When my friends come to Korea, I feel it is my mission to jettison the myth that all Korean food is fiery, oh-my-god, spicy. Many of my friends are professionals or travelers that are only in town for a couple of days. Although, I would love to take them to Gyeong-ju to my favorite restaurant in Korea, Yoseongung, for real traditional food, there is simply a lack of time. While in Seoul, I find that Daejanggum near Seolleung station is a safe bet. Afterwards, my friends become my new crusaders in my mission to dispel the myths about Korean food.

Centrally located, Daejanggum is near Posco Intersection and down the street from the COEX City Air Terminal. The restaurant has a wood paneled traditional façade that is, unfortunately, bombarded with pictures and neons. The interior has clean lines and there are several private rooms. When I make a reservation, I request a room and I’ve never had a problem. The one drawback is, on evenings, they have a traditional music show and your guests might be curious about what they are missing out on in the main room.

I usually order the “Tobang” table d’hote, which costs 39,000 won per person because it has a nice range of food. The food comes out in several courses- the sheer number of plates have always impressed my guests. The meal starts with a couple of salads with light vinegarettes followed by bosam, which is served with pieces of raw fish. Then there is a nine-section crepe dish. This delicate assorted vegetable and meat dish is loved by because it is fun, beautiful, and delectable. It is the Korean fajita, in a way, but with quaint flavor. A stewed chicken dish that has been slowly cooked with rice and peas trails this dish. This entree I’m not a huge fan of because I feel it is a bit too bland, but it can be doctored up with some pepper sauce. Next is the braised beef flavored with soy and a bit of ginseng. Accompanying this is braised mackerel coated in a dark red sauce. Do not be afraid. The mackerel is not spicy and the piquant flavor of the dish pairs well with the slightly sweet turnips.

Keep in mind; all these dishes are prelude to the real meal. After this is complete, you’ll get a choice of juk (rice porridge) or ttang-jang chiggae (a soybean stew), which is joined by even more panchan (side dishes).

In general, this is a restaurant that is going to be a culinary awakening for those who have been in this country for more than a year. But I find it is good to have a couple restaurants in my repertoire that are safe bets for guests. Many visitors to Korea have notions of what Korea is and isn’t. Sometimes it is beneficial to take a step back and think of yourself as a newly arrived traveler to the land of the rising sun.

Location: Samsung-dong
Style: Traditional Korean
Hours 11-10pm
Phone: 562-5972 or 568-5972

Food: ***
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ***
Value: **

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