I was sad beyond words when this beautiful, eloquent Korean drama Late Night Restaurant ended, yet thrilled it had an upbeat, happy ending. Twenty episodes was just not enough! There just has to be a second season! Pretty please, Korea, with a Cherry on top? I watched the Japanese version called Midnight Diner on Netflix after watching the exceptional Korean drama and while it was nice it couldn't compare one iota to the Korean version!
The Full Fantastic OST
I was watching the drama with my oldest daughter the whole time, since she loves to cook, and we both loved every minute of this show; we laughed, grinned, and got teary-eyed when appropriate. I mean, what else can you do but tear up when one of the regular supporting characters, who added so much to this show in the way of humor, bows to the audience at the end of the drama and says humbly, "Thank you for loving the fat girl". Where is the humility like that in American actors? I'll tell you ... nowhere!
Master (Kim Seung Woo)
Imagine the American show Cheers, but the setting is a quiet restaurant rather than a rowdy bar, and much more charming than the American show, with far more endearing, heartfelt characters to love, and you'll begin to understand how special this drama is; however, you won't understand completely until you immerse yourself in it. All the tender moments, sad moments, funny moments, wistful moments, spooky moments, surprising moments, loving moments, combine into one beautiful "meal" you share with people in the drama, who immediately start to feel like family to you. This is the special charm of Late Night Restaurant.
Cherry and Doong-nyeo develop
a fast and interesting relationship
The Story: "Master" (wonderful actor Kim Seung Woo from IRIS and Miss Ripley) is a master chef who owns his own small restaurant in Seoul which is only open at night, "until morning comes", and his restaurant has no menu. Whatever a patron wants to eat he will make it for them, whether it's fish, meat, pasta, rice, eggs, or a special dessert or salad. Wouldn't you love to have a place like that near your home on those nights you have insomnia and would love to see friendly faces, have a drink or a bowl of soup or salad, instead of tossing and turning all night in a futile attempt to sleep?
Gossipy Mr. Kim and Dopali,
Regulars, sizing up a girl's "merits"
Cliff and Norm from Cheers? LOL
The place, simply called Restaurant from a wooden sign on the front of the building, quickly fills up each night with patrons who are regulars and become close friends over good food and conversation: from a chubby manga artist named Doong-nyeo (actress Park Jun Myeon who was so funny in the film I'm A Cyborg But That's Okay); a reserved, quiet gangster type named Ryu (Choi Jae Sung) and his big walrus-sized sidekick Deongchi (Son Sang Kyung); a paperboy trying hard to save for college, named Min Woo (Nam Tae Hyun from Midnight Girl), who actually might be connected to gangster Ryu in some mysterious way; a pretty lady hostess at a bar named Cherry (Kang Seo Yun) who gets a lot of teasing for being so skinny from two good male friends who like to tease each other too: an Oriental medicine doctor named Dolpali (Joo Won Seong) and married night office worker Mr. Kim (Jung Han Hun) who calls his buddy "Quack"; three single female office workers who have been inseparable girl friends for years and who meet every night after work at the restaurant to eat the Master's specialty noodles, Yeolmoogooksoo (Son Hwa Ryung), Janchigooksoo (Ban Min Jung), and Bibimgooksoo (Jang Hee Jung).
Min Woo and Ryu - an unlikely friendship?
Most of these characters are focused on to some extent during the show, so we get to know them very well as people. For instance, the "noodle girls" all desperately want boyfriends but have no luck in that department, when it looks like one has found a boyfriend the other two become jealous; the paperboy Min Woo is basically penniless and needs financial assistance and a surrogate father, if possible; the chubby lady cartoonist keeps going on diets that fail miserably; the gangsters at first try to muscle arm their way into the restaurant but Master teaches them that's not acceptable behavior in his place; Mr. Kim (a "Cliff" character from Cheers if there ever was one!) seems too full of himself to admit he may not be the best husband in the world; and pretty Cherry tries to keep her real job as a bar hostess a secret so she isn't looked down upon by the others.
