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 :)
by Michael Jones.
In two months we will be leaving Korea. We will miss many things about Seoul, especially our friends, but we will also miss our favorite Korean foods. With a deadline in mind, we have made it our mission to find some of the best Korean restaurants in Seoul. Our first goal was to find a spectacular example of Dakdoritang (닭도리탕), also known as Dakbokkeumtang (닭볶음탕). Dakdoritang is a spicy chicken stew and is one of our favorite dishes. A whole chicken is cut into pieces and thrown into a pot filled with potatoes, onions, garlic, and scallions. The sauce is made from a base of gochujang (red chili paste) and then other ingredients are added such as: soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar. Every restaurant probably has a slightly different recipe and I would feel inadequate trying to list everything that goes into this wonderful soup. The only definite thing I can say is that you should try it.
Our search for Dakdoritang led us to a place called Gyerim sikdang (계림식당). This restaurant is located in a narrow alleyway near Jongno 3-ga Station. As soon as you enter the alleyway the smell of garlic fills the air as it wafts through crowds of hungry people and neon signs. On both sides of the alley restaurants are piled up and tempt potential customers with smells of roasting meat, boiling soup, and the clink of alcohol-filled glasses. In front of Gyerim sikdang there is always a line of eager and hungry people.
The restaurant is small, intimate, and about as authentic as it gets. Gyerim Sikdang is packed with locals winding down after a long hard day at work. Here blue collar and white collar workers sit shoulder to shoulder as they enjoy a phenomenal bowl of soup. The soup comes in small, medium, and large, but we always pick the large size. I would suggest the large for 3-4 people. The soup is served in a large golden pot and topped with a heaping spoonful of minced garlic. The garlic stands out nicely against the dark red of the broth, green scallions, and golden potatoes. The steam tickles the nose and makes the eyes water, but the taste is worth any discomfort. The chicken is tender and is easily pulled off the bone. The garlic balances the spiciness of the gochujang and the slight sweetness combines to make a truly delightful broth. Long after the chicken and potatoes have disappeared, it is enjoyable just to eat the broth. It seems to taste better the longer it boils in the pot and if you’re still hungry you can add a portion of noodles for 2,000 KRW. If you get them, the noodles are thick, covered in flour, and soak up the delectable flavors. Gyerim Sikdang is a wonderful place to share a meal with friends and is definitely our favorite Dakdoritang in Seoul.
Price: 22,000 for 2-person serving
32,000 for 3 person serving
44,000 for 4 person serving
Extras: Fried Rice, white rice, and 갈국수 noodles.
Address: 서울 종로구 돈화문로4길 39 (종로3가)
Directions: Go to Jongno 3 ga station, line 1. (종로3가역), exit 12.
Walk down to the 2nd big street on your right and turn right (종로26길)
Turn right into the first small alleyway on your right.
Walk down until you see 계림식당 on your right. There should be a sign for 닭도리탕.
Before Sticky Ricky’s opened, we were very excited about an ice cream shop opening 30 seconds down the road from our house. Today was their grand opening, but earlier this week we went twice during their soft opening. We were already blown away by their ice cream during the soft opening, but today the ice cream was even better. Sticky Ricky’s offers American ice cream (hard ice cream with no eggs and heavy cream) as well as some sherbet and sorbet flavors. Some of the flavors they are offering now (most flavors will change regularly) are Salted Caramel Cookie Party, Orange Creamsicle, Gochujang Chocolate, Avocado Lime Sherbet, Strawberry Sorbet, Dark Chocolate Sherbet, and Philly Vanilla.
The thing we like most about the ice cream at Sticky Ricky’s is the creaminess and the consistency. Our favorite flavors so far are the Salted Caramel Cookie Party and the Philly Vanilla, but the Gochujang Chocolate is not far behind. In the Salted Caramel, the caramel was slightly burnt (on purpose) and each bite was filled with soft, sweet chunks of three different types of cookie. The Philly Vanilla is one of the best vanilla ice creams I have ever had, and that’s saying a lot because vanilla is my favorite flavor of ice cream. The vanilla beans are steeped for a while and the flavor really shines through in the ice cream. As for the Gochujang Chocolate, it sounds strange, but the milk chocolate balances perfectly with the heat and saltiness from the gochujang paste. Overall, the ice cream at Sticky Ricky’s has been outstanding and I can’t wait to see what flavors they create next. They offer single cups or cones for 4,000 won, doubles for 6,000, and triples for 8,000.
