2014 September Seoul, South Korea Restaurant Reviews by ALEDM

NOTE: names and addresses of the restaurants were a big problem for us. Very few displayed English names or addresses. We kind of had to extrapolate or give them our own names. Instead of addresses, guidebooks said “walk 100 meters from exit 5 of subway line 3 and it is on the right.” We always found the places but it wasn’t easy. Our directions or addresses could be very wrong and if, we send you on wild goose chases, we apologize.

We were disappointed not to have tea brought to our tables with our meals. There were tea houses but at restaurants, typically there was no tea, just cold water. Sometimes there was beer, fermented wine and soju (vodka). In Seoul finding restaurants with regular tables and chairs was not too much of a problem. Outside of Seoul (particularly in Wando it was a huge problem). Once in Jeonju, we had a spicy fish stew by the river and sat at a traditional table. 
Audre sitting at a traditional table, using the railing as a backrest
Oh boy, it was uncomfortable and we swore never to do that again.

We practically always share our meals, typically ordering one main for the two of us. It caused consternation but if it was not allowed, we would leave. That makes a big difference in the cost of our meals and the expansion of our waistlines.

Exchange Rate US$1 = Korean Won .00098

ALE and DM discussed adding ratings to our restaurant reviews and compromised on the following ratings:
HR: Highly recommended
R: Recommended
NR: Not recommended
A: Awful
Okay, now the reviews:

1.    Gangnam-gu

1.1.        Seocho-gu

1.1.1.   HR: Norang Jugory or Norang Jeogori, 1316-29, Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu | 5F, Time Bldg., Seoul, South Korea. We had one delicious traditional Korean set menu (sae daek/jeoung shik) and shared it. It cost KRW 22,000 and included many small dish banchan, an appetizer with pickled vegetables and a pancake (jeon), a sesame porridge (called yuk), pancakes, stir fried glass noodles (Japchae), sashimi (called hoe), a salad with a pineapple dressing,  a boiled beef dish, a stew dish, marinated beef slices roasted on a special grill (bulgogi), a white rice and cereal mixture, soybean paste stew (doenjang jigae), a stew with mackerel, and watermelon for dessert with a sweet ginger, cold tea (called sujeonggwa). They brought water (mul) and we asked for hot tea. The woman who spoke English brought us tea that was tasteless. We asked her for Chinese tea and later she brought us a pot of Jasmine tea. Very good and, as we learned, very unusual for a restaurant to serve tea! We spent KRW 22,000 and were very happy and very full.

1.1.2.   R: Sushi Maiu, 7 Seoun-ro 1310-5, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea, tel. 02-533-6330. We had great fun at the counter choosing our sushi from the turning belt. We had one Hukkaegi noodles—a huge soup with udon noodles that was delicious (KRW 6,000), one sea urchin daemaki (KRW3300) and one raw shrimp sushi (KRW3300). We spent KRW 13,000 and we were happy.

1.1.3.   R: Din Tai Fung, Seocho-Dong Branch, 2F Sege Bldg., 1317-31 Seocho-Dong, Seocho-Gu, Seoul, South Korea, tel. 02-569-2778. We had a lovely lunch and, as usual, and ate the dumpling sampler (KRW 15,000). Each dumpling was filled with intensely flavorful soup and was perfectly shaped. The different fillings of the sampler were all delicious. The service was very good and the place is lovely. We asked for and got hot tea (which is uncommon in Seoul). A small dish of pickled vegetables was served (and re-filled). It was also very good. We were happy with our lunch. We spent KRW 15,000. We have been going to Din Tai Fung since we discovered it in 1998 in Taiwan. This one did not disappoint.

1.1.4.   R: Traditional Local in "Shopping Center" on 1 Yangjae-dong (next to the organic health food market) or 184 Seoun-ro 1310-5,  Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea.
We had a soft tofu stew (sundulbu jjigae) and stir fry pork dish (Jeyuk Bokkeum) and stir fried octopus dish and the dishes came with rice and included radish kimchi (khakdugi), stir fried glass noodles (japchae), kimchi turnip, and soy bean paste as the 4 banchan. It was good and it was cheap. Our friend treated us so we don’t know how cheap.

