by Ashley Heil
Some pictures to help with directions!
Last weekend, my Korean friend (who also happens to speak Chinese and lived in China), took my friends and I to her favorite Sichuan hotpot restaurant in the real Chinatown of Seoul, near Daerim station. As soon as we left exit 12 of Daerim station, we knew we were in Chinatown. All around us there were Chinese signs and people speaking Chinese. We've been to the "Chinatown" in Incheon before, and after going there, we were a little disappointed on its authenticity. But, Daerim station definitely felt authentic. There were even signs with no Korean translations. After we got to the building and walked up the stairs to the restaurant, at first I had my doubts about how good it would be as we walked past a smoky and sketchy looking Noraebang. But, when we got to the restaurant on the third floor I felt better. The restaurant was clean, all the customers inside looked pleased with food, and again all the signs were in Chinese, giving the feel of authenticity.
The great thing about this restaurant is it's 15,000 for all-you-can-eat food. I had never had Sichuan hotpot before, but I really loved this experience. When you sit down you can order 2 different types of meat that you want, and tell them the spiciness that you want for the hotpot. So, we ordered lamb and beef, and half spicy and half not spicy. Our friend ordered this in Chinese, but you can order in Korean as well (not sure if they understand English). After we ordered, we started preparing the different sauces that we wanted for dipping the meat and the vegetables in after they had been cooked in the hot pot. I made one with peanut sauce, and one with 2 different kinds of chili oil, soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, scallions, and coriander. They have so many different sauces and condiments available, and you can get as much as you want. Also, for sides for your meal, they had some hard boiled eggs and steamed rice. These were also unlimited; you can just grab as much as you want. From the side table we also grabbed the different vegetables that we wanted with our meal.
We started cooking our meat and vegetables and enjoying our food right away. I liked both of the different soup bases in the hotpot that we got: the spicy one and the non-spicy one. The non-spicy one reminded me a bit like shabu-shabu, but I found myself sticking to that side for a lot of the meal as the spicy side had such a strong (but delicious) taste. Most of my friends preferred the spicy side of the hot pot, however. There was just so much flavor in the whole meal, and the thin meat that we ordered really went well in the hotpot. I also love how with this meal you can really make it suite your own tastes with the different combinations of sauces, condiments, meats, and vegetables. We kept on getting more and more vegetables, and ordering more meat, and ended up sitting there for at least 2 hours. I just couldn't believe the whole time that everything was unlimited and that it tasted so good.
While enjoying the meal we ordered a bottle of TsingTao beer (5,000 won) and 2 small bottles of a strong Chinese liquor (Koubei (코우베이)口杯白酒). After we stuffed ourselves for a couple hours, we wrapped up the hotpot meal with some noodles that really soaked up all the different flavors that had been in the hot pot for the last couple of hours. The total came to 18,000 each for the unlimited hot pot and a few drinks, and we couldn't have been more full and satisfied. I haven't been this full and satisfied after a meal in a very long time, so after the meal we just walked it off a little bit, then went home and relaxed. The great thing about this restaurant is that we received so much food it basically counted as both a late lunch and early dinner. We certainly didn't need to eat another meal after all that food. So, I recommend this restaurant to people even if you've never tried hotpot before, and for those that have. Our friend that took us lived in China and she commented that this is the best restaurant she's found for the combination of the authenticity, the great price, and the quality, and I certainly agree. Give it a try and let us know what you think!
Go to Daerim Station exit 12 (line 7)
Come out of the exit and take a left.
Walk down the road and walk straight about 3 minutes.
The restaurant is next to 기흥 supermart on the 3rd floor.
See the pictures for more help with the directions!
by Michael Jones.
This weekend we went to the soft opening of Dan Cho’s new restaurant, Pho Chi Minh. Both of us are huge fans of Paulie’s pizza, also owned by Dan, so when we heard about this new concept we were extremely excited to try it. We ordered a lot of food during the soft opening: two bowls of Pho, one order of Szechuan fried rice, fried spring rolls, and two Vietnamese iced coffees, one black and one sweet. Last year we traveled throughout Vietnam and one of the things we missed most after we left was the coffee. The coffee in Vietnam is strong, but also extremely smooth and buttery. Dan is sourcing the coffee, and the drip apparatus directly from Vietnam’s largest coffee chain, Trung Nguyen. The coffee reminded me of the wonderful coffee we had in Vietnam and the taste was dark, rich, and buttery. It's a great cup of coffee (3900 won).
The Pho was also outstanding and both of us ordered the #1, the Pho Dac Biet (9900 won for the regular size). The broth was very rich and slightly spicy. The chunks of meat were tender and the noodles were the perfect texture. We are not Pho experts, but we went to some great Pho restaurants in Vietnam and Pho Chi Minh did not disappoint us. There are some other Pho places in Seoul that we also really like, but this was one of the few times that we enjoyed all three major ingredients at once: the meat, broth, and the noodles. The Pho was great, but the Szechuan fried rice really blew us away. We love Chinese style fried rice and the Szechuan style was mouthwatering. It was spicy, like all dishes inspired by Szechuan cuisine should be, and it was extremely flavorful and moist from the wok.
