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Sitting in Sand and Sippin’ Something Sweet in Seoul

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Hey there!  So this post is just going to be a quick review of a unique watering hole that I recently tried in Itaewon.  It’s called the Bungalow, and it’s located at 112-3 Itaewon-dong Yongsan-gu Seoul South Korea.  You have to go to the Itaewon metro stop and go out exit 2.  Walk past the Hamilton Hotel, and make a left on the first street on your left.  You’ll walk past the Flying Pan on your right hand side, and you’ll make a right on the next road you encounter.  Walk straight past Tomatillo, and it’ll be on your left hand side.IMG_1177

I originally was supposed to go here with my friend a month ago, but I was in severe pain from a soccer injury.  Sadly, I had to pass since I couldn’t even climb the steps it had gotten that bad.  This time around, I was fully able, and walked up the stairs to see what I had been missing all this time.  It was softly lit, but there were Halloween decorations everywhere including plenty of flickering candles, skeletons, and bats.  We went upstairs, and it definitely had more of a tropical theme going on with the surf shack room that stood opposite our unique seating arrangement.  My friend had originally told me that you could sit in swinging beach chairs and put your feet in sand and a pool.  Our seats sadly were not big beach chairs, but we got lucky enough to sink our feet in some cool, clean white sand.

Just hanging with random Koreans in the beach room

Just hanging with random Koreans in the beach room.  Note how all their legs are crossed underneath them.

It was hilarious watching the Koreans react to the beach room.   They would refuse to sit in the sand room if there were other seats available.  If they did end up sitting in the beach room, they act out their own version of the kid’s game “The Floor is Lava” as they walked on the furniture to avoid contact with the sand.   This show was worth the price of admission, but I also wanted a drink to go along with the spectacle.  So, I browsed through their menu which had cocktails, beer, non-alcoholic drinks, and food.  Initially, I wanted to get a drink in a coconut, but they were all sold out.  So, I went for a Hawaiian Punch (10,000) which consisted of rum and vodka and various fruit juices.IMG_1179  A point of interest was the fact that my friend’s non-alcoholic drink was more expensive than mine.  I like the cut of your jib, Bungalow.  The presentation was pretty good as it was served out of a cup that was designed to look like a bamboo shoot shorn in half, and there was a skewer of pineapple and cherries sticking out of it.  Tastewise, it was everything I was expecting from a tropical drink:  fruity, sweet, and with a slight kick at the end that reminded me I was drinking alcohol.  Overall, the Bungalow wasn’t anything close to lounging out on a beach in Bora Bora with a drink in my hand, but it was a fun experience to have my own sandy piece of paradise within a bar.

Pie in the Sky Prices = Not So Apeeling

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Well, life just keeps on getting weirder and weirder in Korea, but I’m really looking forward to tomorrow since I’ll be gracing Everland for the first time.  For those who don’t know, Everland is basically South Korea’s response to Disney World, so I’m excited to see their take on the enchanted kingdom.  Anyway, I’m here to talk about the supposedly “Best pizza place in Seoul” a.k.a. the Pizza Peel.  Here’s all the location/hours info courtesy of their business card:

IMG_1036So there you go.  The directions are pretty straight forward:  leave Itaewon station exit 4 and walk straight for about 10 minutes.  Once you pass the McDonalds, look on your left hand side, and you’ll see an arch saying, “Alley Market”.  Walk under it, and you’ll see the Pizza Peel. IMG_1029 As I mentioned before, the reason that brought me here was that I heard it was the best pizza in Seoul, but then again, it seems that there are many contenders for that coveted crown.  So I had to check it out for myself.  The interior was modest but very busy with people enjoying their Hangul day off from work/school.  I greatly admired the establishment’s brick oven that seemed to be cut and pasted straight from a pizzeria back home, NYC, or Italy.

Mother of all pizzas

The hot momma of all pizzas

As my friend, Aaron, and I sat down, we perused the menu.  We could see that it wasn’t the cheapest pizza in the world as exemplified by their menu below (range from 14,000 W to 18,500 W):IMG_1037IMG_1038

To drink they also have soda and beer options that goes beyond the typical Korean trinity of Cafri, Cass, and Hite which was pretty great, but the non-Korean choices are in the same league as the pizza prices.  However, I figured the pizza was so expensive because of the ingredients you’d never find on Korea pizzas like Feta cheese, pesto, Ricotta, and artichokes to name a few.  I kind of wanted to eat them all, and I even considered one of their dessert pizzas.  Sadly, I’m not making Psy money teaching English. Eventually, I went for the Buffalo Ranch pizza  (18,500 W), and Aaron went for the Canadian (15,500 W).

It apologized for not smiling for my photo

It apologized for not smiling for my photo

Aaron’s pizza looked marvelous, and I learned that apparently in Canada they actually have their own “Canadian style” pizza which must have mushrooms, pepperoni, mozzarella, and bacon on it (not Canadian bacon though for the Hosers or peameal bacon for the Canucks).  As for my pizza, it looked delectable as well.  Size-wise, if you’re a big boy/eater like me or just really hungry, you can easily eat one of these pizzas by yourself which further underscores the somewhat inflated prices.  In comparison to the North American fatty alliance at our table, the Koreans  around us were splitting the small pies between two people.  Go figure. We quickly tore into our meals, and mine was interesting to say the least.IMG_1030  First, the crust.  It was definitely on the thin side, and I dare say thinner than NYC slices which are like delicious pieces of paper with cheese on it.  What this all meant was that each slice’s integrity was close to nothing, so you had to fold it in half and hope the piping hot toppings didn’t fall on your clothes/hand like some delectable napalm.  I’ll take my thicker Chicago thin crust, thank you.  On the other hand, the crust was expertly baked in just the right places with a golden hue and warm, white center to every crust.  As for the toppings, there was plenty of natural mozzarella cheese instead of the typical, artificial, rubbery cheese-flavored product the Koreans use on their pizzas.  The chicken chunks were well roasted and went well with the ranch dressing which was the substitute for the traditional marinara tomato sauce.    It was like gobbling down pizza and chicken fingers at the same time.  Ranch just goes so perfectly with both!  I didn’t really taste much of the Feta or the hot sauce, but I was satisfied with my choice nevertheless.

So after finally going to the supposed “Best pizza place” in Seoul, I’d have to disagree.  True, they have some rarer pizza ingredients along with a brick oven for that rustic touch, but I’d still take Monster Pizza over Pizza Peel.  You get one giant slice of quality pizza for only 3,000 W roughly, and a whole pizza from Monster Pizza could feed a small army for just a fraction of Pizza Peel’s prices.  Now that’s something a gourmand like me can sink his teeth into.

I Must’ve Pied and Went to Rich Man Heaven

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Today’s post is going to be short and sweet like the dessert I ate after my Paraguayan meal.  Once I took down my fair share of empanadas, I wanted something sweet to balance out the savory fillings, so I found myself at Tartine.  Tartine is located in Itaewon at 119-15 Itaewon, Yongsan -Gu, Seoul. Take the metro to Itaewon station, and then come out of exit 1 and walk straight. It is in the second alley you pass on your right hand side.  Turn right and you’ll see the red sign on the right and left sides of the buildings.  Here’s their website.  IMG_1011

When I got there, I felt like crying with how much stuff I wanted to try yet every item was insanely expensive.IMG_1009  For the tiny pies, it ranged from 6,000 W-8,500 W.  A small chocolate cake cost 35,000 W!  I don’t know if they mixed in 24 Karat gold in the batter or used ground unicorn horn for the frosting, but that’s ridiculous.  Either way, I was just going to settle for a pie since I wanted to try it once.  They have a take out bakery on one side of the walk, and an actual cafe on the other side where you can sit outside when the weather’s nice like it was today.IMG_1008  I perused the case looking at various fruit, meringue, and chocolate inspired creations, but one caught my eye that really seemed unique.  It was called “Paradise Pie” (8,800 W).  When I got the pie, I still didn’t see why it was so expensive given the size, but the taste was somewhat worth it.IMG_1012  The crust was a typical shortening based crust that was average. but the insides were something delightful.  IMG_1013Basically, it was the equivalent of a chocolate pie and a pecan pie creating a tropical baby made of coconut with all of it covered in the signature pecan pie sugar sauce.  The whole pecans were crunchy and sweet while the small chocolate chunks were occasional nuggets of treasure I found while digging through the thick layers of brown coconut mixed with chocolate mousse.  It was very decadent, but I wouldn’t make this a regular habit.

If you want to try some competently made but overpriced desserts, Tartine is the place for you.