1.1.5.   R: Shinagae Food Court (Underground level of Express Bus Terminal Station, Exit 7, 19-3 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It was a little difficult to figure things out because people didn’t speak English but with a little sign language and help, we did, and we had a good lunch. The table next to ours was full of men our age who spoke English. One was the owner of one of the bibimbap shops and he gave us a sample to try. It was delicious and fun. We spent KRW7,500.

1.1.6.    R: Shinsamyeonok, 10th floor Shinsegae Department Store in Gangnam, 19-3 Banpo-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea.This is a chilled buckwheat noodle (naengmyeon) restaurant well known for its sweet and spicy sauce. The dumplings and bulgogi are also recommended. Holly had Naengmyeon with raw fish KRW 10,000 and Dimitri had the oxtail soup KRW 11,000 which was the special of the day. There were 4 banchan plates: kimchi, diakon pickles, soy beans and pickled spinach. Also served a bowl of rice. All very good. We spent KRW 20,500.

1.1.7.   R: Red Bean Dessert Restaurant, 1316 Seocho 4-Dong, Seocho-Gu, Seocho-Gu, Seoul, 137-074, Korea, South, tel. 02-597-5511. We spent KRW 7,000 for porridge (juk) made of red beans. It was a pleasant space and the people working there were very nice.

1.1.8.   NR: Butterfingers Pancakes, 88-9 Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, tel. 02-3448-1070 (nearSeocho 4-Dong, Seocho-Gu, Seocho-Gu, Seoul).
The music was too loud, the seating was uncomfortable and the food was “over-the-top” expensive. We had 2 orders of pancakes with maple syrup, fruit compote and “original” butter (KRW4,900 each). The pancakes were okay, not particularly good. One order included two pancakes, syrup, a small cup of compote and a small cup of butter or margarine. We spent KRW 9,800 and we were not happy.

1.1.9.   NR: Japanese Restaurant on Food Street, 29 Seocho-Daero  75-gil, Secho Dong, Seocho-gyo, Seoul, South Korea, tel. 02-3481-0068. We had 2 dishes, one was a Japanese curry and the other was a stew. We had rice too. They were not good. We spent KRW 24,000.

1.1.10.                NR: Pasha, 12 Seocho-daero 73-gil, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea, tel. 02-593-8484, www.pashakorea.com.There is a huge salad bar, with soup, appetizers, salads, more salads and some fruit and dessert. We were three people. Dimitri and Audre shared one main of Beyti Yogurt (KRW 22,000) which was described as ground beef flavored with garlic, herbs and spices and char-grilled and filled in pita and sliced, served with special yogurt sauce. It was served with tomatoes and an eggplant salad. It was an okay dish. With the main dish, one free salad bar was provided. Audre was charged KRW15,000 for her trips to the salad bar. Our friend ordered the Pasha Kebab (KRW 27,500) which was described as “chicken, beef, chicken wing mixed kebab for one person.” It was a huge portion and actually would have been enough for the 3 of us. We ordered one special bread-Lavas (KRW 4,500). For dessert, we ordered one Sutlack which was rice pudding cooked in yogurt and chilled (KRW 5,000). We were not impressed with the flavors or preparation of the food. The service was fine and the décor was nice. We spent KRW 74,500 and deemed it not worth it.

1.2.        Shinsa-gu

1.2.1.   HR: Traditional Porridge Restaurant (name on the window) 613-15 Shinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, tel 02-546-9284. It is a wonderful mom and pop place with very few tables. It is traditional and clean and enjoyable. We had one juk with chicken and it was delicious—really as good as we expected. We spent KRW 8,000 and were thrilled. We never found another place like it during our two weeks in Seoul!

1.2.2.   R: Korean traditional rice cakes (name on the window) 613-15 Shinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, tel 02-548-5988, KRW 1,500 for one okay rice cake.