Everyone seems to mature as people the longer they visit the restaurant. As for Master, he remains the biggest mystery of all. For instance, when a patron asks him how he got the scar over his eye, he answers simply, "I don't know", which in his world means, "I don't feel like telling you." One gets the feeling he might have had a violent past and now his restaurant is his real home and safe haven away from his former life. He's not married or attached in any way, which makes him even more of a mystery. He seems to feel an attraction to one of the guest star characters, but you'll have to watch the show to see that develop for yourself. ;)
Gyu Ri Nam from 49 Days telling Master
about her unrequited love - I think this was
the best written of all the episodes.
Most of the episodes have guest stars, and if you're familiar with a lot of K-dramas you will recognize many of these actors and actresses: handsome Oh Ji Ho, from Chuno, playing a man in his early 40's named Sung Gyun, who wants to wed a girl 20 years his junior, named Hye Ri (Nam Ji Hyun from Angel Eyes) over her parents' stern objections; Ji Jin Hee, from Love Letter, Spotlight, playing a single father and magician named Young Sik, whose tiny daughter named Saet Byeol (Kang Ji Woo, the adorable little actress who played the youngest child in The Suspicious Housekeeper), doesn't seem to understand that her broken father is very sick and demoralized; Seo Woo (Tamra, The Island, Cinderella's Sister), playing a mysterious character named Hyo Jin, a dentist who only works at night like Master does, and sees every fiancee she has ever had die right before the planned weddings; Lee Young Ha (who played the father in I'm Sorry, I Love You), who is a middle aged guitarist who might have a second chance at love with an old girlfriend; gorgeous Gyu Ri Nam (who played Ji Hyun in 49 Days) playing an office worker in love with her supervisor at work (Lee Shi Un from Falling In Love With Innocence) who only has eyes for another woman; actress Na Bo Ra (Shark, The Moon Embracing The Sun) as a proud young girl pregnant out of wedlock who finally learns to ask for her mother's help and support; Go Younha, who sings the title song, and who plays a musician struggling to become a hit musical artist and composer ... all these stories and others add to the poignancy of this series.
It's lovely to see the Master gently helping them with advice and assistance during their troubles. He's almost like a priest or pastor, dispensing wise advice. He doesn't say much but he is a caring presence nevertheless. He's excellent at companionable silences. Audience members seem to love his unique, non-threatening, and supportive character. He's a good listener and doesn't judge anyone.
Kang Ji Woo and Ji Jin Hee's characters cling to
each other in a world full of stormy unknowns
In the very first episode I cried, when the young man Min Woo talked about how he wanted to grow up to be a person who will help others in trouble. I rarely cry in the first episode of anything, but I did in Late Night Restaurant and it was because of that scene: I was in love with this show from that moment. How many kids today do you know who would want to live their lives helping others instead of promoting themselves?
The most beautiful shot in the whole show;
actress Seo Woo from Tamra The Island mourning
the loss of yet another fiance - gee, I wonder why
they all keep dying???
Nam Ji Hyun from Angel Eyes and
Oh Ji Ho from Chuno - that's some
May - December romance! But!
Who cares? I love them both!
I rarely give an A+ to any drama, at this point in time I've finished 170 and only about 20 K-dramas have earned an A+ grade from me. Late Night Restaurant is one of them, and well deserving of the honor. This is such an amazing series and I think there is an episode or character that really speaks to every individual who watches it.
If you are tired after a long day at work this is the most pleasant way to unwind and relax and smile: watching Late Night Restaurant. It's a tonic to your soul and mind and heart. Enjoy!
LATE NIGHT RESTAURANT PICTURE GALLERY
Min Woo hamming it up before Master
puts on his makeup for the day ...
Go Younha sings the title song
as well as others in episode 19
Moonlight Becomes You