Sticky Ricky’s is near Sookmyung Womens University, exit 2. Come out of exit 2 and walk down the alley going diagonally to the left. Walk down, cross a small intersection, and Sticky Ricky’s will come up on your right.
Hours now: Friday-Sunday: 12pm-10pm
After June 20 : 12pm-10pm Tuesday-Sunday
by Ashley Heil
It's a long way from Seoul to Wonju, but worth the journey. We had heard in previous reviews how good the chicken and the ribs are at Sweet Oak, so we knew we had to order both. The ribs at Sweet Oak (49,000 won, make sure to pre-order!) surpassed all expectations. The ribs had a delectable charred outer layer and the slow-cooked meat was tender enough to pull apart with your fingers. The smoky flavors of the meat, balanced with the fattiness, caused momentary silence during the first bite as me and my friends failed to think of adjectives. All of us thoroughly enjoyed the ribs. The ribs were served with 3 sides, and a mouthwatering batch of dry rub fries. We also ordered a platter (29,000 won) of wood-fired grilled chicken (we got it spicy piri piri style), and smoked pulled pork, which included another 3 sides and fries. It had the perfect amount of spiciness, was juicy, and had great flavor. The chicken definitely did not disappoint. The smoked pulled pork was also tasty, but seemed comparable to the pulled pork we've had at other barbecue restaurants in Itaewon (Manimal and Linus). It was good, but not the star of the show. The sides were good, but also comparable to other BBQ places. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the fries more than expected, and I kept eating the french fries long after I was full. Also available at Sweet Oak to wash everything down is a nice selection of Hand and Malt beers, as well as other alcoholic beverages. Although Sweet Oak is not in Seoul, and takes a bit of planning and sitting on a bus/train to get there, it is for sure worth it. If you're a barbecue or meat lover, make your way out to Sweet Oak as soon as you can!
Take the bus (1.5 hours) from express bus terminal (tickets 7,000 each way for general or 10,000 for excellent) to Wonju.
OR take a train (about 1 hour) from Cheongnyangni Station.
Take a taxi to Sweet Oak (원주시 봉바위길 76-2 )
It's near 솔샘초등학교.
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Mix and Malt: Hyehwa, Seoul, South Korea
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by Michael Jones
Korean cuisine is much more than samgyeopsal, bulgogi, and soju. There are countless dishes to discover and kimchi jjim is one of our favorites. It is often overshadowed by kimchi jjigae, but every food lover should try kimchi jjim. Kimchi jjim (김치찜) is served in a scalding earthenware bowl and paired with white rice and side dishes. The pork, but it can also be made with other meats, is slow cooked with the kimchi. The fat drippings mix with the tanginess of the kimchi which makes a creamy, rich broth. The bowl is filled to the brim with tender chunks of pork on the bone and large strands of pungent kimchi. This Korean comfort food is the perfect companion on a cold or rainy day. It is also more filling, usually, than kimchi jjigae, so for big eaters it is a great option.
The ddukbaegi kimchi jjim (뚝배기김치찜) at Usoon Daega (우순대가) is inexpensive and savory. For 7,000 KRW you can enjoy a steaming bowl of pork and kimchi stew. Usoon Daega also sells delectable Korean pancakes, made with beans, called kong jeon (콩전) for 5,000 KRW. The softness of the warm pancake goes perfectly with the tangy crunch of the kimchi and juicy pork. Next time you crave some comfort food, grab some friends and visit Usoon Daega.
Go to Hoehyun station (line 4) and go to exit 6. Take a right and walk through Namdaemun market. Take a right when you come to the big road, 남대문로. Walk a little ways and the restaurant will be on your right.
Address: 서울 중구 남대문로 30 1층
by Ashley Heil
B'mucho Cantina is a small, cozy Mexican restaurant nestled down a small alley in Yeonnam-dong (near Hongdae exit 3), and is our new favorite Mexican restaurant. Though it has been open since 2013, we have only recently discovered it after hearing about it from friends. This place is great not only because of its taste, but also because of its reasonable prices, great atmosphere, and ample portion sizes. The music and the ambiance reminded me of some Mexican restaurants from back in the states and the food was outstanding.
