgotten.

(And actually, since I took so many people there, I remember many of their first times having fondant chocolat too!) 😉

Are you exhausted yet just thinking about this treat? Have you booked your flight to Korea? Or if you’re in Korea, are you already on the Bundang line to Jukjeon station?

Or maybe, if chocolate isn’t so much your thing, you’re wondering:  ‘Wait, wasn’t this blog about coffee?’.

You’re in for a second treat, and your patience is rewarded.

So over the next 2 years, I went to I’m Home many times. Sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. So I got to try a lot of their coffee drinks as well. Exhibit A:  a Dark Chocolate “Frappuccino”

Dark Chocolate “Frappuccino” at I’m Home, September 2010

Unfortunately, some places don’t seem to understand that they’re not supposed to use this trademarked word. I’ve seen other places around the world that use an alternate spelling, which I assume is okay, but I’m Home and others are risking being sued by Starbucks for labeling their drinks as such. But anyway, the “frappuccino” was delicious, even if it wasn’t quite the thick icy drink invented by the Seattle chain. A tasty cool drink for a hot Korean summer day (or night).

Exhibit B:

Delicious mystery drink at I’m Home, November 2010

Unfortunately, by the time I labeled this picture, I had forgotten which drink this was. 😦 Sorry.

Exhibit C:

Café Mocha at I’m Home, April 2011

I’m not even sure what that latte art is supposed to be, if anything. Maybe a dinosaur? But this mocha, using the amazing chocolates that I’m Home has, was 5 stars.

Exhibit D:

Caffe latte at I’m Home, May 2011

Exhibit E:

A kahlua latte and a fondant chocolat at I’m Home, January 2012

Yes, I started to see more places that mixed coffee with alcohol towards the end of my stay. Kahlua, already coffee-based, in a latte? Yum.

Exhibit F:

Espresso chocolat chau at I’m Home, March 2012

This last drink, the espresso chocolat chau, is almost cheating. It’s pure melted chocolate, and over time, it solidifies. I should’ve asked what percentage chocolate it was and its origin, but I was too busy enjoying it. Another supremely memorable drink.

It also dovetails nicely into the collection of the rest of the foods and desserts I had at I’m Home. The first time I tried the espresso chocolat chau (and how I wished I had tried it before!), I had it alongside a focaccia bread with olive oil and pesto.

Espresso chocolat chau and focaccia bread with olive oil and pesto

Bread, of course, is not a staple of the Korean diet, so finding such a good bread as this focaccia is a rarity and a special treat. The olive oil was good, average, and worked for dipping the bread in it. But the pesto. Wow, incredible pesto. Better than many pestos I’ve had in the US. I’m guessing it’s made on-site, because I can’t imagine a jarred pesto tasting so fresh.

But if you look again at the picture above, even though there is olive oil and amazing pesto, look how close the chocolate is to the bread…

Focaccia bread dipped in espresso chocolat chau at I’m Home

…and now it’s even closer. 🙂

Here’s a replay:

By now you’ve booked a flight to Seoul and started to take Korean lessons to order everything at I’m Home, yes? Hold on, my friend. Finish my post! Because there’s still more to talk about…

The cakes. Right as you enter, there is a large display of cakes. As Dave Niehaus, the late and great voice of the Seattle Mariners would say, My, Oh My. Here they are, no words necessary:

Espresso pave chocolat, September 2010
Earlgrey chocolat cake, Thanksgiving 2010
Earlgrey chocolat cake, Thanksgiving 2010, with flash
Dark chocolate cake, December 2010 (iPhone version)
Dark chocolate cake, December 2010 (camera version)
Fondant chocolat with green tea ice cream, May 2011
Candle burning beside a huge milk patbingsu, September 2011

A little bit about the interior. After you stop looking at the cakes, you might see that there is seating to your right and to your left. To your right are chairs and tables, with cozy decorations and ambiance. There is also a section where you can take your shoes off and sit on the floor to eat your desserts or drink your coffee. To your left is a separate seating area with a number of tables, and this is connected to the smoking area which faces the street. This smoking area (yuck) is open to the street when the weather is warm, and wrapped in plastic the rest of the year. The ambiance is pleasant, relaxing. A bit on the dark side, especially on the left side. But that plays into the mood, as I’m Home seems to have become a prime place to take your date. There were many obvious dates going on almost every time that I went.

