Buk-kyung Ban-jam (Beijing Chinese Food): Mid-Range Chinese Place in Yeouido
The first time I came here was with 2 GIs. The owners thought we had no idea how to speak/read Korean so he tried to shoo us away saying "No English." (it's a pretty logical idea...how can he serve us?). That was fine, we just sat down. I knew the drill when it came to ordering, anyways. Once Koreans see that you can get by with their language they really start to open up--even if opening up means giving you free food, which they did.
This place is like so many other mid-priced Chinese food restaurants in Seoul. Their delivery boys were constantly darting in and out with their iron boxes (these guys are literllay called "jja-jung-myoung guys" because that is the usual order). What was different is they offered chair-seating (which most Chinese places have) as well as Korean/floor seating (which is rare for Chinese places here). It isn't fancy, but the food was good, served quickly and with a smile.
Favorite Dish: As always, the usual suspects: Sam-sun bok-eum-bap (seafood and rice with blackbean sauce, 4,000 won (USD 3.50)), jja-jung-myoung (noodles and blackebean sauce, 3,500 won (USD 3)) and deepfried mandoo (free with a big order!).
Don Valley Beef & Pork Korean Restaurant: What a Surprise!
The food here was really, really good: maybe because it was my breakfast. The place is located right across from the Hamilton Hotel in the middle of the Itaewon club district and is open until about 7am. Even at that time 5 tables were full!
Ambiance is minimalist. Concrete floor, bacis tables and chairs and an open, airy feel makes you think it could be converted to a nightclub in about 10 minutes.
Staff are fluent in English and Japanese (if the business cards are any indication). And service is fast, fast, fast. It's a cook-at-the-table place and the staff do all the work for you.
Favorite Dish: I had the Beef Kalbi--it was great. Really good meat and well-seasoned. Sidedishes were ample and tasty as well.
The price, however, was a shocker. The menu says it's 'for two' and notes 17,000 won (USD 15) for the kalbi...but the bill is 17,000 x 2 (plus 1,000 won each for extra rice). Well, it was worth it, not much more than other places for that quality, but (like I said) was a bit of a surprise.
Bok Chung: Recommended by the Westin Chosun Hotel
I first went here quite a while ago--showing out-og-town business guests the town. Didn't know much about Myeoung-Dong back then, so got a tip from the Westin Chosun Hotel (where they were staying).
Bok Chung is pretty well hidden down an alley, but the food was good, the service was friendly and the pricing was pretty good (they even did well in humoring my guests as they proceeded from stone sober to blitheringly drunk).
Favorite Dish: We had the Kalbi...wrapped in lettuce with rice and garlic and sam-jang (hot bean paste). Mmmmmmmmm...good.
Ga-deun Ok (Garden Jade, I think): Service, service, service.
Recently renovated, this spot has traditional (floor) seating and tables (private rooms available on the floor). The grills in the tables have telescoping hoses that drop down to suck up the smoke (which is a nice touch).
One thing about Korea, though, is you can get away with a lot as a foreigner and/or customer. We were told to go to a table that was not large enough for our group so automatically we had some leverage. (Korean business owners like to compensate customers for any inconvenience.) So, where we eventually sat there was a shelf and on it were six boxes. Each box (we took a look) had 6 Baek-say-joo (see my tip on Booze in Korea in Local Customs) glasses. As we left, one of the guys said that the foreigner would like some of the glasses. Maybe one box. (The restaurant probably got them as a promotion, anyways.) The owner went one better (Koreans can't give just one of something) and gave me TWO boxes! Only in Korea.
Favorite Dish: The menu is a line-up of Korean favorites: kalbi-tang (beef soup), nay-ng myoung (noodles) as well as kalbi and such. I had the kalbi-tang last time, not bad at all (and good for the cold I had at the time).
Bok Myung Seo (no idea on translation): One of the 1000s of Chinese Food Places in Seoul
This place is similar to the many Chinese restaurants in Seoul...but is a little more high-class than some of the others. There are a few private rooms (seating = 20) and the searvice is pretty fast. They also, as per Korean way, give you free deep-fried mandoo (dumplings) if 3-4 or more people come together (not that you could ever eat that much food, but they do give it to you).
