by Ashley Heil
We've been big fans of Cali Kitchen since they started at their original location in Kyungridan, but recently they moved locations and now have a much better atmosphere. They're now called California Kitchen and Craft Pub (still off of Kyungridan street) and in short, their new location is awesome. It has an airy, open feel with huge open windows so you can people watch and get great views of Namsan tower. We've been there twice in the past two weeks and have really enjoyed it each time. We came first for their soft opening Taco Tuesday. We had never had Cali Kitchen's tacos before, only their burgers and burrito bowls. We were blown away by their tacos. We've had some really great Mexican food in Seoul, and these tacos were our favorite we've had in Seoul. We both had 3 each because they were so delicious. All of the tacos were amazing, but the one that really stood out was the puffed chicken and puffed carnitas tacos (bottom right picture). The shell on these are deep fried so they are light, crispy, and had a great crunch. The guacamole we had on every taco was outstanding. If I remember correctly, the tacos were about 5,000-6,000 correctly, but I believe the types of tacos change weekly. If you're wanting some good beer and tacos, definitely check out California Kitchen's taco Tuesday!
We went back a second time because I convinced Michael to finally try their burgers, because it's for sure in my top 3 burgers in Seoul. It was just as good as I remembered. We got the double burger (10,000 won) and shared a big basket of french fries (6,000 won) with their extremely addicting chipotle ketchup. Chuck (the owner) told me he is one of the only places, if not the only place, in Seoul to use fresh, never frozen USDA prime beef, so that's great. The burger's bun is also toasted with grass-fed butter, and has American cheese, grilled onions, tomato, and lettuce. The burger sauce was great but not overpowering or too messy. For me, when I get burgers, that's just what I want. Nothing fancy or weird, just a simple, delicious burger.
One of the things I really like about Cali Kitchen's new location is their live tap list. For beer geeks like me that like to check the ratings of beer and see what types of flavors they have before drinking, this is awesome. This beer list is updated daily and has direct links to a website called Taphunter where you can check them out. http://calikitch.com/beerlist/
California Kitchen and Craft Pub is a great place to get a delicious burger, some Cali-Mex burritos and tacos, or enjoy a craft beer with an awesome view. We've never been disappointed there and we always leave with our bellies happy. It's a must-try for good food in the Itaewon area :)
Go to Noksapyeong station, exit 2.
Walk down the road and go down the underpass and cross the street over to the right. At the end of the underpass/tunnel, turn left.
Come out of the underpass and turn right on Kyungridan street.
Walk all the way up the big hill. You'll pass some places like the Wellbeing Mart, Namsan chemistry, and the cute pet shop with the little kittens and puppies playing.
Keep walking all the way until the CVS4U on the corner, and turn right there, and California Kitchen and Craft Pub will be there (on the 2nd or 3rd floor).
by Michael Jones.
El Pino 323 has received tons of press since it first opened last year near Aeogae Station, but has recently moved to Noksapyeong. Due to the hype, which is well deserved, we waited for a long time to write our review so we needed a refresher at their new location. So, yesterday we went and enjoyed it even more than we remembered. The new restaurant is on the second floor and is beautifully designed. There is plenty of natural light and the bar is elegant and well-stocked. The new space offers a much different dining experience from the original location and the owners deserve it. Their food is outstanding. Yesterday we ordered Chile Verde (Green Chile) (6,000 won), Tamales (6,000 won), Huarache with Carnitas (14,500 won), and a Carnitas Burrito Bowl (13,800 won). While I was chomping away I kept thinking about the adjectives I would use to write this review and the one word that kept coming to the front of my mind was flavor. Nothing was even remotely dull. I know Mexican cuisine should always be full of flavor, but I’ve been disappointed by bland Mexican food plenty of times. We started with the Chile Verde and the taste reminded us of the places we went to in Denver, but much better. The slow cooked pork added a fatty creaminess to the tangy tomatillo and spicy chilies. The Chile came with a side of warm maize tortillas which acted as the perfect bowl to mouth delivery system. The Tamale is made of masa and steamed in a corn husk. The inside was warm, creamy, delectable, and comforting. It’s not hard to understand why people have been eating Tamales for thousands of years. The Huarache with Carnitas was phenomenal. Yesterday was our first time trying this dish, but it won’t be the last. Huarache is a circular piece of fried masa that is topped with various ingredients. Ours was topped with carnitas, cheese, cilantro, salsa, and chilis. The carnitas were tender, smoky, and slightly crispy on the outside. The richness of the pork was complemented by the spiciness of the salsa, fresh cilantro, bitterness of squeezed lemon, and the soft doughy masa. I like to think of this as an open faced sandwich on another level. The burrito bowl was colossal and I was surprised. I’m a huge eater, my friends would probably say that is a vast understatement, but even I was impressed by the portion size. The bowl was piled with carnitas, cilantro, beans and salsa, guacamole, diced onions, rice, and topped with a tortilla. By the way, his salsa and guacamole is without a doubt some of the best I’ve ever tasted. This bowl is a delightful combination of many amazing ingredients and every bite explodes with contrasting flavors and textures. I could ramble on and on about how great the food is at El Pino 323, but the best thing to do is try it. Chef D is clearly passionate about the recipes he learned from his grandmother and is meticulous in its preparation and presentation. This dedication to preparation, authenticity, and commitment to high quality ingredients makes El Pino 323 a shining example of Mexican cuisine.
Directions: Go to Noksapyeong station, exit 1. Turn left and then either cross the bridge or walk across the street, and turn left (so you're heading in the direction of Kyungridan street). Walk down a little bit and El Pino will be on your right :)
We're just a couple addicted to great food. We love Anthony Bourdain!