Korean Eats, The Best of Seoul

A List of Restaurant Recommendations for Travelers to Korea

I’m in Korea for vacation, where are the best restaurants to eat at???

This is a question I get asked all the time and although I try to personally answer each e-mail, I feel that there are many lists on my website that answer this question. I wanted to make a comprehensive post about this question.

Here are my lists of recommendations:

Here’s a big list and tips:
http://www.seouleats.com/2009/09/restaurant-recommendations-and-tips-for.html

Here’s a list of just BBQ restaurants:
http://www.seouleats.com/2009/11/korean-barbecue-restaurant.html

This is for summer:
http://www.seouleats.com/2008/07/seoul-eats-ways-to-chillax-in-seoul.html

And a list for adoptees:
http://www.seouleats.com/2009/07/welcome-goal-adoptees-to-land-of-kimchi.html

You should also check out Sandang:
http://www.seouleats.com/search?q=sandang

And Wooriga:
http://www.seouleats.com/2009/10/seasonal-reflections-chef-jeong-hyun.html

Jungshikdang
http://www.seouleats.com/search?q=jung+shik+dang

Here’s a list of the best burgers for 2010
http://www.seouleats.com/2010/01/best-burgers-in-seoul-in-2010.html

Here’s a list of the best Ramen in Seoul
http://www.seouleats.com/2009/07/photoblog-best-ramen-in-seoul.html

Here’s a list of the best Kebap and Shwarma in Seoul
http://www.seouleats.com/2009/05/kebap-and-shwarma-in-seoul.html

You should also try and get out of the city: Jeonju is amazing for food: http://www.seouleats.com/2009/12/junju-big-southern-heart-of-korea.html


Daniel Gray
Chief Marketing Officer
O’ngo Food Communications
264 Nonhyun-dong, Gangnam-gu Seoul, Korea
O: 02-3446-1607

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Non-Korean Eats

Ban Ban: How Korean Chinese Food is so Good!

Korean Chinese Delivery is so good. It’s one of my favorite things to get delivered for lunch (but I try not to get it too often, because it’s not the healthiest thing). The coolest thing about Korean Chinese Food is that you can “ban ban service” or “half half.” You can order 2 half sides of your favorite dishes and they’ll serve it in a unique separated bowl. I recommend the Tangsuyok (fried pork in sweet sauce) and jjajamyeon (noodles in black bean sauce).

Chinese Half Half Service
1/2 Black Bean Noodles and 1/2 sweet fried pork
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Korean Eats, Southeastern Seoul, The Best of Seoul

Restaurants: Jungsikdang: New Korean

Milano Seafood Jjim

I’ve been meaning to put up the rest of my pictures from my most recent visit to Jung Shik Dang. Their new restaurant is over by Shindang near Samwon Garden. You can find directions to their location on their website. I went to this restaurant with Chef Nick Flynn from the Intercontinental and my friend Terry. Good company and very…creative cuisine. This is my third visit to Jungsikdang and I have to say that I am a bit worried about the franchise.

The food is beautiful. The setting is stylish and beautiful and the staff and service is top notch. Oh, they have a great wine list as well. In the past, I have criticized the service at this restaurant. Now they have really taken this to another level. The service and atmosphere is actually worthy of a Michelin Star.

The food is, well…did I use the word creative already?

Let me explain. When Jungsikdang first opened they had a variation of their current signature menu with the foie gras pate with pistachio shaving, pork jowl with yuzu, kimchi consomme, etc. The “first” signature menu was great, but then they followed it up with their “nuevo menu” and then opened up two restaurants.

I feel that Jungsikdang is rushing ahead (they have opened up a bar, a fine dining restaurant and plans to open a new restaurant in New York City) with only a few fully complete menus; I worry for their success.

I found his “nuevo” menu to be a mixmash of too many influences- the chef is like a kid that learns a new technique and gets fascinated with it- he doesn’t “own” the skill yet. I wish he would sit down and hone his techniques like a fine artisan or athlete and become a master of his craft before jumping to a new project.

