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French hound in Seoul - Trip report

First and foremost, thank you again to all who contributed to my previous post (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/980009). Korean food was something totally new to me, and the great recommendations you all gave me helped me have a better understanding of this fascinating and diverse food culture.

Here are some of the highlights of my trip.

- Kalguksu Alley in Namdaemun market : Great broth, amazing rough-cut noodles, and a lot of free goodies for about 5 bucks... But passing through this alley with all the cooks yelling at you to sit down at their stand is a rather unpleasing experience. It's the only time I ate kalguksu during my trip, but if I go back to Seoul I'll probably try to find a similarly good place with a less hectic vibe. (if you read french, I posted an article with some photos on my blog : http://www.chezfood.com/2014/08/07/ka...

)

- Maru : This is the restaurant located inside the National Museum of Korea. I was really not expecting this to be great, as in Paris it seems that most museum restaurants are expensive and bland... It wasn't the case here. Although in retrospect I think the food was a little bit "soulless", everything was nicely cooked, nicely seasoned, and gave a refined view of traditional korean cuisine. (on my blog : http://www.chezfood.com/2014/08/18/ma...

)

- Noryangjin fish market : I went with some korean friends for the "grab your fish alive and eat it five minutes later" experience. I'm really glad I did it, I spent a delightful evening with great company, and discovered a truly unique cultural endeavor. But I can't say I was blown away by anything. The live octopus is a "fun" thing to do, but in the end the taste is close to none and the texture is crunchy in an almost cartilaginous way. The hoe of flatfish was also bland and tough... I realize there is a korean fondness for those kinds of textures, and it was eye opening to confront myself with textures I wasn't used to, but I'll stick with sashimi for now...
I'm glad I tasted meongge which was very tender and briny.
And then we had overcooked fish, overcooked shrimp, overcooked giant mussels... So it came down to things being too raw or too cooked for me. Still, no regrets as it was culturally interesting, and a nice evening with friends. (on my blog : http://www.chezfood.com/2014/08/28/ma...

)

- Sulbing patbingsu : I've had a bunch of patbingsu and I liked them a lot more than the japanese equivalent (kakigori). The ice was always fine like snow, and the condensed milk made a huge difference in the taste. But the best ones I had were at Sulbing (it's a chain so they have different shops). If I understood correctly they actually use iced milk instead of water, which adds an even more regressive and comforting taste. (on my blog : http://www.chezfood.com/2014/09/07/su...

)

This is it for the shameless plugs of my blog, as I haven't come around to writing about the rest yet... So what follows is Chowhound exclusive ! ;)

- Café Ropla (near Sinsa subway) & Champ Coffee (Itaewon) : Coffee culture is strong in Seoul, and overall it seems they make better coffees than in Paris... But the 2 best coffees I had where at Café Ropla (a musky and acidic Yrgacheffe) and Champ Coffee (a more mellow and juicy/fruity espresso). By the way, as a side note, I HATED Itaewon... I don't understand it. I just don't. I didn't come to Seoul to see a bunch of white jocks drinking beer and eating bulgogi-sushi... I didn't come to Seoul for Adidas and Le Coq Sportif shops... And I don't get why anyone, whether tourist or expat, would find this a pleasurable experience... I can understand why koreans like it for a night out, but don't get why it's recommended in all the touristic publications...
Rant over.

- Sicheonju (시천주) : A great find in Insadong where I suspect there are a lot of tourist traps... In a small street, this charming restaurant with wood furniture (you sit on the floor), paintings on the walls, and a slightly quirky vibe (with business cards and flyers under the tables like mosaics), delivers good fresh food. We had tteok jabchae, and doenjang jjigae served with great banchan.
A special note to acknowledge the young waiter who was particularly nice and friendly (in a discreet and respectful kind of way).

- Tteokbokki bulgogi – Tokori (?) : If you go around Bukchon to visit the Hanok village do yourself a favor and avoid by all means possible this place (that has a red and yellow chestnut as a logo with the english wording "With your dream – world")... Not only is the service like a rough stone with a few bird droppings on it, but the pot of simmering "wonders" that they served us had almost nothing good in it.... The tteokbokki was rubbery, the sausages tasted like factory meat, the calamari was tough as my bike's front-wheel... Avoid... AVOID...

- Wang Jokbal : On Saechang-ro, near Yongsan, there is a small jokbal place that kills it ! I had jokbal only a couple of times so that doesn't count me as an expert yet, but the one from this place was the best I had, tender, juicy, full of umami !

- Gangnam Myun Oak : This place has been talked about a bunch of times on Chowhound, and it is well worth it's reputation. Addictive to say the least, the broth they serve instead of tea at the beginning of the meal is like crack.