I started with the spicy margarita (9,000), and my friends started with the Horchata. The margarita was the best margarita I've had in Seoul so far. I loved the little bit of spicy kick it had, it really contrasted the sour flavors well. I tried my boyfriend's Horchata as well, and it was also excellent. We shared a side of guacamole and chips as an appetizer (8,000 won). It was delightful and filled with a little bit of pico de gallo and cilantro on the side. For our main dishes, my boyfriend got the Carne asada burrito (12,000 won). While he was eating, I frequently heard "mmm” coming from him and he told us it was the best burrito he’s had in Seoul so far. I ordered the Enfrijoladas (16,000 won), because It was the first time I've seen it in Korea.It’s basically a smothered tortilla dish, filled with chicken and I had it topped with chorizo as well. I was really impressed by the portion size; I’m a big eater and I could not finish it. The chicken tortillas were smothered with cheese and black beans, and the bit of spice from the chorizo contrasted so nicely with the creamy tortillas. It was such a comforting, delicious dish. My friend ordered the Enchilada Verde (14,000 won), which I tried as well and it was fantastic. The tortillas were filled with chicken and onions, and were topped with cheese and a slightly spicy green chile sauce that reminded me of Mexican food from Colorado. The portion size of the Enchilada Verde was also massive. This place can be pretty popular so make sure you get there early or are prepared to wait. We only had to wait about 5 minutes though on a Sunday night. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Directions: 서울특별시 마포구 연남동 227-8번지
Go to Hongdae station, exit 3.
Cross the street and walk up the left side of the road that runs at a diagonal (연회로),
Walk down the road 5-10 minutes.
Before the big intersection, turn left on the small road at 서울동부교회.
It'll be on your left. It is near Cafe Libre.
Hours: Monday: closed
Wednesday-Friday: 12:30-3:00, 5:30-10
Saturday: 1:00-3:00, 5:30-9
Sunday: 1:00-3:00, 5:30-9
by Michael Jones
It's no secret that we are huge fans of Casablanca. The flavors at Casablanca constantly impress us and we've never been disappointed there. When we heard about the new concept, Morococo Café, we eagerly awaited the chance to try it. Morococo Café does not serve sandwiches, but instead focuses on high quality and traditional Moroccan dishes. Last night we went to the soft opening and literally ordered everything on the menu. It was a wonderful experience.
The carrot salad was full of flavor and the caramelized plums added a juicy sweetness. This sweetness was balanced by the toasted almonds and dressing. The lamb rass el hanout was presented in a sizzling clay pot, served in meatball form, and topped with a gooey fried egg. The red sauce was rich, and besides for the spices, reminded me a little bit of my grandmother's homemade marinara sauce. The meat has the same flavors of the lamb curry at Casablanca, which we love, and together with the sauce and the runny egg was an explosion of flavor. We soaked up the rest of the sauce with a basket of warm bread. The preserved lemon chicken with green olives was cooked perfectly. The skin was crispy, but the meat on the inside was moist. The sliced lemon pieces added a zesty tang to the meat and the sauce went well with the olives and fresh spices. The spiced rice was a nice change from the sticky rice we eat on a daily basis. The rice is extremely soft, and the nutty spicy taste really stood out after being drizzled with a fresh squeeze of lemon. We also had two glasses of white wine, which besides for being delicious, were generously poured, and we also tried the nas nas café and Moroccan tea. The coffee was small, but strong, and had a nice kick. If you enjoy espresso, you will enjoy the nas nas café. The tea was served in a silver teapot and had a slight sweetness that reminded me of honey.
We can honestly say that everything was delicious, but we enjoyed the lamb rass el hanout the most. It was extremely flavorful and we don't get the opportunity to eat lamb often. If you are a fan of Casablanca, which many of us are, then you will definitely enjoy Morococo Café. It's a small space, but very intimate and well decorated. The Moroccan chandeliers cast a warm glow and intricate shadows across the walls. It is a wonderful date spot. Morococo Café will delight people that want to experience different Moroccan cuisine, but will also satisfy the fans of Casablanca that can't get enough of the fresh spiciness in every dish.
For prices I posted an image of the entire menu.
Directions: Noksapyeong Station Exit #2
Walk down the hill until you reach the intersection and take a left past the kimchi pots.
Walk up that hill until you reach Casablanca on your left.
Morococo Café is directly across the street.
We're just a couple addicted to great food. We love Anthony Bourdain!