1.2.3.   A: Gaehwaok (661-18, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu | #107, Jeongdong Sangga, Seoul, South Korea, tel. 02-549-1459, on a small street across the street from the Galleria Department Store). This was a very disappointing dinner experience. We went because the “Seoul Dining: Soul food of Seoul, A Delicious Epicurean Journey” published by the Seoul Metropolitan Government described Gaehwaok as having “re-interpreted traditional Korean cuisine.” It was awful. We wanted one Hanoo beef sirloin bulgogi (KRW 29,700). The waitress at first said we had to order two. We told her to ask her superior and she came back and said “okay”. The bulgogi was not inspired and the beef was just okay. The description said that it came with assorted vegetables—it did not. It didn’t even come with rice. The banchan were silly: a tiny piece of steamed corn on the cob that was awful, a tiny piece of purple sweet potato and a tiny piece of something else. When we asked if that was all we were going to get, a small plate of julienned something came out. This was a joke of a meal in a city in which the restaurant food is terrific. We left after paying KRW 29,700 and we do not recommend this restaurant.

1.3.        Gangnam-daero

1.3.1.   R: Korean Traditional Place that opens at 8 a.m. for breakfast, Gangnam-daero 69-gil, tel. 02-3482-7626. We bought one breakfast and one egg custard (KRW 3,000) that you could only buy if you bought a breakfast. The breakfast was a tofu stew and came with kimchi and other side dishes, such as pickled soy beans, tofu and other vegetables. It was good but way too much; the egg custard (gyeranjjim cooked in a stone pot) would have been plenty. We spent KRW 14,000.

1.3.2.   R: Myung in Mandoo, Yeoksam-dong 822-1, Tel: 02-557-9599, www.mi-mandoo.co.kr. We went for breakfast and had three things: dumplings, noodles and dumplings in a soup and a rice cake soup. It was all very good. “Seoul grub” says this: It’s located immediately off exit 8 from Gangnam Station. Their menu is fairly simple, I guess the type of food would be considered “boon-shik”, Grubber translation = comfort food. The front of the restaurant has a pretty cool looking dumpling (or Mandu) cooker, which looks like a diesel exhaust system. The entrance is a walk-thru where you can order right from the sidewalk. They also have a dining area where you can dine in a enjoy your grub indoors. From Seoul Grub: http://www.seoulgrub.com/2011/03/02/korean-dumplings-and-comfort-food-in-gangnam/#more-80 We spent KRW14,000 and had 8 dumplings to take home.

1.3.3.   R: Pyeongan-Do Chapssal Sundae, Gangnam Branch, 820-2 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea, tel. 02-533-3234. On the Chuseok (Thanksgiving) holiday, there were very few traditional Korean restaurants open. This one was and we had a very good meal. There were both high tables and low tables; we of course chose a high one. We were brought 2 banchan, one of which was radish kimchi (khakdugi), and the other may have been a kimchi turnip, a dish of peppers and a dish of soy bean paste sauce. There was also a dish of salt and a small dish of tiny fish that might as well have been just salt—inedible. We ordered one chicken soup/stew (KRW 8,000) with ginseng that was stewed chicken, rice and had a shaving of the outer skin of the ginseng and a juju bean (Samgyetang). The specialty of the restaurant (we learned from the people at the next table) was a tripe stew (KRW 7,000) with sausage (known as “sundae”) and rice. So we used our table’s “call button” and ordered that. All the time, we were drinking Makgeolli, the traditional Korean rice wine (KRW 3,000). It was a fermented drink that was pretty good but we didn’t know we had to shake it up so that it was mixed well. We liked the tripe stew and used some of the ground sesame on the table, and the sauces on the table, to give it a kick. We enjoyed our meal and spent KRW 19,000.

