White waving maneki-neko cats and Japanese signage greet customers entering into Yangjae Tuna. A smiling hostess asks “Table, bar, or private room? Would you like to get to know the chef or would you like some privacy?”
Opt for the bar for an interactive chef experience and tuna direct from knife to plate. The private room is suitable for footsy and kissing across the table or for private business discussions no one else should hear.
The menu is filled with 7,000-10,000 won options, but the real reason to come will run 40,000 won per person: unlimited raw tuna. There are other options from 60,000 to 120,000 won for people who need to impress their dates or colleagues, but it’s not needed. The more expensive options allow for different cuts and types of tuna, but no matter the price point, endless tuna is headed your way. It’s like a delicious tuna limbo. Keep in mind, though; all diners at the table will need to choose the same price option.
The best option is to eat the slices of raw tuna straight up. No fancy sauce or garnishes are needed. Some cuts of fish disappear with the softest bite. Other cuts are thicker and call for more chewing. Seaweed paper, cocktail onions, sprouts, ginger, wasabi and soy sauce are presented on the tuna plate for those who like to mix and match. There’s plenty more where that came from and no clock counting down time spent at the table.
Pink and red cuts keep coming and coming and the chef just smiles knowing how his diners feel. He’s playing a game: who will quit first? Any sensible diner does not want to give up. Yangjae Tuna’s fish is so smooth in texture and taste. Diners understand that eventually they have to lose this game since there is more fish than stomach space.
Tuna and dressings are far from the only foods brought to the table. Fried shrimp, fried crab, fried potato, fried onion and fried veggies (gooljun and twigim in Korean) come served with a warm soy-based dipping sauce. The onion is a bit thick and probably something that Shrek would enjoy; still, everything is superbly fried.
(Above: seasoned tuna head)
And then the finale. It’s tough to identify upon arrival. It’s got nuts, seeds, peppers and thick brown sauce hiding its true figure. It’s warm. It’s heavy. It’s hard, but parts are soft. What is this thing? It’s a cooked tuna head. When it comes to eating tuna, the head is revered as a special delicacy. While the meat is thin and scattered around the skull, it’s absolutely delicious. Tuna head is something that should be available more plentifully in a perfect world.
During the meal, feel free to kick back cold bottles of beer for 6,000 won. Soju, or better, sake, is available by the bottle. Let your mind and stomach travel to Osaka, if only for lunch or dinner, before retuning to the streets of Yangjae.
1F, Jungho Building, 287 Beonji, Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul