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Last Action (Grill) Hero/Which Came First: Toast or the Egg?

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Hey everyone!  Welcome to the 120th installation of Mastication Monologues!  Not only is this post special just because I’ve reached another milestone in the “arduous” quest to be a great food blog writer, but it’s also an installment that chronicles my 26th birthday.  Naturally, I had to go big for my second birthday overseas, so I ended up at Action Grill in Hongdae.  Here is their business card with all of the information you need along with their Facebook page.  The directions are quite long and detailed, so I’m sure Google Maps will suffice.1425636_3030604761194_2036417494_n

It’s surprising that I even ended up here in the first place because I found it originally on accident like Christopher Colombus minus the biological warfare and genocide of the local population.  It was a lovely summer day with my friend who I went out with to get ice cream at Fell and Cole.  We then walked around Hongdae just for fun, and we stumbled upon the establishment that drew us in with the grills set up outside.  We took a look inside, and I knew that I absolutely had to eat at Action Grill one day.  What better day than my birthday?  So I set everything up with the owner, Kim, whose number is on the card.  He was very helpful and understanding, so I’d give the service an A+ just based on his accommodating nature.  Now you might be wondering what sets Action Grill apart from other restaurants and made me want to eat there above all other places?IMG_2647  Well, at Action Grill you camp indoors while you eat.  So basically everything from the seats to the grills, to the decor are straight out of a foray in the forest. IMG_2642IMG_2643 Their menu revolves around grill sets which range from 15,000 W to 40,000 W.  They also have a wide range of beverages both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.  For our group of 12 people, we got three of the “Brother” sets which feeds four people, more or less.  It took about 15 minutes for them to prepare it, and then they brought it out to our tables in full Weber grills.  When they removed the tops, I was taken aback by how much delicious food was piled up in front of me.IMG_2644IMG_2645  On one grill we had slices of bacon, sausages, full shrimp, chicken, potato wedges, and veggies encased in a tin foil tent.  It was a fun group eating experience since you had fold out forks and filled up each others’ small camping bowls with the food.  As for the actual meal, all of the food was great.  I was especially partial to the bacon because there was a lot of fat on it which made it especially smooth and buttery tasting.  The chicken was good but oddly had an aftertaste of hot dogs.  I personally liked combining the onion and pepper veggie salad with the different meats to provide a crisp contrast to the savory elements that the meats brought.  As for the potato wedges, they were well made with crunchy exteriors along with firm, snow-white interiors.  It was an even more interesting dining experience since I was interviewed and filmed by Korean college students talking about how I much I enjoyed the restaurant.   Overall, I was quite satisfied with my meal at Action Grill and the unique camping experience was quite entertaining since they took away all of the annoying parts of camping like mosquitos and rabid raccoons.  However, my birthday food adventure didn’t just stop there.  I also tried some pizza beer with my friend, Bora.  Somehow Tom Seefurth managed to distill the essence of a classic Margherita pizza into a lager.  It wasn’t something that I would ask for again, but the experience was worth it.  It had a distinct oregano smell, but as for the taste, it was more peppery and cheesy.  This was an occasion where I think they over-elaborated on culinary fusion.  Nothing’s better than pizza and beer, but when they combined them, it left me feeling less than saucy.

Mama mia!  indeed

Mama mia! indeed

Much later in the night after a lot of dancing and the occasional imbibing of some adult beverages, my friends and I stopped for some Korean street food.  This time I tried a Korean winter specialty,  계란 빵 or egg bread.

Breakfast for a late night snack

Breakfast for a late night snack

It’s exactly what it sounds like.  Creative name, huh?  They look like small hors d’oeurves served up on a hot griddle, but they were just what I needed to brace myself against the chilly night.  The egg is served sunny side up on top of the bread, so watch out for some yolk splatter.  As for the bread, it was pleasantly crispy and completed this small, hearty breakfast tablet that I ate in the middle of the street.

Freezing but so worth it

Freezing but so worth it

A tasty end to my birthday even though half of it ended up on my face thanks to Bora trying to feed me it.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

El Gusto Es Mío (The Pleasure’s Mine)

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Hey hey hey, everybody!  It’s almost the end of October already, and I’m definitely in the Halloween spirit.  I do miss the changing leaves, football, and apple cider, but tonight I had a legit taste of home to kick-off my Halloween weekend.  Although tacos aren’t really known for being synonymous with Halloween, the ones I had at Gusto Taco were frighteningly good.  Here’s their website.  If you’re going there by metro, get off at Sangsu, and come out exit 1.  Make a U-turn to your right when you come out, and walk down the street for two minutes.  You’ll see it on your left.

Oh hey, stranger!

Oh hey, stranger!

Growing up in Chicago, I’ve had my fair share of Mexican cuisine, and I’ve chronicled it in a few of my posts (See Salsa and Nopales).  Therefore, I was somewhat skeptical when all of my friends were raving that Gusto Taco had the best tacos they’ve every tried in their lives.  So when we walked in, it was a pretty basic looking place with close to no one inside. IMG_1126  I went for the pork chipotle tacos and the pollo asada (grilled chicken) tacos.  There are two tacos to each order, and the price range of tacos goes from 5,700 Won to 8,000 for the shrimp tacos.  They’re moderately sized, but I would soon find out that the flavors packed into them were larger than life.  They also have burritos, nachos, and quesadillas if you aren’t feeling like a taco fiesta is for you.  First, there were the chipotle pork tacos which everyone in my group recommended.  Looking at the various ingredients in the taco like the pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, and a light spritz of tomatillo salsa, I could see that these tacos were something special.IMG_1122  After the first bite, I could now see why my friends were acting like these tacos were the crystal meth of foreign foodstuffs.  My friend, Danielle, who was with me, asked the Walter White or perhaps the Jesse of the operation, in reality a small Korean woman, if they made their own tortillas.  Turns out that they do, and they were the best corn tortillas I’ve ever tasted.  Not only did they have that slightly oily corn character to every bite, but they were extremely resilient amid my own personal feeding frenzy.  When the guacamole hit the water, I went full-on Jaws on those pork tacos.  As for the meat, it was a strange yet refreshing fusion of typical Mexican pork with an almost gyro-esque texture but with a bit less grease.  However, I don’t know quite where the cilantro comes in since I couldn’t really taste any of it aside from in the pico de gallo.  I was thinking that there would be perhaps some sort of cilantro rub or the like on the meat.  Just make sure you’re ready to get your hands a bit dirty with grease/juices while eating them.  They also go great with a splash or two of the complimentary Tabasco hot sauce Gusto Taco provides.  As for the grilled chicken tacos, they were great but not as amazing at the pork cilantro tacos.IMG_1123  While the meat was delicious white breast chunks, it had the same ingredients from the cilantro pork tacos.  The main difference between the two tacos beyond the obvious of having two different types of meat was that the chicken tacos let the supporting cast of condiments share the spotlight which resulted in a more even taste.  A definite contrast to machísimo puerco tacos striding out across your palate like a proud matador who just dispatched an unlucky bull.  Either way, I was thoroughly satisfied with my food and service.

So if you’re looking for one of my top three places for food in Seoul (I’m not kidding), go to Gusto Taco.  If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about.  If not, remember this old saying, “El perro que no anda, hueso no encuentra” (The dog that doesn’t wander will not find a bone), so wander on down to Gusto Taco.  Vale la pena! (It’s worth the effort!)

“Aloha” Means Both “Hello” and “High Prices”

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Hey, everyone!  Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today’s post is about a little establishment called Aloha Table.  I recently went there to celebrate my friend Jasmine’s new job she’ll be taking up in China.   I chose Aloha Table because neither of us had been there, and I also had never tried Hawaiian food.  It’s located at 364-14, Seogyo-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, and here is their website.

When we got there, it was a little bizarre in terms of its entrance comparative to the sign that advertises the restaurant.  If you see the small, overhanging Aloha Table sign, don’t go into the door directly below it since it is a simple cafe that isn’t affiliated with the Hawaiian eatery.  Instead walk past it, and you’ll find the exquisite, black lacquered wood entrance complete with tropical plants and tiki torches at night.

Trying to be Korean with doing hand signals in pictures

Trying to be Korean with doing hand signals in pictures

We ended up being blessed with beautiful weather at night to enjoy the crowded patio.  At first, they said there was no room for a table of two, and then asked whether we’d prefer the inside seats or the outside seats.  I voiced the shared opinion that we’d like an outdoor table, and within two minutes, we were seated at a cozy table and within view of the open air grill.

The beautiful patio

The beautiful patio

The smell alone was worth the price of admission.  There were mostly Koreans there, and when we saw the menu, we could see they adjusted their prices for that reason since Koreans love to spend money on expensive food.  That and some of the ingredients are hard to get in Korea.  However, I was highly suspicious of the menu when they had pho on it, but no Hawaiian staples like Spam and poi.  They had different types of grilled meats (chicken, steak) along with burgers and salads.  Either way, we were starving and planned on making the most of our adventure.  We started with splitting a  pitcher of Blue Hawaii (30,000 W) which made sense economically since the average price of a drink was 9,000 W.IMG_0980  The downside when it came out was the fact that the pitcher was smaller than we thought as shown in the following picture.

