Well, looks like I’ve surpased the view record once again for my blog today. Why the sudden spike in popularity? I have no clue, but I’m not complaining. The most interesting thing is that it’s led not by interest in the posts detailing me consuming a live octopus, a duck’s head, or even silkworm larva. Instead, it’s a bacon cheeseburger in Itaewon in Seoul. Perhaps there is some sort of comfort in simplicity, but that’s fine with me. Just keep on reading! So, today on Mastication Monologues, in honor of the Sochi Olympics, I bring you the scrumptious Russian food of Gostiniy Dvor!
I’ve had my fair share of Russian or similar cuisines since I’m of slavic descent which means I have a soft spot in my heart (most likely due to the heavy ingredients) for all things cabbage, sausage, and vodka. My friend, Bora, knew this as well, so she suggested that we check out the eatery located at the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park metro stop in Seoul. Come out exit seven, and make a u-turn to the right. Then make a left on the street you run into, and you’ll see it on your left on the second floor.
I beat Bora there, so I secured us a table on a weekday where there was no one else in the restaurant. The middle aged Russian lady immediately greeted me with a добрый вечер or “Good evening” which I returned. I sat down, she then brought me a Russian menu. However, she was shocked when I asked for an English menu since I looked like one of her comrades from the Motherland.
I could read the Cyrillic on the English menu still, and I saw that they had a lot of Russian classics like блины (pancakes), борщ (beet soup), and пельмени (dumplings). Bora eventually rushed up the stairs, and we got down to food business. To drink, we saw that they had Baltika beer which ranges from 1 to 9 with 1 being a light lager and 9 a hearty bitter. Naturally, we split a 9 which was delicious and not too dark. Foodwise, we split a bowl of okroshka (a thin sour cream soup), a pork cheese cutlet, and lamb pelmeni. The okroshka came out first, and it was a wonderful starter for our Russian food fest.
It wasn’t chilled but slightly cold. On top were chives and green onions and lurking below the surface like a couple Soviet subs were small chunks of ham. The cool cream mixed with the onions and cucumbers provided the perfect compliment to the fatty pieces of meat. It only the set us up for the glorious pork cutlet that not only was boneless but draped in a golden blanket of cheese which was inlaid with grated potatoes.
It had something fatty (cheese), something meaty (pork), and something starchy (potatoes)=I’d totally RSVP to this dish’s wedding. However, it was slightly salty which might not settle well on everyone’s palate, so just a warning to those who like blander food. As for the pelmeni, they were a bit more understated since they were steamed and dressed with a simple sour cream sauce. The dough’s integrity could have been a bit better since the dumplings would fall apart more often than not when trying to fork them into my gaping maw. Thankfully the lamb was adequately spiced which in turn amped up the flavor of a plate that possibly could have been quite average. By the time I popped the last mini-lamb pocket into my mouth, I was stuffed with plenty of good food washed down with a beer that is in another universe compared to South Korean beer. So quit Stalin and go to Gostiniy Dvor!