Blog, Korean Eats, Restaurant Reviews, The Best of Seoul

Hanuso: Abalone Bibimbap


During spring I am always on the search for fresh, crispy and nourishing bibimbap. Hanuso uses top quality ingredients to create dishes that will please the epicurean in you. Their Yukhwae (raw beef) bibmbap has fresh sprouts, various lettuces, julienned carrots and pears and more. With this you get clear beef soup, Korean vegetable side dishes and a steaming bowl of hot rice. All combined, it becomes a nourishing meal that feels like a bowl of sunshine and spring rain. Pictured here this is some abalone bibimbap. Although the abalone is fresh, it is a bit chewy. For those that love fresh abalone, this is quite excellent. I would say that Hanuso has some of the best bibimbap in the city because the ingredients are very fresh. It’s more like a salad with a side of rice than a heavy bibimbap. I would recommend you make a stop there.

Jongno-gu Nakwon-dong 272
Hours: 11am-10pm
Price: 8,000 won-18,000 won

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Blog, Korean Eats, Restaurant Reviews

Arirang: a Decent First Bite in Korea

Arirang: convenient location good Hanwoo and side-dishes

Many tourists arrive late at night in Korea with a hungry belly and many are overwhelmed by the number of restaurants in Korea. The first meal in a new country is important because it will set expectations for the rest of a person’s stay. For those that are staying over in the Myeongdong area and craving some barbecue, Arirang comes is alright. I mean it is a bit more expensive than the local places but the atmosphere and the service is great for newly arrived guests.

Located across from the Westin Chosun Hotel, they have English menus and English-speaking servers that will take help cook and show you how to properly eat Korean barbecue. The restaurant prides itself on only serving high-quality Hanwoo beef that is seared over white-hot wood charcoal. They are generous with their side dishes and the sauces. You’ll get a wonderful array of kimchees and salads, fresh leaves and garlic to make your “beef and leaf” wraps and there is a nice variety soju, beer and wines to wash it all down.

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Blog, Restaurant Reviews

Cold Foods for Hot Days in Korea

By Daniel Gray
There are things that I miss about American Summer. I miss the jangling sound of “Pop Goes the Weasel” that drive little kids to beg, steal, or borrow change and then sprint towards roving truck dispensing frozen confectioneries. I miss huge cups at the 7-11 that I could fill with a mixture of exotic frozen Slurpee blends like Super Sour Watermelon, Arctic Blash, and Blue Woo-Hoo Vanilla. And I miss big hulking salads topped with the summer’s plenty.
Even though there are no Slurpees, ice cream trucks, or big salads in this country, there are plenty of other ways to chillax (chill and relax). As the Seoul sun has been heating up these days, I’ve made it my mission to find foods that fight the heat wave. Here are my top ten suggestions.

10. Kongguksu 콩국수: Kongguk is a chilled soy milk noodle soup. Traditionally, it’s a refreshingly hearty bowl filled with wheat noodles, soy milk, cucumbers, and ground peanuts. There are variations of this dish. I have had it with watermelon, parboiled potatoes, pear, and various other ingredients. My favorite version can be found at Myeongdong Gyoja. Here the noodles are green because they are made from the super healthy chlorella algae and green tea. These noodles are full of protein and vitamins and have plenty of life in the thick soymilk broth. And, best of all, this dish is vegetarian friendly.
Myeongdong Gyoja: Myeongdong exit 5. Make a left at the first intersection (Woori Bank) and make the next right (Who.A.U. Clothing Store.)
www.mdkj.co.kr 776-5348

9. Naengmyeon 냉면: “Cold noodles” is not a concept that should alien to the Western mindset. I mean we have cold pasta salad and macaroni salad, but the idea of cold chicken noodle soup is enough to turn stomachs. This classic Korean dish is not just eaten in summer (it just tastes the best then.) What we have is a chewy buckwheat noodles that are in a chilled dongchimi (radish kimchi broth) and beef broth. It is topped with pear, an egg, and pickled vegetables. I recommend you work up a heavy sweat and then head over to Nampo Myeonok for a bowl. It’s the definition of the word 개우하다 (kae-un hada: refreshing.)
Nampomyeonok: Eujiro exit 1. Make the first right and then head straight into the alley.

8. Dukbokki 떡복이 at 먹쉬돈나 (Mok Schwei Don Na): Sometimes you have to fight the heat with heat. Koreans have a very strange expression when they eat very hot food “Shiwonhada” it literally means “its cool!” They say this with zeal while eating really hot (temperature), hot (spicy) foods. In Samcheongdong, Mok Schwei Don Na is the king of dukbokki. And this little restaurant (whose name means “Eat, Relax, Pay, Go) always has a line of people waiting to get in to taste their famous sauce. Here you can pick from a list of 10 different ingredients such as dumplings, noodles, meat, seafood, cheese, etc to make your own D.I.Y. dish.
Mok Schwei Don Na: Anguk Station exit 1. Go straight and make a right at the Korean Travel Bureau Building and walk up along the stone wall. It is in the alley past Café Vangia.

