Everyone misses certain foods from back home when they’ve been away for a while. Me, I tend to miss the food from the places I visited while I was away from home.
Food - Dining Out
In some places it’s easy to be vegan. In California, you can walk into a greasy-spoon breakfast joint and find yourself enjoying this kind of interaction: “Yeah, I’ll have the tofu omelet with the almond cheese, a fruit cup with no grapes, and a café au lait with the unsweetened hemp milk, please. Oh! And a slice of the vegan wheat-fee-gluten-free organic fruit-juice-sweetened cake made with lemons. I’ll take one to go.”
Seoulites love their meat. Galbi, bulgogi, SPAM, chicken in a cup — they’re as common a sight around here as an ajumma in a floppy visor. The boss always wants to take you to that place around the corner with the pig portrait in the window. You’ve been blowing him off since he tried feeding you ox intestine that was “good for stamina.”
Forget the jjajangmyeon. Oh Myeong-hak serves real Chinese food — melt-in-your-mouth pork belly in thick gravy, stir-fried eggplant, bok choy and mushrooms. And of course there’s his restaurant’s specialty: lamb. Big chunks of it, diced and skewered, ready to be roasted over open coals.
His restaurant, Seong Min Lamb, is named after his nephew. They serve a range of Chinese dishes and a few Korean ones. The hallmark of the dishes is complex, tasty sauces. This is a restaurant where you can walk in, point at any item on the menu, and be impressed.
Hidden in the alleys of Anguk-dong, Meokswidonna doesn’t look like anything special. But the walls lining the outside of the restaurant hold thousands of notes scrawled by eager diners waiting to get inside.
Droves of people come to queue outside the 20-year-old eatery. Literally translated “Eat, Rest, Pay, Out,” this husband-and-wife-owned hole-in-the-wall attracts crowds for a reason.
In the community of Noksapyeong — amid an array of cuisines from all parts of the world — a sleeping giant has been stirred to once again offer what it does best. After a recent renovation, Namsan Kimchi Jjigae has a new, earthy atmosphere to perfectly match its accompanying fare.
Buried in the bosom of Seoul’s business district is a small self-service café. High-rise buildings of chrome and glass and the steady stream of traffic and business suits outside fade into chaos and color when you step into Mamas. Rickety tables, mismatched chairs, bustling servers and random quotes on the walls create a motley collection of European styles reminiscent of an Italian café.
Any night of the week, Jacoby’s Burger in Haebangchon will be packed. Jacoby’s is famous. People drive expensive sports cars from distant parts to try the tall, messy burgers. So we didn’t go there for our nine-restaurant burger-tasting mission. Instead, we tried lesser-known places in Itaewon, Gyeongnidan and Haebangchon. Our goal: to find the gems, and test the reputations of established places. Chris Holland – a Canadian home chef – and Read Urban and Paloma Julian – our regular food columnists – served as judges for the mission. We tried a cheeseburger at each restaurant, along with one of each of the restaurant’s specialties. We did discover a few gems, and a few less-than-gems.
My two main passions in life are cinema and food. Therefore, it’s easy to feel quite spoiled in Korea as tickets are half the price of those in England and — “beondegi” (boiled silkworm pupae) aside — Korean food is great. So while looking for somewhere to take my girlfriend for her birthday, it appeared as if the gods were listening to my prayers when I stumbled across Ciné de Chef.