1.3.4.   A: Bibigo Korean Healthy Fresh Kitchen,  Gangnam Station, 2F, 30 Tehran-ro 1-gil, tel. 02-564-7423, www.bibigo.com. We didn’t like it. The only thing good about it was (1) it was inexpensive, (2) the coffee machine in the self service area that was free, (3) it filled us up. We had one dish that we shared for KRW 8,500 and left.

1.4.        Near Line 7, Hakdon Station

1.4.1.   NR: Home made noodle restaurant, near Line 7, Hakdon Station, Exit 4  tel. 02-517-6030 and 010-9174-6030. The place is a very modest mom and pop restaurant, not the famous home made noodle place we were led to believe it would be. The wife makes the noodles and since they close at 20:30, they were not making any new noodles when we got there at 7 p.m. We had one broken noodle soup that was just broken noodles with a little meat sprinkled on top. The other soup was both long noodles and broken noodles and also had some meat sprinkled on top. There was one accompanying dish of kim chi. It was definitely not worth the detective work necessary to find the place. We spent KRW 12,000.

2.    Yongsan-gu, Itaewon

2.1.1.   HR: Small Rustic Restaurant, Noksapyeon-Daero 32-gil (unknown number but on a corner, just down the hill from Bon Appetit whose address is 34-25 Itaewon 2-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea ), tel. 02-2235-0707. We had their specialty rice dish with shrimp. The shrimp came raw and were cut using a scissors on top of the rice in a stone bowl. The heads were served separately in a marinade and they were outstanding. This dish was excellent and unique. The only way we knew to order it was because, as we were waiting for a table, we talked to a woman who spoke some English. She recommended we eat that because that was what the restaurant was known for. There were side dishes served as well. One bowl was plenty for the two of us. In Itaewon we were seeing lots of restaurants of many nationalities but we wanted to stick to Korean and traditional at that. We found it and were very happy. We spent KRW 11,000.

2.1.2.   HR: Sam Gol, on the street behind Itaewon-dong: Sam Gul, Bogwang-ro 59-gil (Itaewon-Dong) Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea. We had a delicious lunch. We ordered one Soft Tofu Stew described as “with seafood, onions, egg that was boiled in a spicy stew and served with white rice” (KRW 6,000). It was good and it was served with 5 banchan: eggplant, wild green leaves which some Koreans call wild sesame (perilla), strips of marinated bean curd, pickled fiddlehead fern bracken. It was enough for the two of us. It was a great find in an area that has too many foreign restaurants. We spent KRW 6,000.

2.1.3.   HR: Kervan Turkish Bakery & Dessert Cafe, Yongsan-Gu, Itaewon-Dong 126-2, Seoul, South Korea, tel. 02-790-5585, www.turkishbakery.co.kr. Dimitri loved the Middle Eastern sweets. They were expensive but very good. We also enjoyed the dondurma and the Turkish coffee.
Turkish Coffee and Kadayif
3.    Noryangjin

3.1.        HR: Noryangjin Fisheries Market, Line 1 or 9 to Noryangjin, Exit 1, www.susansijang.co.kr We spent KRW 20,000 in the fish market for 1 sea urchin, 2 shrimp, 1 penis, 1 slug, 1 funny looking thing, one baby octopus (sannakij) and KRW 19,000 at a restaurant for the cleaning of the shellfish, the presentation, the banchan and one fish soup (maeuntang).
All of our raw fish, cleaned and presented
They brought lettuce and a chili garlic thing.
Note the penis fish
We had a ball. Hee, hee.

3.2.        R: Street Vendor near Noryangjin Fisheries Market: Hotteok KRW 1,000
Try it, you might like it.

4.            Jungno-gu

4.1.        R for lunch before the Palace: Aromatic Cafe at the Seoul National University Hospital Cancer Center across from the Houghwa Gate of Changgyeonggung Palace, Changgyeonggung-no Jungno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. We had one beef yuk that came with one pickled vegetable KRW 6,000 and one red bean yuk KRW 6,000. The space is very nice and the yuk were good. We spent KRW 12,000.