Favorite Dish: My favs at Chinese places here are Samsun Bok-um-bok (Rice and seafood with blackbean paste sauce) and Ja-jyung-myung (noodles and blackbean paste sauce) as well as Tang-si-eul (sweet and sour deep-fried chicken strips). These are available at every restaurant--so I/you don't even have to read the menu!
Hudson Restaurant: Good Little Hof Near Olympic Park
When I lived in the 88 Olympic Athletes' Village Apartments one of my favorite (read: most like home in the area, for a good price) place was Hudson. No one speaks English and the menus are in Hangul as well, but the food is pretty predictable and, being a creature of convenience, I liked that it was so close to my place.
The plaza is a great place to bring kids, as well. There are bumper cars and inlnie skates and bikes to rent and also a Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robins (inside the mall) as well as lots of other shops to take a look in.
Favorite Dish: Ton-kkat-su (pork cutlet) and spaghetti (not bad for a Korean joint). Prices are about 7,000 won (USD 6) to 9,000 won a plate.
Ali Baba: The Only Place in Seoul for a Hookah
It's a pretty cool place, kind like being home (in North America) where the immigrants speak English (the staff have great English, especially compared to the Korean-run places).
It's up an incredibly steep flight of stairs, but the ambiance is quite nice. They got the Islam-prayer channel on TV and no alcohol is served during Ramadan...never seen that before (and I thought I was worldly).
Favorite Dish: Tried the falafels (first time, really) and tea as well as vanilla hookah. Very interesting. Tasty, too.
Sya-reu-reu Shabeu Shabeu: Shabu Shabu Near Gwangwhamoon
The name is written in the old way...nowadays we'd promounce it as Sa-lu-lu Shabu Shabu...but no matter.
A nice little place that serves you A LOT of food (well, it is the Korean way). It's a make-it-at-your-table place with the fire and pot right in front of you; which I like because it makes waiting for your meal to cook a little easier.
There is a certain order to drowning the veggies, meat and noodles in the boiling broth and although the staff are light on English things get through to us block-headed foreigners.
Bring a full stomach. Cost is about 10,000 won (USD9) a person for lunch.
Favorite Dish: Well, the Shabu Shabu is the only thing I've ever tried. Quite good.
Hanbang Daega Samgyaetang: (A Whole) Chicken-in-a-Bowl
Too bad we can't do Hangul text on this...because the name if this place's specialty is written as Samgaetang, Samgyetang and Samgyaetang depending on who is spelling it (but it's always the same in Korean text).
Anyways, this is nice place. Very new, open since Nov 03, and they make the famous Hanbang Samgyaetang (it has additional ingredients that are good for health, as they say). The sidedishes are quite hot (at least I thought so before...so either my taste has changed or they toned them down).
Favorite Dish: Sam means ginsing; gyae means chicken; tang means soup...thus many foreigners call it ginsing chicken soup (but you can call it by its Korean name now!). Basically, it's a small chicken stuffed with rice, ginsing and other roots and nuts brought to a boil and cooked in a heavy bowl. You'll get a small dish to put salt and pepper in (dip the chicken in it as you eat it), another larger bowl for cooling portions (it's literally boiling hot when served) and another (stainless steel) bowl to put the bones and whatnot into as you eat. When you first have this it's tough to eat, but after a while you can get it down to the bare bones.
The full treatment (Hanbang Samgyaetang with a whole chicken) is 10,000 won (USD 8.75), or you can get a half (chicken) portion for 5,500. There are other chi-gae dishes and such as well, but I've never tried them.
La Salsa Loca: Pricey Tacos!
Can I review a place I didn't even eat at? Sure, why not? This place is brand new in Yeouido. It's staff speaks some English and I think it's the only Mexican place in town. (Seriously, I haven't seen any others!)
When I entered La Salsa Loca it was the height of lunchtime. Only a few patrons were there, though. Odd; usually Korean restaurants are packed for at least the first few weeks and especially at lunch.
The food on the overhead menus looked good. Salads, tacos, burritos...but then the prices. The lowest was like 9,000 won (USD 8) and went up to 14,000 won. Huh? A little steep for lunch. My bud just wanted to leave and go to Subway (located in B1 of Hana Securities Building) where we could both eat for about 10,000 won.
Maybe I'll go back for dinner later, if they are still in business.