- Bong san jib : Also recommended here. Also great, although it is worth noting that the original location (near Yongsan) doesn't have a lunch menu, so it did amount to a fairly expensive lunch with chadolbaegi and a doenjang-jigae for 2 at 48,000won... Worth it ? Yep... definitely worth it, the meat was incredibly intense, and the fat nicely cut by the vinegary dipping sauce. Awesome.
The waiter was very shy and really puzzled that two foreigners had heard of this small place.

- Jinjujip : In the basement of a small department store (Yoido) is this place specializing in konguksu. I have to admit the noodles where good but the thick sesame broth felt a bit heavy and bland to me... However, the kimchi was probably one of the best I had, well balanced between acidity/fermentation/spice.

- Gwangjang market : A must for any food tourist ! While the jokbal and soondae I had where a bit disappointing, the bindaettok was great, the kimbap as well, and the yukhoe from the small alley that specializes in this korean tartare was also very good (although I would have liked it to be a little more beefy).

- Jung Sik Dang : Korean fine dining. Some great food (a kimchi cracker amuse bouche with nuts and a jelly of some sort, the best octopus I had (tender and crispy), the uni bibimbap...). The only real disappointment was the lobster whose butter sauce was a bit too rich and overshadowed the finesse of the crustacean. In the end it is a good mix of korean food with modern international influences, although to be honest the korean roots get a little bit lost.

- Daelim Dong's Maneul Chicken : Garlick chicken... I mean Garlicky garlic chicken... I mean Garlicky garlic sauce with garlic and garlicky garlic marinated chicken... To try and put things midely : no vampire could approach me for the next three days (and although Miss Yeti is not a vampire, neither could she)... But aside from this purely logistical problem, I was a bit disappointed by the chicken. It was alright, but the sauce was too sweet, and made the crust soggy... Service was hectic but very nice, but I didn't find this was worth the trip.

- Sawori Boribap : Good boribap (bibimbap with barley), but didn't feel that special.

- Saengseon-gui, Grilled Fish Street, Dongdaemun : Went to the one called Honamjib (yellow sign). The fish was superb, tender, very flavorful (from the charcoal grill but also the actual taste of the fish). Had samchi (Japanese Spanish Mackerel) and kongchi (Mackerel Pike). It was hard to eat with chopsticks for us white crackers, with all the fish bones, but at 7000won a person, I highly recommend it !

- Budnamujip : Went for the galbitang... they were out... Had a good bibimbap though (I ordered the yukhoe bibimbap but they either got it wrong, or thought the stupid tourist didn't know better...).

- Kyochon : Another chicken disappointment... it's good, it's fine, for "fast food type fried chicken"... but I didn't have the korean fried chicken epiphany that so many people report to have. Maybe that's an american thing, and my roasted chicken trained french palate doesn't get it... or maybe it's good fastfood (although you do have to wait a half hour, since they cook the chicken to order, so not so fast) but nothing that someone truly interested in food will stop for, I feel.
It was just fine.

- Tosokchon : This place is great. Touristic, yes. Hectic, yes. But the samgyetang is delicate, complex, nourishing and subtle. They truly mastered the art of it, it seems. The haemul pajeon was undercooked, and the shrimps didn't feel fresh, but it was still good. Although it felt more like a guilty pleasure kind of goodness than the samgyetang which felt as healthy as it was advertised.

- Heukdonga : Black pork barbecue. Great, although not "so much better" than most joints I went too. So I'm not sure if the different price tag is really worth it...
I didn't like the "special sauce" they serve with the pork which is very intense and fishy (anchovies ?) and overpowers the taste of the pork.

- Juk : I think the place is just called juk, and that's what they serve, (I could locate it to 278 Hangangno 2(i)-ga (123-1 Hangang-daero), Yongsan-gu, Seoul). This small mom&pop joint serves good juk, but what really charmed me were the banchan, especially a sweet eggplant banchan that was like a warm blanket in winter (it was 100° out that day), and a small salad with (I think) a peanut vinaigrette. Nothing fancy, but really spot on.

- Naengmyun : I've had naengmyun in a bunch of places... but none really stood out... that is to say that I enjoyed everyone of them.
Naengmyun is good.
Eat naengmyun.

Feeew... sorry for being so long... I tried not to let myself go to my usual floral way of describing things, and tried to be to the point.

One final thing that I think is important mentioning, because I've seen a lot of people worried by this... I ate about 50% of the time alone. Not once did a restaurant refuse to serve me, and this includes places like Gangnam Myun Oak, which was packed, where I had to take a number, wait in line, and they ended up giving me a 4 top table just for me... just to say that this place could have easily done without my business, and still they accepted. Every single place had me, and more often then not they did their best to help me order (and even sometimes cook my own meat on the barbecue, which I didn't think I needed).
Also, a bunch of times, when the people (in restaurants or shops) didn't speak english, they either tried to find someone who could, or even called someone on the phone and made me talk to them... in short : people were really nice (well, except for that single tteokbokki place).

I hope I'm not forgetting anything, if I am I will add on to this already too long post. And if anyone has questions I'll do my best to answer them.

Thanks again to all who helped me have a great trip in Seoul !

Paris by district (review)

Yes, thank you for an original and thorough report !

The black tomatoes may have been "noires de Crimée" (which, when good, are my favorite).

You did well !

Sep 16, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

What does "fait maison" at a restaurant mean?

Thank you for the links...

It's interesting to see that the logo is not mandatory, it's either the logo OR the text "fait maison" which has to be written near each dish that is made on the premise, or near the top of the menu if all the menu is fait maison...
What's even more interesting is that even a restaurant which has NO dish that is fait maison, has got to write somewhere on the menu ""Fait maison" dishes are made on the premise with raw ingredients"... the idea, is to explain what "fait maison" means (even if no dish is "fait maison")... however if one sees this sentence on a menu which has no logo or "fait maison" mentioned anywhere what will the consumer think ? Well, I'm pretty sure he will think "Oh, so they make everything on the premise here."... Adding to the general confusion about this law...

Sep 16, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

Desperate for Seoul recommendations

I have yet to come back here for my Seoul report (I'd rather take the time to do things right...), but I second Steve's rec for Gangnam Myun Oak, it was addictive as hell, and the broth they serve at the beginning is pure drug.
You should bring your chef friends to the Gwangjang market and have a bindaetteok (from one of the places where they grind the beans).
Heukdonga is a great place for pork.
And Tosokchon, although touristic, is great for samgyetang (very well balanced broth, tender chicken, and feeling rice).

Have fun !

Dans les landes

Great review John, if I wasn't so broke right now I'd go tomorrow... Actually, let me call my clients about those delayed payments...

Sep 02, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

Angéla is alive and hopping at 81 rue de Turbigo

The "or maybe not" from my previous post was implying that I would cross town for a particularly good one. ;)

Sep 02, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

Angéla is alive and hopping at 81 rue de Turbigo

It's funny you mention kimchi, because I was about to write about it. As you probably know there aren't two kimchis alike, and as a "banchan" or sidedish, it would be ridiculous to cross town for a particularly good one... or maybe not.
I understand your point, I just feel that, as Parigi said, Banh Mi is not a fad in France (yet ?), and Angela's version has never been described as "revolutionary". So while I get your point, and agree with you, I don't think that this thread was the right place to bring that up, because it felt like you were accusing us of being "fad sheep" (and by the way, that's going to be the name of my next psychedelic progressive rock band).

Sep 01, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

New York Times Paris Restaurant Coverage Just Gets Worse and Weirder!

Just a quick word of advice : I don't think NYT is fond of emoticons.

:p

Sep 01, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

Are bagels "a thing" now?

Like most people already commented, Bagels in France are just a vaguely chewy, but mostly toasted bread with a whole, used to make a regular sandwich... And although there will always be a cream-cheese and smoked salmon one, to act "authentic", most choices will just be random things that can end up in a sandwich.

They're not all bad, and will sometimes come in handy for a quick bite at lunch, but the true chewiness is nowhere to be seen...

Sep 01, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

Angéla is alive and hopping at 81 rue de Turbigo

Sorry to jump on the "geezer bashing" wagon, but I'm with everybody else and sincerely do not understand your comment...

Seeing sushi and ramen described as "so-what, eat-on-the-street, don't-think- about-it-twice food items" is like seeing the description of a fairy being brutally murdered by a shark... "So-what" ?? Ramen ?? Sushi ??

Of course in Japan there are tons of Ramen places and Sushi places, but that doesn't mean the japanese don't take them very seriously, and a lot of them (especially on a website like Chowhound) will happily hop on the subway to go to a ramen place, instead of just getting inside any shop "not thinking about it twice"... And even when you do enter just any shop, chances are you will find behind the counter a chef that is proud of its ramen. Unfortunately that can't be said about banh mi in France (or even about most food unfortunately)... so when there is a gem like Angela, really proud of her Banh Mi, and with reason, it should be mentioned.

Sep 01, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

Angéla is alive and hopping at 81 rue de Turbigo

Her banh mi are not like that. Your choice of pork, beef or chicken, all tender and juicy in their respective sauces. A few extra fresh and crispy marinated vegetables and herbs. A dollop of heat if you're up for it, and a nice crunchy baguette.

No sogginess in sight !

Aug 31, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

Trip Report, May 10 - 17 (Fish, Le Villaret, Chez Casimir, A La Biche au Bois, Other)

http://www.lepiceriedebruno.com/

The website is saying the shop will be open only on fridays and saturdays from 12:00 to 18h30 until the end of september, and that after that the shop should be open "normally". It also says that the website is up and running in case you want to order online.

Aug 26, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

Trip Report, May 10 - 17 (Fish, Le Villaret, Chez Casimir, A La Biche au Bois, Other)

(pssst... the original report is from 2012) ;)

Aug 26, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

Place Des Vosges Area Recs

If the quality of Paris Baguette in France is anything like it is in Seoul, although it will not replace a good ol' boulangerie, it will certainly replace all the bad ones, and it will be miles better than the "pommes de pain" types of places...

As for "la jeune rue", for those of you reading french, here is an interesting (and a bit scary) article about the personnage : http://www.lemonde.fr/le-magazine/art...

Aug 17, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

French hound coming to Seoul - Need a few insights

Sorry for the late reply (I was in Hadong, far from the internet...). And thanks for all the info.
Unfortunately my trip is coming to an end on wednesday, and I've yet to try a few dishes high on my list... So I guess I will delve deeper in the world of bloody food next time I come...

French hound coming to Seoul - Need a few insights

Yes it did come with the salt (and they also added a few pieces of jokbal, which was also not as good as one I had a few days earlier)...

I tried to find a stand where the soondae was steaming, and where people were eating it. But it felt like there were too much noodles inside, and not enough of the "good stuff"... I did see a few soondae plates (without trying them) since then (around town or in restaurants), and their color looked darker, and less packed with noodles... Also maybe I'm just not fond of the steamed version and would prefer them in soup, or stir fried... It may also be a personal preference, I really love spanish morcilla, but the taste is very "assertive" and rich.

French hound coming to Seoul - Need a few insights

I actually made the same remark when I came back from Japan two years ago.
It seems to me that the reason why you can go to any little random place wherever you are in Japan, and it will probably be good to great, but if you do the same thing in France it will be bad to mediocre, is the pride that the Japanese cooks (even small ones with no particular ambition) put into their food.

Before the ingredients, the technique, the knowledge, the creativity... comes the pride of the cook.

French hound coming to Seoul - Need a few insights

It does interest me, but my days are getting shorter, and I will probably go to the countryside for about a week... and still so much I didn't eat in Seoul ! ;)

I'm writing down your rec though. Thanks.

French hound coming to Seoul - Need a few insights

Well... I ended up going to gwangjang market today, and lo and behold I came across some soondae... Maybe I should have gone to that place in Yeonji-dong which wouldn't have been very far, because I was somewhat disappointed, I found it to be pretty bland (it was the steamed version), and a bit hard to swallow those big chunks...
I had an awesome Bindaetteok though, so not all is lost.

But soondae hasn't seen the last of me... I'll be back for more (in fact, the pictures on the blog with the squid version look really appetizing !).

French hound coming to Seoul - Need a few insights

Thank you, it does help ! :)

French hound coming to Seoul - Need a few insights

Hi Steve, thank you for replying. I'm sorry, I hadn't realize that the chicken place you mentioned was "fried chicken"... somehow I wrote it down as "garlic chicken" and forgot that it was fried... This place is still on my to-do list though !

I need to clarify what I meant by "looks pretty bad"... I've eaten in quite a few small hole in the wall type places in Seoul now, I have no problem with food alleys, street foods, etc... It's just that the "two two chicken" that is near my apartment is very small, seems to be always empty (when I pass by), and they have fried chicken waiting in the window, so it doesn't seem like they cook it to order... These are the reasons why it "looks bad" to me, not because it's "gritty" or doesn't require a jacket ! ;)

I will look out for soondae, and if I pass near the place you mention I will have a go, thanks.

What foods unavailable in US not to miss in France?

Personnally I was more thinking about absinthe (blanche), absinthe (verte), absinthe (feuille morte)... but we have time to plan. ;)

Aug 04, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

What foods unavailable in US not to miss in France?

Ok, enough said. Next Chowmeet will be an "Heure Verte" !

Aug 04, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

French hound coming to Seoul - Need a few insights

Hello all,

Still in Seoul, and so far things are going great !

I will of course write a report when I'm back in France, but in the meantime, I am hitting you all with a few more questions !

First of, I ate at Bon Sang Jib, the original location in Yongsan. It was really great, the meat had an amazing beefy flavor, and the little vinegary sauce with chives and peppers cut nicely through the fat. The server was also very nice and seemed quite surprised that we had heard of the restaurant. They didn't have the cheaper lunch set however, and the 160g chadolbaegi was 20.000W, and jjigae for 2 was 8.000W. The jjigae was incredibly rich and comforting and well balanced, I thought the little pieces of gristle/fat inside where a bit off putting, but other than that it hit all the right spots !

I have a question about this restaurant to people who've had other chadolbaegi. I'm not sure I want to try another chadolbaegi if it will be inferior, but I'm wondering if this one is really that much better than others ? And if it is, what makes it so much better in your opinion, is it just a matter of sourcing good quality beef ? Is it the thinness of the cut ? Or is it everything "but" the beef (basically the banchan) that make this place stand out ?

Ok, the rest of it will be short... I'm having a blast with food here, and I'm even getting better and better at handling the heat ! ;)
But there are two things that are not on my list yet, and I feel should be, but can't find much info on the internet:

- Sundae (or Soondae). If it is anything like boudin/black pudding/morcilla, this dish is for me. But I don't really know where to have it. I saw there is a "sundae alley", but I didn't really enjoy the experience of the kalguksu alley with all the cooks screaming at you to try and make you seat at their stand. I don't mind street food, or eating on a plastic chair, I just would rather choose my own spot without someone trying to lure me in. Any thoughts on where to have sundae ?

- Fried chicken. I've heard the "chains" or pretty good... but frankly the "Two two chicken" that is near to me looks pretty bad... I read some articles about a place called Kyochon Chicken and another one called Hanchu. Any thoughts on good fried chicken ?

Thanks again for all your help, from me and my palate and my belly, we thank thee !

What foods unavailable in US not to miss in France?

Yes me too, I actually have a replica absinthe fountain which I love to use. Or if I'm just making one glass for myself I will use the "brouille à balancier", it's also quite charming.

Aug 03, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

What foods unavailable in US not to miss in France?

You know you are supposed to dilute the absinthe with 3 to 5 parts ice cold water... If it is too strong for you, maybe you just need to dilute it a little more ?

Aug 03, 2014
Rio Yeti in France
1

What foods unavailable in US not to miss in France?

"Adding "eh con" to the end of every sentence is an option."

But a recommendable one.

Aug 02, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

Good coffee in Paris?

Ok... I rarely connect to Chowhound while I'm in Seoul (yes I'm bragging)... but what the hell is going one with the interface ??

Anyway, I second helloterrestrial2014's recommendation. I only buy my coffee from Brûlerie Belleville, because although it costs twice as much as my little local roaster's coffee does, and although I would indeed prefer (intellectually) to give my business to that old nice and weird fella, with bottle bottom glasses, rather than to bearded hipsters... Taste-wise, I just can't go back to the bland stuff I used to brew at home...

As for the coffees served in cafés (trendy or not), I already had a debate with Ptipois about this, so will not get back to it. But in my experience of drinking quite a few cups at Ten Belles, I only had one acidic cup which sent rockets to my jaw (which I didn't at the time of our initial debate, so I now understand what you mean), but I also had many many great cups of coffee, and twice had an actually exceptional cup : rich, complex and balanced...

Compare this to the countless nose bending bitter muds I had over the years at "regular" cafés... and I'm sorry to say I'll have to take sides with the hipsters... (but maybe one day I will shave my beard and see the world in a whole new color spectrum !)

Oh yeah... and what the hell is going one with the interface ??

Aug 02, 2014
Rio Yeti in France
1

What foods unavailable in US not to miss in France?

I was a bit like you, except I still dislike pastis, and will only like fennel when it is cooked "right".
I'm ok with liquorice candy, but it's definitely not my favorite.

When I discovered absinthe, I found it to be way more complex than any pastis I'd tried... but to be honest, even in the absinthes I choose I tend to favor herbal or woody, or "candied fruits" flavors, rather than the more anise-y ones (I really like all the "Parisiennes" line of absinthes created by Luc Santiago from the shop Vert d'Absinthe).

Aug 01, 2014
Rio Yeti in France

What foods unavailable in US not to miss in France?

"Still, the absinthe of long ago seems to have been particularly addictive."

Especially since after the phylloxera epidemic a glass of absinthe at a neighborhood cafe was cheaper than a glass of wine...

Having tasted more than a few vintage absinthes (hundred years old), aside from being quite tasty (absinthe, ages really well !), I noticed no difference in the addiction to it (although some of my friends do consider that I am addicted to absinthe... so who knows...).

Jul 31, 2014
Rio Yeti in France