Hey everybody, and welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues. November is in full swing, and I have been living it up as I am slowly approaching the nine month mark in Korea and my birthday! This weekend was no different as I managed to knock another restaurant off my culinary hit-list like the food assassin that I am. I ended up going to Vatos Urban Tacos located at Itaewon-dong 181-8 2nd Floor, Seoul. It’s very easy to get there: go to the Itaewon metro stop and come out exit three; walk for a while until you pass a Nike and an Adidas store. It’ll be a couple of minutes after them on your right hand side on a hill. You also won’t be able to miss it because there will be more people outside of the restaurant than on free sample day at Costco. I highly recommend you make reservations in advance because this restaurant is like Jay Gatsby’s parties, i.e. everyone and their omma is invited every night of the week. So I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about.
The interior had a modern vibe mainly with dark wood elements and wrought iron/industrial metal elements like old spigots that constituted the table frames. I had already seen my fair share of pictures of people on Facebook eating the various plates that Vatos offers like tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and their monster margaritas. I was kind of sad you couldn’t mix and match their taco flavors, but I eventually settled for three braised carnitas tacos (8,000 W). To drink, I went for their peach margarita (12,500 W) because you can never go wrong with peach flavored things. The first thing we ate were the complimentary chips with salsa which were a bit different from any other Mexican restaurant I’ve been to because the tortilla chips were not chips. They were still in their original tortilla form which didn’t make much of a difference to us, but they were good with the salsa verde and spicier salsa roja which most likely had serrano peppers in it for that smoky flavor. We also split a basket of kimchi fries (11,500 W) which were great.
Not only were the fries made to perfection, but the chopped onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, and sour cream managed to dance a perfect ranchera with the spicy kimchi that was nestled amongst the western ingredients. When they came out, they confirmed my initial fears from my friends comments about the portion sizes. These were the smallest tacos I’ve ever eaten. I mean, I know I come from a country where a side of a cow constitutes a regular serving size, but Korea is not Lilliput either. While they were delectable, they were not the best like back home or at Gusto Taco in Hongdae. The meat was shredded and adequately seasoned but a bit on the dry side. As for the tortillas, they felt very flimsy when I rolled up my taco, and I’m sure if they made their tacos any bigger, there would be meat and cheese all over customers’ hands. I also didn’t really taste any lime that they talked about in the description on the menu, but it didn’t really bother me all that much. My peach margarita, on the other hand, was large and in charge.
It definitely was one of the best margaritas I’ve ever had since it wasn’t slushy and filled with ice chips, and every sip was a smooth draw of rich peach flavor with a minor hint of alcohol. As for my friends, Steph got the fajita burrito (11,000 w) which was much heartier than my tacos, and one element that really stood out to me was the chipotle mayonnaise. It was an oddly pleasing ingredient to throw into a burrito, so I tip my sombrero to you Vatos. As for her bf, Daeun, he got three spicy chicken tacos (9,000 w). It was a very basic type of chicken taco, and it wasn’t even that spicy. I personally preferred my tacos since they at least had more of a flavor profile with the cilantro and onions on top. In the end, we were all stuffed and satisfied with our meal.
So if you want to go to one of most crowded but not the best taco restaurant in Seoul, go to Vatos, but remember it’s not muy barato (cheap).