Our first experience at Pho Chi Minh was great, so we went back with friends on Sunday. I was eager to try another dish that really gets my blood flowing, beef and broccoli. When foreigners think of American food, two meals usually come to mind: pizza and hamburgers. What a lot of people tend to forget is America’s obsession with American Chinese food. I spent a large portion of my childhood dinners sitting in front of Chinese takeout containers. Nine times out of ten, my container was filled with chicken and broccoli or beef and broccoli. Although I really enjoyed the Pho at Pho Chi Minh, I was really excited when Dan told me about their beef and broccoli served with rice. So on our second visit, we both ordered the beef and broccoli and we were blown away by the taste and overwhelmed by nostalgia. The sauce was thick, creamy, and perfect. The chunks of beef were large and tender, but the broccoli was my favorite part. The broccoli was perfectly cooked and added a fantastic crunch to the tender pork. These contrasting textures make the dish special. It reminded me of home, but the quality at Pho Chi Minh is definitely better than the places our families went to. The fried rice that was served with it was also wonderful, but Dan told me that in the future it will probably be served with white rice. Either way, I will be back often to eat this dish and all the other wonderful food at Pho Chi Minh.
Go to Gwanghwamun Station - Line 5 (purple)
Take exit 3 and make a u-turn
Immediately turn right at the next road and walk straight
Walk until you see the Korean archaeological site
Then the building will be on your right
Walk through the doors and go to the fifth floor.
You'll see Pho Chi Minh on the corner on the right.
by Michael Jones
I love Asian food, Korean food especially, but every once and a while I need to change it up. Yesterday after walking through the crowded streets of Myeongdong and being plagued by the smells of delicious street food, we decided to visit Din Tai Fung for a second time. For those of you unfamiliar with Din Tai Fung, here is a short history. The restaurant was started in Taiwan during the 1980s and gained critical acclaim during the 1990s. Now the restaurant has branches all over the world and Seoul has 5 different locations. The most popular item on the menu, and the dish that made them famous, are without a doubt the steamed buns, known as xiaoolongbao. The steamed buns and dumplings are made fresh, by hand I might add, every single day. One of the things I enjoy most is watching the chefs prepare the buns and dumplings in the glass walled kitchen. Every dumpling and bun is worked to perfection. Every crease and fold is done by hand and executed precisely. This is food making done with the precision and attention to detail of a Lamborghini factory line. This obsession over perfect presentation has made Din Tai Fung an incredible restaurant. The great food does not stop at the buns and dumplings, however, all the food is delicious and undergoes the same scrutiny. So to make a long story short, we decided to try as much as we could. We ordered the best set, which comes with sweet and sour pork, shrimp and egg fried rice, 10 soup dumplings, a clear onion soup, a side of cucumbers in a spicy sauce, and two tea drinks. I thought for 42,000 the price was well worth it. I’m a pork fanatic, and the pork was by far some of the best I’ve had. The batter was not overly greasy and it had a nice chewy texture. The sweet and sour sauce came in a large saucer on the side and was served hot. The sauce and pork together was absolutely phenomenal. The fried rice was good, the tea was delicious, and the dumplings and cucumbers were outstanding. We devoured everything and enjoyed the experience so much we ordered more. To finish the meal we ordered two pork and chive buns. The buns were fist sized, soft and warm like freshly baked dough, and filled with freshly chopped chives and tender pork. The buns blew me away. If money was no obstacle, I easily could have eaten more, less out of hunger more out of sheer deliciousness. Din Tai Fung is definitely not a cheap restaurant, but it is worth the price. Korean food is fantastic, but I still need to satisfy my craving for Chinese food. I’ve heard that the owner took recipes from China when he fled to Taiwan, so that’s why I’m calling it Chinese. Either way, the food is outstanding and definitely worth a try. Happy eating.
Go to Myeongdong station and take exit 6
Walk down the hill towards the shopping and throngs of people
Walk straight for 5-8 minutes
Pass a few intersections until you get to the main Myeongdong shopping street
This street is larger and runs perpendicular to the street you walked down
Turn right and walk until you find the Top 10 clothing store on your left
At the intersection where the Top 10 store is turn left
Pass the store on your left
Walk about a minute
Take the next right and walk about 50 yards
On your left will be a lot of chicken and beer places
Across the street is Din Tai Fung
The restaurant is on the second floor of the hotel (the hotel is under construction)
The sign for the restaurant will be in the first floor lobby next to the guard station
Walk up the stairs and ENJOY
We're just a couple addicted to great food. We love Anthony Bourdain!