UPDATE: They just gave me a 15% discount coupon when I was outside the restaurant with friends. We had another place to go....but at least the prices would be better. The coupon extoled the virtues of their fresh and tasty ingredients...which made me more positive on it. Maybe I will try it soon.
Favorite Dish: Never tried.
The Many Western Food Places at Seoul Station: Seoul Station = A Piece of Home!
The new Seoul Station is massive (especially compared to the old one, which will soon be a Lotte Mart discount store). It has a department store (Concos is the name); good Chinese, Korean and Japanese restaurants; a food court and outlet of many popular Korean and Wester chains.
The chains include: Bennigan's, Cafe Pascucci, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Pizza Hut and others.
So if you're craving a taste of home and want to do a little shopping (or if you're catching a train or KTX) check out the new Seoul Station.
Royal Host in Seo (West) Yeoudio: Royal Host? I Don't Think So!
The first time I tried this place was for a sub. It was pre-made a few hours earlier (I bought it in later afternoon, so kind of expected that) so was soggy...not that good.
Second time was this morning for breakfast. 2,000 won (USD 1.75) for a "toast" (Koreans call a Monte, or toasted sandwich with egg, meat, etc. toast and serve it on many street corners as well) and coffee sounded like a good deal.
However, the bread was salted (or something), the meat was bologne-type (lips and butts, as my dad calls it) and it was (again) pre-made so a little damp again. Also, I think the coffee was made from tapwater (which is not a good idea, you can still taste the crud in it--see my tip on water).
One interesting thing, and likely the reason they do not serve alcohol, is the seating up up (some incredibly steep) stairs with a low roof and tiny window.
Something funny: on the napkins it says "Caution Contents Hot"?!?!? Huh? Isn't that supposed to be on the cup? What is in this napkin that's so hot? Sounds like an entry into www.engrish.com
So that's it. If you're in Yeouido pass on this place...there are many other good places nearby.
Favorite Dish: Nothing, really.
Seoul Sohn (Handmade) Mandu: Some Pretty Good Kalgooksoo
The specialty here is mandu (boiled dumplings) but I like their Kal-gook-soo as well. The noodles are handmade (they have a demonstartion of this on the top floor of the Lotte Department Store in Jamshil, if you're interested) and the soup is 100% natural (no preservatives or anything artificial). Cost is 4,500 won (USD 4) and the rest of the menu is similarly priced.
Another item on the menu (which is on the wall and 100% Hangul) is Gom-Tang. If you know Korean you may be thinking that Gom-Tang is Bear Soup (that is the literal translation) but in this case gom means 'boiled' and is similar to Sallangtang (or Beef-boiled-within-an-inch-of-its-life Soup).
I believe it's also open on Sunday (one of the few places in Yeouido that is open that day).
Favorite Dish: The Kalgooksoo was great.
Seo-Do (means Calligraphy or North-Western Area): 3 Layer Fat? NO! FIVE Layer Fat!
The whole place is floor-sitting. First time I went we got 'service' (free stuff) in the form of alcohol and Coke. Pretty cool. The staff and menus are pure Korean, so I'd just order the Favs below if I were you (Oh-gyup-sal and Oh-ship-say-ju).
Favorite Dish: Oh(5)-Gyup-Sal...and Soju. Prices are good (2 people with soju just 20,000 (USD 17.50)or so.
Oh-gyup-sal is literally "5-layers-of-fat-pork" and usually comes from Cheju/Jeju-do (Island). The norm is 3 layers, but this kind is the rarer variety (even many Koreans don't have it often). It's cooked on a piece of slate (or something) that is placed on a burner right on your table!
It goes well with Oh-Ship-Say-Ju (50-year alcohol) which is a 50/50 mix of Soju and Baek-Say-Ju (100-year alcohol). This is another rarity that some Koreans may not know about (but they DO like it, a lot).
The Ninth Gate (Westin Chosun): Good Place for a Private Business Breakfast
I've been here several times for business breakfasts as many visitors stay at the Chosun and, even if you're not staying there, you can reserve private rooms (8 seats) for breakfast (or any other meal, I imagine). I believe there is a minimum charge, we always ordered the American Breakfast for about 30,000 won (USD 26) each.
It was quite good, and the room has a call-button so you can summon the waiter. English is spoken and you can have the room for as long as 2 hours (that's my record).
Hours are: breakfast: 7-10am; lunch: noon-2:30; dinner: 6-10:30.
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