Candles help set mood lighting for dates
Another decorative candle to set the mood

I took many friends there, and a girlfriend too. Universal rave reviews. I even had the bonus of a friend starting to work there in early 2012. I’m sure I’m Home will have a long life at its location.

I’m Home is on the first block of the Jukjeon café street. Interestingly, it’s technically in Bojeong-dong, but it’s close enough to Jukjeon station that the name has stuck. It’s quite close to Jukjeon station, but cumbersome to get to because of the Shinsegae and the E-Mart and the way the streets and the traffic flow works. You have to go around and behind the stores to the stream, cross the stream’s first branch, and then cross the stream again and climb up to a park. Past the skate park, you’ll start to see all the cafés as you approach. Coming from the metro, it’s on the left side at the end of the first block. Here is a Google Map. And here is a Naver Map.

The Jukjeon café street is actually a number of blocks. There’s the main street but also intersecting streets, and you can find cafés and restaurants everywhere you turn. The street has an airy, almost European feel to it. Pedestrians only down the middle, cars allowed in the intersecting streets. It’s beautiful in the spring when the trees come to life as well as the kids playing outside. But it’s a great place to visit during all four seasons. I’ll have a lot more postings based here at the Jukjeon café street.

Jukjeon café street, empty because of the heat, August 2011
I’m Home decorated for winter, January 2011

I only have two complaints about I’m Home. But they’re minimal things that don’t distract from the final rating. First, I once ordered wine with some friends. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very good, so I didn’t try that again. Second, they closed for remodeling in February 2011. The side with the floor seating was kept virtually the same, but the other side now seemed emptier and less cozy than before. There were the same amount of tables, but something in the colors or the decorations didn’t seem right. But again, not a big deal.

Three more pictures before closing comments.

I’m Home napkin, May 2010
Wine bottles at I’m Home, December 2010
I’m Home sticker

I’m Home exquisitely combines the best of both worlds. Awesome coffee drinks. Super awesome chocolate desserts. It’s almost reason enough to live in Korea.

Final verdict:  ********** (yes, the normal maximum is 5. these 10 stars mean i hope that I’m Home opens in heaven or the afterlife)

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Update! – June 29, 2013

I walked by I’m Home earlier this month. There was a big banner hanging outside, proclaiming that a new I’m Home would be “openning soon”!

I'm Home will have a second location opening soon! in Unjung-dong...
I’m Home will have a second location opening soon! in Unjung-dong…

Yay! And sigh.

Why sigh? Because I kind of admired I’m Home for these few years in being highly popular, but remaining independent and unique. So many other cafés in Korea would have quickly opened a 2nd or 3rd location or become a national franchise if they were as popular as I’m Home. But I never saw a hint or an inkling that this was in their plans. But now they seem to have succumbed to the expansion itch. Does this mean that they will try to become a national and international chain? Or will they purposely remain small and controllable, and a special place in special neighborhoods? We will see.

The interesting factor is the location of what for now I will call “I’m Home 2”. It’s not Gangnam or Hongdae or another similar famous place with high visibility and population density and visitors. Far from it. It’s far away from most people’s radars, and far from any metro station, in Unjung-dong. Unjung-dong is a part of Pangyo, the new development area west of Bundang, specifically west of Seohyeon on the Bundang Line as well as the relatively new Pangyo station on the Sinbundang Line, on the mountain road to Anyang. It’s kind of a secret neighborhood that most people don’t know about. I discovered it quite by accident while driving one day in October 2010, while it was early in its construction phase. But even then, it had the beginnings of a café street, and I enjoyed going there a few times, specifically to the De Chocolate there. Unjung-dong’s café street was and is very quiet, but it has the great benefit of being right beside and overlooking a beautiful (though small) wetland park, as well as a small stream. I’m Home 2 is being built east of this café street… we could call it Unjung-dong café street 2 or the eastern section of the Unjung-dong café street; I’m not sure how Unjung-dong considers it. Anyway, I tried to visit I’m Home 2 about 10 days after it was scheduled to be open.

