“Let’s Eat” is like a sweet cake that you sink your teeth into, leaving you with a warm fuzzy feeling and a newfound appreciation for food.
Genre: Romance, food, family
Synopsis: Both seasons revolve around Gu Dae Young (played by Yoon Doo Joon), a bachelor who moves into a new neighbourhood and bonds with his neighbours, who also live alone, over food.
I don’t usually watch rom-coms or dramas that deal with everyday life, but I do want to take a break from all the action and crime dramas occasionally. But that is just one reason why I made this unlikely choice. After watching the adorable mini drama “Splash Splash Love”, I decided I needed more of Yoon Doo Joon, so this series was an obvious choice since he stars as the lead here (he hasn’t acted in many shows to begin with, since he is an idol singer). To my surprise, this seemingly mundane series about food and everything under the sun turned out to be a light and refreshing watch that I enjoyed. And I’m not even a foodie.
In fact, I once considered eating meals a waste of time, which would certainly annoy Gu Dae Young and launch him into his food tirade that he does constantly throughout the series. Seeing him rattling off all his immense knowledge and philosophy about food is one of the quirky traits of this drama that I loved.
The drama had a lot of repetitive elements (Gu Dae Young’s food lectures being one of them), such that it seemed more like a sitcom or Gag Concert skit at times, but the repetition wasn’t annoying as it was done for comedic effect and to also highlight the unique personality traits of the various character. Besides retaining the male lead for both seasons, the repetition of elements across both seasons also helped strengthen the style and character of the “Let’s Eat” series. Just like how a cook uses the same base ingredients for all dishes under his restaurant’s name. Both seasons had a quirky female lead with an insatiable appetite for food, a smart and adorable dog who seemed to behave like a human at times, an annoying colleague who brags and thinks too highly of herself, the pretty and seemingly naive young girl next door, and a sinister character who brings mystery and suspense to an otherwise fluffy drama. If a third season ever gets made, I would expect some of these elements again, because they define the “Let’s Eat” brand.
While the winning formula served well in both seasons, I preferred the first season a little more, partly because the sequel seemed to focus more on the romance and the food appreciation took a back seat. Season 1 was almost like a tribute to Korean gastronomy, with the story of singles bonding over food thrown in to give the show added depth. But the food scenes in season 2 seemed contrived at times, with food appearing in a dream sequence or during unimportant conversations. The product placement was not as discreet too. The pacing of the second season was noticeably slower towards the end when the love triangle began and the number of flashbacks increased.
Interestingly, season 2 touched on how the government’s controversial decision to move its administrative agencies to Sejong city has an impact on the family and social well-being of its civil servants. As workers are forced to commute from Seoul to Sejong, family members end up living apart and spend less time with one another. The displaced individual also finds him/herself in an unfamiliar city with no friends. I’ve not been to Sejong, but based on the drama, Sejong city seems to lack the vibrant nightlife and shopping that you can find in Seoul. At first glance, the drama seems to be implicitly criticising this move, but it later strikes a balance by showing that workers can still find joy in their situation by making friends with others in their neighbourhood. If you look on the bright side, living outside Seoul also means you get to escape the noise of the city and rent a larger unit for the same price. As a foreigner and someone who lives in a small country, this is an interesting social issue that is brought to my attention thanks to this drama.
On the other hand, I personally found the female lead in both seasons annoying. They seemed to lack self-control when it comes to food, and tactless when it comes to dealing with relationships, thereby making silly decisions that landed them in embarrassing situations. Season one’s Lee Soo Kyung (played by Lee Soo Kyung) was overly suspicious and thought the worst of everyone, while season two’s Baek Soo Ji (played by Seo Hyun Jin) kept having random bursts of excitement in public and made impractical decisions, hence ending up spending beyond her means. Granted, these are flaws that anyone can have (myself included), and it certainly wasn’t the writer’s fault to write the characters these way. But such people are likely to make me annoyed in reality, so I couldn’t help but get annoyed with the female leads while watching the show. I guess I took the show too personally.
But overall, I think the series stands out with its unique concept of using food as the central theme, and the heartwarming, fuzzy feeling we get at the end of each season when the lonely singles bond together over time. Living in the city, it is easy to get isolated when one gets too preoccupied with work and electronic gadgets. “Let’s Eat” tries to prove that it is possible to regain that lost sense of village-style community spirit if we open our hearts and make the effort to interact and understand our neighbours. And food is one such catalyst. And of course, I no longer think eating is a waste of time.
A feel-good series that can be enjoyed by anyone, even if you are not a food lover, since there is also plenty of comedy and romance. Have fun spotting some surprise cameos too!
I’m reviewing both seasons together since I marathoned them at one shot.