A Nest Above the Rest

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What’s up, food lovers around the world?!  Another day, another post of delicious food.  Today I’ll be talking about Crow’s Nest which is a pizza joint located in the foreigner district of Seoul a.k.a. Itaewon.  It’s located at Yongsan-gu, Itaewon 1(il)-dong, 112-2, Seoul, and you first come out of Itaewon Station Exit #2. Turn at 1st left and turn at 1st right. It will be on your left side.  I had been invited out by my friend Stephanie to hear about all of my wonderful adventures in Taiwan and Hong Kong.  Naturally, I didn’t say no to trying a new pizza place since it’s one of my favorite foods.

When we got there, it was located on a new fashionable street off the main drag, but it’s located on the second floor.  I had reinjured my knee that day, so the stairs were a bit brutal.  No entrances for the handicapped in Korea for the most part.  When we eventually got to the the door, we were greeted with a large dining room and an open kitchen that was bustling with activity.  It was kind of neat with how you could see some employees throwing the pizza dough to the perfect size or laying out all the ingredients on top for each handmade pizza.  It was an honest display of craftsmanship.IMG_0991  We proceeded to the patio outside that was thankfully sheltered from the rain we just missed.  We ended up going for the half and half pizza (24,000 for 14 in. or 30,000 for 20 in.).  Some blogs say that you can do any of the pizza options, but our waitress emphatically told us you could only chose the following:  Italian sausage, margherita, pepperoni, Hawaiian.  Steph wanted the Hawaiian pizza which I think is an abomination, so I went with the Italian sausage on my half which I also appreciated that it had a mild or spicy option.  We got the 14 inch pizza which was more than enough when it came out to our table. IMG_0990 They also provided us with Parmesan cheese and spicy olive oil when we asked for it.  I didn’t try the Hawaiian side of the pizza, but mine was great especially with the powdered cheese and oil.  The crust was somewhat between the paper thin New York slice and the heartier Chicago “thin” crust pizza, but it was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  As for the ingredients on top, thankfully the sauce wasn’t Koreanized with the odd sweet tang, and the cheese was plentiful.  The spicy Italian sausage wasn’t quite as spicy as back home in Chicago, but it partnered the oregano and onions perfectly with its ever so wonderful greasy goodness.  We polished off the pie eventually but didn’t feel stuffed which is a testament to the light crust that didn’t crumble under the pressure of being faced with two hungry diners.

So if you want to check out a legit pizza parlor in Seoul and don’t feel like going to Monster Pizza in Hongdae, check out Crow’s Nest in Itaewon.

Spice That’s Twice As Nice

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Hello everyone to another edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today I will be highlighting an expat haven in Itaewon where one can  find Western quality breakfasts, burgers, and wings when they grow weary of the kimchi and non-existent Korean breakfast food.  I’m talking about Richard Copycat’s All American diner located at 56-13 Itaewon-dong Yongsan-gu Seoul South Korea.

Now, I do enjoy Korean food and trying new things, but it never hurts to go back to food that is familiar to you.  That what I was looking for when I walked into the diner, and I found it and then some.  They have a pretty extensive menu that is filled with familiar breakfast staples like French toast, omelets, and skillets.  Even though they boasted about the quality of their breakfast options in the menu, I was feeling like trying a burger since it was closer to lunch time.  I ended up choosing was the wasabi burger.  It had cheddar and pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, and a wasabi infused mayo.  Yeah, you read that right, Japanese horseradish and mayo together in one potentially overwhelming combination.IMG_1305

When it came out, I was bracing myself for Western portions, but it was Korean sized which kind of wasn’t worth the 14,000 won.  Plus, as most people have already commented before on the internet, the service at this restaurant is very slow.  If you ask them for a refill or for free pickles, they either take twice as long as they should or forget in regard to drink refills.  Qualms aside, it was a pretty funky burger in a good way.  The bun was buttery and held the sandwich together quite well even with the copious amounts of wasabi mayo applied to the bottom bun.  The beef patty was thick and succulent, but the cheddar cheese was pedestrian even though it was so unnaturally orange that it almost looked like I was eating a sunny-side up egg.  However, I greatly enjoyed the spicy elements of this burger.  The jalapenos were pickled like back home, and the wasabi mayo became more and more intense as I proceeded to munch on the burger.  It wasn’t too overpowering like eating a whole mini portion of the Japanese horseradish, but I did have that burning sensation behind my nose that could send any possible congestion packing.  The fries that came with it were average, but I preferred them since they were somewhat underdone and not very salted.  So overall, I would recommend this burger if you’re into trying spicy things and like wasabi.  They do manage to take very potent flavors and pack it into an easy to swallow package.  So if you’re in Itaewon and want a little taste of home while still maintaining a foot in the Far East, try the wasabi burger at the All American Diner.

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