I'm Home, 2nd location, seen from across the Unjung-dong wetlands and stream, June 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location, seen from across the Unjung-dong wetlands and stream, June 2013

But…

I'm Home, 2nd location, still under construction, June 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location, still under construction, June 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location, still under construction, June 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location, still under construction, June 2013

…it was still under construction.

Still, construction in Korea is usually ultra-fast, so it might actually be open by now. I will definitely try to visit again in July. When I do, and I have some time, I’ll update this post again. I’m Home 2… yay!

Now, will it fare well in Unjung-dong? Is this a brilliant plan on the part of the ownership? Is this a statement that they are not really interested in commercialization? Will legions of devoted I’m Home fans flock to Unjung-dong to check it out? Will this be the café that puts Unjung-dong on the map? Do Unjung-dongians realize how supremely lucky they are? Time will tell.

Here is a Google Map for I’m Home 2.

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Update! – July 28, 2013

written from I’m Home 2! ^^

So yes, I’m Home 2 finally opened! I’m sitting here on a relatively cool (for a Korean summer), slightly rainy, and very humid day. It’s a relaxing Sunday, so I came here after going to try the patbingsu at the excellent Square Garden Coffee in Seoraemaeul, the small French district in Seoul. I figured that I’m Home 2 must finally be open by now, and sure enough, when I arrived in Unjung-dong, I saw that it was.

I'm Home, 2nd location, in Unjung-dong, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location, in Unjung-dong, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location, in Unjung-dong, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location, in Unjung-dong, July 2013

After a regretfully short walk (any more and I might have melted from the humidity) around the relaxing stream, I approached I’m Home 2 and took a quick look around from the outside. As expected, since Unjung-dong is still pretty empty, there weren’t many people there. I also arrived around 5:30pm. Well, that made it easier to inspect the location and take lots of pictures. The kitchen is in the center, and surrounded by a wide variety of tables and chairs. All of them are very stylish and comfortable. The employees seem a little… serious. At the original I’m Home, they were always very friendly and welcoming. {By the time I paid and left, they were more cheerful and friendly}. There are a few decorations with a “home” theme, as well as a large treasure chest or trunk. Unlike the original I’m Home, there is no floor seating area, but there is a cozy living room-like section behind the kitchen. It’s a snazzy looking place!

I'm Home, 2nd location - Menu, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Menu, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - Wall decoration, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Wall decoration, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - Cozy living room, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Cozy living room, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - Looking outside, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Looking outside, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - Menu, coffee page, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Menu, coffee page, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - Menu, cake pictures page, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Menu, cake pictures page, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - Cakes!, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Cakes!, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - Table and chairs, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Table and chairs, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - "HomE" decoration, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – “HomE” decoration, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - Napkin with new logo, fork, and spoon, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Napkin with new logo, fork, and spoon, July 2013

I’m having a drink which I haven’t tried before, a marshmallow latte. Three large marshmallows at the top concealed and insulated the tasty latte below. To accompany the latte, I got an old standby, the dark chocolat cake. I can confirm that it’s just as delicious as at the original I’m Home.