I seriously don't have Shaq hands

I seriously don’t have Shaq hands

That and the fact that it tasted like we were drinking juice didn’t really justify the price.   As for food, I got a loco moco which is a Hawaiian classic dish that was invented in the 1940s and is extremely popular throughout the Pacific Islands.  I thought it was funny because it literally means, “crazy mucus” in Spanish, but my ahi ahi bowl (16,000 W) didn’t contain any bodily fluids thankfully.  My dining companion got the spicy pork rib (27,000 W).  When they both came out, I felt like I should have got the ribs with how hungry I was, but the ahi ahi moco didn’t let me down.IMG_0983  Not only did it have tender pink pieces of tuna, but the avocado, sprigs of green onion, and wasabi all mixed together within the fresh white rice to create a light yet satisfying dinner.  The lettuce on top was like a mini salad since it was drizzled with a ranch-esque dressing that didn’t quite possess the same spices like ranch dressing back home.  It was the opposite to the hulking plate of ribs on the other side of the table. IMG_0982 Not only was there a molehill of meat on the plate but a mini corn cob and a smidgen of mashed potatoes.  I didn’t try the potatoes, but the corn was perfectly grilled sans butter.  As for the ribs, they were great.  Not the best ribs I’ve ever had, but they had a great smoky sauce that is quite rare to find in Korea since Korean bbq doesn’t have any equivalent.  They also had little to no fat on them, but they weren’t overloaded with meat on the bone.  I could tell that traveling through the American South had spoiled me.

We both left greatly satisfied with our meal but not too happy with the prices.  Plus, on our way out we had our picture taken by and with fellow Korean diners we didn’t even know. IMG_0989 Why?  I have yet to hear an explanation to this phenomenon, but it was an odd end to a wonderful dining experience. So if you want to try Aloha House, remember that you’re getting high quality food with equally high prices, but it’s still a great place to try out.

 

Make Your Own Froyo? YOLO!

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So I’m sure that you have read all about my terrifyingly spicy experience at Onnuriye Donkatsu in my last post, so here is the follow up to what happened after my challenge.   My stomach still was feeling a bit funky even with consuming the antacid, white rice, and milk, so we decided to get frozen yogurt to sooth my scorched tummy.  We ended up going to Snow Spoon Cafe which is located in Hongdae, Seoul.  You come out of exit 9 at the Hongik University stop.  Then you turn left and turn right at the first street on your right.  There should be trees on both sides of the street.  You keep walking till you cross another street and keep heading straight until you see the Super 7 club on your left hand side.  The cafe occupies an entire corner of the building, so you can’t miss it.IMG_0702

When we walked in, it was semi-full of college students seemingly unable to choose what they wanted because not only did they have 10 different flavors, but they also had a fixins bar that seemed a bit healthier than the froyo places back home, i.e. more fruit and nuts instead of brownie bites and cookie dough chunks.  I guess Koreans haven’t gotten the hang of making healthy things unhealthy like Americans can do so easily.  If you don’t want frozen yogurt, they also have gelato, funny looking ice cream bars, and ice cream sandwiches. Flavor-wise, they had some stalwarts like plain, chocolate, and strawberry, but then they became a bit more mysterious.  I decided to get one flavor that was simply called “Blue”, and it had a picture of Santorini’s classic whitewashed houses interspersed on a mountainside while an endless blue horizon spread out behind it.

Greeks:  known for Democracy and ice cream?

Greeks: known for Democracy and ice cream?

What it would taste like?  I had no clue.  Maybe it would be indescribable, or maybe it would taste like gyros or souvlaki given the Greek picture.  Then I moved down the line to get the rice flavored frozen yogurt.  You read that right:  rice froyo.

Only in Asia

Only in Asia

Though this wouldn’t be the first time I ate ice cream made with rice.  The last flavor I got was blackberry.  I can only take so much razzmatazz in one cup.  I garnished my creation with some trail mix and gummi bears since I can’t say no to any form of gummi candy.  They charge you by weight, so I paid about 5,000 Won for a good amount of ice cream.

As for the actual flavors, they quickly put out the fire burning within my lower torso with panache.

Diabetes?  YOLO

Diabetes? YOLO

The blackberry flavor was delicious since it actually tasted like eating fresh blackberries minus the pesky seeds.  Then came the rice which was really odd because I couldn’t determine whether it had more of a vanilla flavor profile to it, or perhaps it was more like the plain frozen yogurt option.  Finally, there was Blue.  It definitely was the superstar of my cold creation much like the Eiffel 65 hit circa 1999, but it definitely wasn’t played out by any means from my first spoonful to my last.  Turns out it tasted like a tropical fruit punch of sorts. As a whole, my experience was a satisfying spectrum of flavors that ranged from more conventional to the more bizarre yet surprisingly delectable.

A French flag of funky flavors

A French flag of funky flavors

So if you’re looking to eat some delicious frozen goodies in South Korea, check out Snow Spoon.  It’s the perfect treat anytime whether that is after surviving one of Hongdae’s ear-splittingly loud clubs or just on a whim to satisfy your sweet tooth.

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