Guest Review: Dongdaemun Mutton Refectory
I have been a fan of the Dongdaemun Mutton Refectory since my very first week in Korea. I also enjoy the name, there just aren’t enough restaurants that have the word refectory in the title. Back in my Cheongju days it was the restaurant to go to. Every birthday, leaving party, or visiting friend warranted a 20 strong posse descending onto our favourite restaurant. This was long before I had discovered the likes of Ho Lee Chow and it satisfied every craving I ever had for Chinese food. The food at the Mutton Refectory is Chinese style not Korean or Western, though the dishes we chose were always crowd-pleasers. So, after I moved away from Cheongju, I always missed it. That was until I found out that the Dongdaemun Mutton Refectory is actually a chain restaurant. Shockingly they have one in Dongdaemun! You would have thought that the name would have been a clue, but clearly I missed that (d’oh!)
Nestled in Dongdaemun, on a street practically brimming with Chinese restaurants offering lamb, is the Dongdaemun Mutton Refectory. The menu is almost the same as my beloved Cheongju branch, although sadly they do not offer the amazing potatoes (감자탕수육). Deep-fried battered potatoes in a spicy sauce. You have to have tried them to know how good they are and it is a delicacy all Cheongjuers will remember fondly throughout their lives. Luckily they do have my other three favourite dishes on the menu.
One of the best things about this restaurant is the free side dishes. Chinese picked vegetables, salty sugar peanuts, and my absolute favourite, the tofu ribbons. I have never had tofu as good as this anywhere else in Korea (apart from my BBQ tofu wings.) I’m not sure how they even make these beautifully textured ribbons of tofu. But suffice it to say, they rock!
The first dish we ordered was the mixed vegetables (삼색야채) 12,000. This dish is insanely good, it’s not just for the veggies and vegans. Potatoes, peppers, and aubergine in a sweet chinesy sauce, they are so soft and tasty. Everyone loved this dish, especially the men. We could never get enough of it.
Their specialty is lamb skewers (양꼬치) 10,000 for 10. Lamb was always very hard to get hold of in Cheongju and is still even considered a specialty meat four years later. Until it is sold on the shelves of Home-plus it will always be a treat for me. BBQ lamb skewers are always a winner for me. Every time I have visited this restaurant there has been a group of ladies sat at the table threading skewer after skewer. They clearly sell these by the truck load. You’re given the coals and you cook them yourself at the table. They also came with a delicious plate of mixed spices that is the perfect accompaniment. I’m not ashamed to say that I took my left over spices in an envelope home with me and will swiftly be using them to make some lamb meatballs.
Last up is the sweet and sour pork Beijing style(탕수육) 13,000. This has always been my favourite dish. Thin slices of pork in a light and crispy batter served with a sweet and sticky sauce. This is as close as you will get to those sweet and sour dishes from home but even better. This hits the spot every time.
The mutton refectory is located in Dongdaemun on the 2nd floor of Dok-il Yak gook(독일약국 pharmacy). To get there take a train to Dongdaemun Station (Lines 1&4) then come out of exit 4. The restaurant is just on your right on the second floor above the pharmacy. The door is located in the alley to the left, just after the restaurant. You can call them on 02-766-9388 if you require any further information.
Also for all you lucky ducks living in the Chungbuk province they have a branch in Cheongju. It’s at Cheongju University intersection, so in a taxi, say 청주대사거리 (“Cheongju-day sah-guh-ree”). Look for the corner with Pizza Hut, and the restaurant is a few doors down to the right.