I'm Home, 2nd location - Marshmallow latte, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Marshmallow latte, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - Dark chocolat cake, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Dark chocolat cake, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - Dark chocolat cake and marshmallow latte, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Dark chocolat cake and marshmallow latte, July 2013

One unfortunate note. The building is brand new; the construction is brand new; the café is brand new. Unfortunately, they went old-school with the lighting. In other words, they chose to decorate with a plethora of archaic incandescent light bulbs. Now, old-school is good in many cases, but to open a new café with power-hungry light bulbs this year in particular is quite disappointing. Korea is going through an energy crisis this summer because of questionable parts at nuclear power plants. So, citizens have been constantly urged to save energy. All public buildings, including schools (where I work!) can’t set their air conditioners below certain levels, and industries have been urged to use less power. You can even track how close the country is to running out of electricity. The government even decided to ban incandescent light bulbs starting next year in order to save energy. So why is fashionable, trendy I’m Home 2 snubbing its nose at Korea’s crisis, Koreans, and the environment? It’s a mystery to me. I’ve noticed that all new Starbucks are filled with LED light bulbs, the super-efficient modern alternatives that produce only light, no heat, and do not have mercury in them. To illuminate a place with LED light bulbs isn’t even progressive any more, it’s the new standard. I’m Home 2 is way behind the curve with this. Hopefully they will reconsider. In the pictures below, you can see a light wall of incandescent light bulbs at the entrance. It’s really warm to stand beside it; very uncomfortable on during a hot summer such as this. 😦 There are also rows of incandescent light bulbs all around the kitchen area.

I'm Home, 2nd location - Small incandescent light bulb wall at the entrance, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Small incandescent light bulb wall at the entrance, July 2013
I'm Home, 2nd location - Small incandescent light bulb wall at the entrance, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location – Small incandescent light bulb wall at the entrance, July 2013
LED light bulb advertisement at Sindorim station, July 2013
LED light bulb advertisement at Sindorim station, July 2013

That’s it! Time will tell how I’m Home adapts to its new neighborhood, or how well its neighborhood takes to it. I wish it well, and might visit I’m Home 2 again someday. But for now I’ll stick to the original. And I hope they update their lighting! ^^

Here’s one last view of the exterior at night in the rain:

I'm Home, 2nd location, lit up on a rainy night, July 2013
I’m Home, 2nd location, lit up on a rainy night, July 2013

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8 thoughts on “I’m Home (Jukjeon café street)”

  1. I’m literally sitting here, drooling and hoping to heck that my language group people cancel so I can go there tonight! Your post was filled with love as it should be! But I’m surprised you’d never had a chocolate fondant cake (or lava cake as they’re sometimes called). It’s not that uncommon in restaurants, but it’s hardly ever done right. They always have too much sugar in them and the cake part is usually overdone. But maybe I’ll give I’m Home’s a try! They’ve never failed me yet…

    1. haha thanks Maria. i hope you make it tonight! especially since it’s friday there already, it would make a great end to the week.
      you know, maybe it’s just that i never chose it from the menu, or by chance i never went to a restaurant that had it. but it could also be that it didn’t reach Seattle while i was living here? according to Wikipedia, the lava cake s possibly a recent East Coast invention, from 1987. or possibly French from before that, but non-existent here in the US. and just like good cafés started appearing in New York City only about 10 years ago, i think the hot cake concept just started catching on recently in the West Coast. the former head chef at one my of my favorite (and not far from my house!) chocolate companies, Theo ( http://www.theochocolate.com ), recently opened her own store, Hot Cakes ( http://www.getyourhotcakes.com ) to much acclaim here in Seattle. i went there a month ago, with high expectations. the molten chocolate cake was good, but not as good as I’m Home’s fondant chocolat!
      have a great weekend! ^^

  2. What a post. You’ve got me craving for chocolate when I’m supposed to be on my post-holiday diet. I actually got to visit I’m Home last November, but we weren’t able to stay long and only got to try a few cakes – I should’ve ordered a drink too! Torn between the Dark Chocolate Frap and the Espresso Chocolat Chau. Need to come back here the next time I’m in South Korea.

    Great (and sinful!) post! ^ ^

    Daene | filipinainflipflops.com

  3. Awesome! Been living in the Seoul area 3 1/2 years and never heard there was much to check out in the Jukjeon area until I read this blog article. Definitely going to check it out soon. Thanks for writing the blog!

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