7. Patbingsu 팓빙수: There isn’t a café or restaurant in Seoul that you can’t find this crushed ice and red bean dish. It has evolved from the simple (crushed ice, sweetened red beans, roasted bean powder, and some rice cake) to its current iteration, a monstrosity of shaved ice, fruit (kiwi, strawberry, peaches, watermelon, and tomato), ice cream, corn flakes, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and (the essential) candied rice cake (duk: 떡). The formula might change a bit, but it’s like iced bibimbap. You take it all and mix it up. My favorite game is duk hunting. You get a couple of people together and fish around this delicious concoction to find the candied rice cake. The winner gets to bask in the envy of the other competitors.
All around Seoul. One of my favorites is in Samcheongdong at Ong Dal Saem (옹달샘). It’s down Samcheongdong Street near the Blue House

6. Acorn Guksu 도토리국수: This is a Korean delicacy that will rejuvenate your weary soul. Made from cultivated acorns that are ground into flour and then boiled. The noodles are slick and delicate to the palette. The broth is acidic and slightly spicy. And you’ll find slivers of cucumber, carrots, dried seaweed, and crushed sesame seed swimming in broth. I recommend Woncho guksu (원조국수) in Jeongja. This is one of the best noodle houses in Korea and it has been around for close to 20 years. They close at 4:30, so you know they must be good.
Woncho Guksu: Jeongja Station Exit 3. Go down the alley next to Nolbu budae chiggae.

5. Taengjang bibimbap 된장비빔밥: Yes, I miss big bowls of salad during the summer. Mainly because during the summer, the idea of a big greasy burger and fries weighs on my mind like the thought of having to carry a refrigerator up a flight of stairs. Taengjang bibimbap is the Korean big salad that comes loaded with fresh greens and leaves. And instead of some oily, mayonnaise based dressing; it comes with tangy, taengjang soup to mix in your salad and rice. My favorite is in Insadong at Tweit Malung (툇마릉). This dish is vegetarian friendly.
Tweit Malung: Go down Insadong Street and make a left at Dukwon Gallery at Hwaenamu-gil. Make the first left into the alley and it is in the basement and 2nd floor of the building next to a restaurant named Doo-rei.

4. Red Mango: Before Pinkberry there was, and still is, Red Mango. I have gone to Red Mango for years and have always been in love with the citrusy, clean, and silky yogurt. I’ve tried Pinkberry and it seems like the younger upstart; it doesn’t have the refined maturity of its senior. You can find them dotted all around the city and it’s upscale interior is a great place to chill and enjoy a bowl of frozen dessert topped with your choice of fixings.

3. Gusttimo 구스띠모: This is the gelato store that started the rage in Korea. Many have tried to copy; none have come close. The story goes that the owner studied for years in Italy to learn the craft, perfected it and brought it home to Korea. It is some of best gelato outside of Italy, and I’m sure it ranks near some of the top there. They have regular gelato mainstays like Frutti Di Bosco, Cioccolato, and Fragola. But Gusttimo has a quirky edge with such flavors as Riso Nero (black rice), Marron Glace (Chestnut), Formaggio (Cream Cheese), and Cereali (Cereal & Chocolate).
All around Seoul. Their flagship store can be found in Apgujeong, next to the Rodeo Street Gate across from the Galleria. It is to the side of Paris Croissant.

2. Bibimguksu at Ojangdong Hwung-namjip 비빔국수 at 오장동흥남집: It’s all about the noodles and you can’t get better or fresher noodles. As you eat, you can look into the kitchen and see the chefs making the noodles on site. One man is back stepping on the buckwheat to soften them up awhile another cuts them. There is a third person back there and I figure he must be laying on the magic because the noodles that I slurped were like gossamer threads. Eating the whole bowl was as if I was taking a breath of cool mountain air after reaching the apex. Yeah, it’s a bit spicy, but that’s what makes it enlightening.
Go to Eujiro 4-ga exit 8 and to straight. At Chunggujeong Intersection (중구청), make a left. Go around the Market entrance and it is opposite Suhyup Bank (수협 은행)

1. Patbingsu at Café de Coin: Luxury Patbingsu has become a fad in Seoul the last couple of years. The trend seems to be to take an exceedingly expensive space and fill it with fancy décor and then charge 8,000 won for a coffee and 20,000 won for a patbingsu. You would think for this price, you would be getting something gourmet, something worthy of chefs trained at Le Cordon Bleu. Most of the time it’s not the case. I was equally reluctant when I went into Café de Coin, but it came recommened. Café de Coin is impressive. The interior is modern and sleek. My friends and I were escorted up a private room on the top floor and we were amazed by the spectacular view of Seoul. Here the patbingsu is more like a sophisticated ice cream sundae. The green tea bingsu had almonds, distinctly flavored green tea ice cream, and red beans. The ice was shaved snowflake fine so it blended well with the ice cream. The black bean bingsu was a real surprise. Finely shaved coffee flavored ice is topped with black sesame ice cream and sugared pecans, cashews, and almonds. The bowls were licked clean and we contemplated asking them to make us a banana split bingsu. Locations around Seoul.

