Adding to the mix of new dramas is MBC’s Dinner Mate, starring Seo Ji-Hye as Woo Do-Hee, a member in the planning team of a Youtube channel 2N Box, and Song Seung-Heon as Dr Kim Hae-Kyung, a psychiatrist who takes his clients out for dinner as therapy. Lee Ji-Hoon and Son Na-Eun also star as Do-Hee and Hae-Kyung’s first loves respectively, but we have not really met them in the first week, except for Son Na-Eun’s character, Ji No-Eul, through flashbacks.
At the heart of Dinner Mate is the simple belief that we share food and have meals together with people that we love. Food and meals certainly feature a lot within the first episode as we start off with Do-Hee recalling the opening scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s where Holly Golightly stands in front of a jewelry window eating a croissant and sipping coffee. We immediately switch to a less-than-ideal meal between Young-dong (played by Kim Jung-hyun) and Do-Hee, where he over-peppers her steak before awkwardly feeding it to her. She researches recipes to cook for him, as a sign of her love for him.
Hae-Kyung is a psychiatrist who believes in diet counselling and helps his patients by having meals with them. He flies all the way to Jeju to have dinner with a client and meets Do-Hee on the flight. She’s all excited as she thinks Young-dong is going to propose to her in Jeju, so she buys all sorts of good food to cook at the supermarket. However, she reaches the same restaurant that Hae-Kyung and his client are at, only to realise that Young-dong is proposing to someone else and wants to end it with her. He tells her he’s leaving her because he stopped enjoying meals with her and found them a chore.
In a hilarious turn of events, the patrons at the restaurant ask Hae-Kyung to help Do-Hee and cheer him on as he pursues her. He finds her at the water’s edge and thinks she’s going to jump off. As he runs to stop her, she turns away to avoid him, which results in him falling over and getting a concussion. He ends up in the hospital and Do-Hee watches over him until he awakens. Do-Hee helps him to get to the airport to catch his flight, but he is too late and remembering what he saw about Do-Hee earlier, goes out of the airport and invites her to have dinner together with him.
Dinner Mates is so charming because it’s such a light-hearted and easy show to watch. Our two leads are very well-fleshed out and the storyline is simple and straightforward, where two people with very different lives come together to find love and healing. The first two episodes plant the seeds for a very convincing and meaningful romance, as we see that both Do-Hee and Hae-Kyung have been hurt by past relationships. Yet it’s also super fun to see both of them together as they are so different in their personalities and way of life.
The third and fourth episodes really bring on the laughs as we see Hae-Kyung cruelly turning down Do-Hee’s dinner invitation by telling her they’ll meet at 8 p.m. at the fish market when Tae Jin-Ah’s song becomes a number one hit. She’s offended by this and interestingly enough, when she goes back to Seoul, she seems more bothered by how Hae-Kyung turned her down so offensively, rather than by Young-dong dumping her. Do-hee being tasked by her boss to get Dr Kim on 2N Box leads to a series of extremely heated (and hilarious) email exchanges. To both their surprise, Tae Jin-Ah’s song actually becomes number one due to a virus, and the fourth episode ends with them meeting at the fish market.
Dinner Mate has definitely started off well with two very likable yet flawed main characters and a good mix of humorous and sweet scenes. Their growing friendship is nicely developed, with a good mix of coincidences yet intentional decisions on each other’s part. Seo Ji-Hye and Song Seung-heon are good in their roles and they have great chemistry. I’m looking forward to more of their adventures together!