The food, for me, had a hint of saccharine, sweetness that dulled the flavors. I was looking for a stand out dish, but I couldn’t really find it here. I ordered the “Nuevo Dinner Tasting Menu (120,000 won + tax). The only dishes that I really thought were surefire successes were the Milano Seafood Jjim and the Tomato Sujebi. The Milano Seafood Jjim looks like the Kracken- brilliant shocks of green stood out among the white fleshed fish. The taste reminded me of Holden’s dream in the book Catcher in the Rye: I was in a green field of rye that overlooked a cliff.

The Tomato Sujebi were a chewier, Korean version of bowtie noodles with tomato sauce. I liked it.

So…is Jungsikdang worth it? Of course it is. I mean I wouldn’t eat their everyday, but if you have a business dinner meeting in the afternoon, the 60,000 lunch tasting menu is perfect for entertaining guests. Even the dinner at 100,000 and 120,000 per person is an excellent bargain. (When I say bargain, I mean you get 10 course meals with coffee, after dinner treats- all inclusive.) The food is fun; it’s creative; it’s beautiful; it’s tasty; it’s just not quite ready for NYC prime time. 

Jung Shik Dang
567-28 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu Seoul, Korea
02-517 4654 (English Spoken)
http://jungsikdang.com/

Bread
Kimchi Consomme
I believe this was their tomato salad
A Grasshopper on a Spring Hill

Oyster
Champ-Elysee Rice Bowl
Tomato Sujebi
Seabass
Palate Cleanser: Omija
Excellent Wine Selection at Jungsikdang
Rack of Lamb
Five Sensation Pork Belly overpowered by the spicy peppers
Su jeong gwa
Green Tea Cremeux with Sable
Interior Shot
Fin
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Food News

Some Tips on Dining Alone in Korea

A couple days a week I have meetings in the busy Gangnam area and the meetings finish just before lunch. After the meeting, I am in the thick of the lunch crowds- all hurrying in groups to get a meal. Dining alone in Korea is almost unheard of (especially if you work at a company). The corporate work culture is: you eat with your coworkers and then you get coffee with your coworkers and then you go back to your office with your coworkers. Oh, and then after work you go drinking with your coworkers.

Geez, I don’t know if I like any of my coworkers to spend every second with them. I mean I need some “me” time and I’d like to spend lunch alone from time to time. Also, sometimes I don’t want to eat what everyone else is eating. Eating hot soup and rice everyday- although healthy- makes me sleepy and sometimes I just want a big salad or just fruit. Sometimes, I don’t eat lunch at all.

Anyway, dining alone in Korea will draw stares from others that enter the restaurant. They might assume that you are an outsider (a wangtta) or you don’t have a job. But most often, it might be seen as rude for you might take up a table for 2 or 4 by yourself and you eat all the side dishes (banchan) and main course by yourself.

What I’ve found is that there are ways around this. Most western eating establishments such as Italian, Mexican, Indian, Japanese, etc don’t tend to mind people eating by themselves. Also, noodle restaurants don’t seem to mind so much either. The other important thing is time.

If you are eating along go early like 11:30am or go at the tail end of lunch-12:45 or 1pm. At this point there are tables empty and people don’t really mind. Now in the busy districts of Seoul, more companies are taking later lunches such as at 1pm. They will often reserve whole sections for their companies. You might want to avoid those.

Other places that don’t mind you eating alone are fast food or franchise places such as  Kimbap Chunguk, Kimbap Nara, or O-mori Chiggae. Small mom and pop 분식 (boon shiks) don’t seem to mind all that much either if they are not busy. Oh, Korean restaurants that are foreigner friendly don’t mind either.

The last places where you can easily dine alone are at bus stations, train stations, and other places of transit.

Overall, you won’t have a problem dining alone. If a restaurant is very busy, they might ask you to move. Just out of courtesy to the restaurant, I would do it. They aren’t trying to be rude, it’s just that the restaurants are small and they have to make use of every inch possible.

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