Cafe de Coin

Bakery, Blog, Cafes, Central Seoul, Restaurant Reviews

Review: Napoleon Bakery

Bakery Napoleon has a long history of making fine breads in Korea. Although many of the breads cater to the Korean palate (such as green tea, rice cake, cheese, bread) they have world class skills for desserts and their croissants. I have to say that their croissants are the closest you’ll get to a partisan croissant in Korea. I love a good croissant in the morning with coffee and I am disappointed with many of the franchise croissants that have a sugary glaze on a burnt top (yes, Paris Croissant and Paris Baguette that dig was made at you.) They have a coup of misses in my book such as their famous red bean paste bread that the chocolate bread which just like a hotdog bun they put red bean or chocolate pudding in. But apparently, people flock here for those stuffed breads so my opinion must not count. Their coffee is not very good either and I decided not to get brunch or pasta or salad at a bakery. With that said, their croissants, cakes and tarts are worth the journey and that green tea rice cake cheese bread was actually pretty darn good. The cheese bread had a soft and chewy interior and crunchy cheese bits on top and the green tea and red bean was a good balance of flavor.

Napoleon Bakery
3 Stars
Seongbuk-gu Seongbukdong 1ga 35-1
Open from 8am-10pm (but they usually sell out far before closing time)









Blog, Restaurant Reviews, South Seoul

Review: Duck Fat Fries and Pork Cracklings at Hopscotch Gastropub

When I think of Gastropubs I am reminded of bar hopping in Portland Oregon and in NYC. The bars are serious about their drinks as well as their food. There is a bit of haughty pretentiousness when you enter these establishments and you should prove you know your shit or you’ll lose credibility and then it will take forever to get a drink.

Recently, I was invited to Hopscotch Gastropub by the owner Brian so I obliged to check out their fare. It is located off the main drag and it doesn’t even have a name sign. It is tucked behind
Imposing steel doors marked by lit by industrial lights and a red neon sign that looks like a cubist daisy.

Inside the interior has a MC Escher, industrial feel and lit by antique Edison lamps. The place has a speakeasy-feel and makes you imagine secret poker games and bootlegging in the back rooms. The good thing is that in the back room they are churning out amazing food to go with wide selection of beers, cocktails, and scotches.

We started with some pork cracklings that kept popping as they came to the table. These were fun to eat but I think could have used more Cajun spice. The shiitake mushroom fries were excellent with the garlic aioli and Parmesan cheese. This was followed by an excellent citrus salad that was topped with cranberry, avocado, mandarin oranges, sugared pecans, cucumbers and tomatoes. The salad was one of the best I have had in a while and it reminded me of San Francisco.

We had a few more appetizers such as their bacon-topped Mac-and-cheese. This was ok, at least it didn’t have corn in it but the use of pasta of different sizes was a tad confusing and I think it could have used more cheese (but I think everything deserves more cheese). The steak chili was hearty and had good homestyle flavor.

The star was the duck fries. These were thin splinters of potato that were sumptuously crispy that has a rich foie gras taste. You start eating one and then just keep going back until they are all gone. Yummy.

For the main, we had the roast chicken with Gorgonzola mashed potatoes. This was a simple dish done right. The skin was crispy and the potatoes were creamy.

For dessert we had a delicious chocolate cake (how delicious I can’t remember because of all the beer.)

Hopscotch has a great beer selection and has a good selection of local and international brews. They have cocktails but no wines. They take their scotches seriously and will serve you a ice sphere in your rocks glass (that the chef cuts himself).

Overall, this is a great find. It’s not cheap for beers start at 7,000 won each. Food is reasonable with small plates starting at 9,000 won and entrees at 14,000. It’s a great atmosphere and your friends and colleagues will up your cool factor for taking them to this great little gastro-pub.

Hopscotch Gastropub
강남구 논현동 113-20
Gangnam-gu Nonhyeon-dong 113-20
phone: 025110145
Directions: If you take a cab, they will drop you off near the Gastropub, but you’ll have to walk down the side-street next to the Kia dealership and make the first left. You’ll see the metal doors up ahead.