4.2.        R: Tosokchon (85-1 Chebu-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea, tel. 02-737-7444). They are operated by a farm. The restaurant specialized in Samgyetang, a soup boiled with white chicken and ginseng. And that’s what we had one of (KRW 15,000) and one Cheong-ha rice wine (KRW 5,000). The soup broth was very rice. The small chicken was enough for two. The banchan was kim chi and spicy diakon. All good, but not great. We spent KRW 20,000.

5.    Chungmu-ro

5.1.        HR: Jingogae, 19-1, Chungmu-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul (Chungmuro 3-ga), tel. 02-2267-0955, www.gingogae.co.kr, KRW 48,000 (Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3 or 4), Exit 6. Go straight (approx. 170m) until you see Jingogae on the left)

6.    Nandaemun Market

6.1.        R: Boiled fish alley, number 22-6 Nandaemun Market,  tel. (02) 755-3449. The brochure says: “Food Vendor Alley: there are alleys and small vendors where the Namdaemunno 3-3ga and 4-ga join to the west of Jungang Arcade and at 10 p.m. and 2 p.m. direction from the exit 5 of Hoehyeon subway station on line 4.” We had one gyeranjjim (egg soufflé), one rice wine (makgeolli), the banchan and a taste of the eel stew that our neighbor table gave us. We were happy. 

7.    Jangun-dong, Dongduemun-gu

7.1.        R: Dongnae Bok Guk, 465-15 Jangun-dong, Dongduemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea, tel. 02-2214-3222. This restaurant specializes in pufferfish/blow fish stew. We had it for 3 people. This blog entry [http://www.10mag.com/2012/03/14/korean-food-bogeo-puffer-fish/] says it all:
“Puffer fish soup (called “bokguk,” 복국) made its way to our table – a hot, brothy soup full of unassuming bean sprouts and green onions. Substantial chunks of fish poked from the surface, revealing eyes and scales. The fish meat itself was neither particularly fishy nor noticeably flavorful, but optional spicy sauce (which can be pre-added by the chef, if desired) helped to combat this. Not thrilling – just filling."
Dimitri and Ho Park Having Puffer Fish/Blow Fish
Continuing from the blog: "Meanwhile, each table had its most intriguing taste of the fish in the form of a side dish of puffer fish skin called bok kkeopjil (복 껍질). This delicacy appeared in thin slivers, each piece comprising two thin layers of gelatinous fat with what felt like a scrubbing sponge in the middle. Again, the taste was unremarkable, but in this case, the texture was surprising and refreshing, unique enough to taste again and again. And as before, a tangy red sauce appeared alongside to kick up the flavor."

"Everything else about this 'death-defying experience' seemed rather ordinary.” We spent KRW 29,000 and the skin was the best part of the meal (along with the banchan).

8.            City Hall Vicinity

8.1         R: President Jeong Sam Bong Restaurant in City Hall area, just north of City Hall on the left and just off of main street, 17 Mugyodong-gil, tel. 02-777-6661. It was a great place for our lunch after visiting City Hall. We had one spare rib Woojeoji soup (KRW 8,000) that came with 2 banchan: kimchi and pickled diakon. Everything was good and enough for the two of us. We spent KRW 8,000.

9.            Insa-dong

9.1         R: Chon (Insa 3 Gil or Insadong Sam Gil,  Insa-dong, Seoul, South Korea, land line:  Phone: 02 720 4888, cell no.  011 9875 4349 (the art gallery, Moji,is at the corner--turn there).) The restaurant is in a traditional hanok house but has tables.
The food was good; the service was bad. We had 2 set menus for KRW 24,000 each, a stir fried snail dish (KRW10000) and 2 bottles of soju/wine. There were four of us and there was a tremendous amount of food. We didn’t need the snail dish. We were treated but we think that the bill was around KRW 80,000.

9.2         Tea house on the Insa dong walk street. We spent KRW 13,000 for a tasteless persimmon tea and an order of roasted rice cake. The place was lovely but we were not impressed with the tea or the rice cakes.

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