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The Heart and Seoul of Chicago

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안녕하세요! or Hello! to everyone out there on the interwebz!  Welcome to another wonderful edition of Mastication Monologues where I bring you the best, most delicious, and/or intriguing eats I find as I walk down this path called life.  Today’s edition relates to the greeting in the funny looking writing at the beginning of the post.  If you’re not familiar with Asian scripts, I wrote in the Korean writing system known as Hangul.  It’s a relatively new writing system compared to the Roman alphabet or Arabic, but it is ingenious in its design compliments of King Sejong who invented said alphabet back in 1443.  Each symbol relates to how the different components of the human mouth are positioned to make each sound.  If I had to choose a sound to accurately describe how I felt after eating at Korean fusion BBQ joint Del Seoul in Chicago, I’d probably say ㅁㅁㅁㅁㅁㅁㅁㅁ(mmmmmmmmm).  

I met up with my friend, Heidi, yesterday since we recently came back from a year in Korea together.  While we were both happy to be back in the good old USA, it felt only fitting that we caught up on things over the food that we tried throughout our adventures in the Land of the Morning Calm.  I was a bit surprised to find it in the neighborhood by DePaul and not in Koreatown, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying my dining experience from beginning to end.IMG_3090  Upon walking in, I was surprised to find the place was kind of like a Far East Asian Chipotle where you have to order your food and then sit down at a table with a number.IMG_3097  Looking over the menu, I could see that it wasn’t quite the Korean cornucopia I was expecting.  While they did have some classics I’ve enjoyed like 비빔밥 (bibimbap; mixed vegetables and rice bowl), 김치볶음밥 (kimchibokkeumbap; fried rice with kimchi), and the ubiquitous 김치 (kimchi; pickled cabbage), they were missing other common dishes like 떡볶이 (tteokbokki; rice cakes in spicy sauce) and 잡채 (chapchae; translucent fried noodles).  Instead, they were replaced with Korean fusion treats like tacos, banh mi, and kimchi poutine.  I wanted to try a bit of everything, so I got the following:  a 갈비 (galbi; bbq beef ribs) taco ($2.95), a spicy bbq pork banh mi ($6.25), and a small cup of kimchi ($1.50) since I love my pickled vegetables.  

As we sat down, I had trouble finding an open table since the place was hopping with patrons greedily devouring their dishes.  The owners also provide complimentary soy sauce and spicy Sriracha sauce to jazz up your selections which wouldn’t normally happen in Korea.  Our tacos came out first, and they were a lot smaller than I was anticipating. IMG_3092I would liken it to the side of a large English muffin, but what it lacked in size it made up with bold flavors.  Not only was the beef expertly grilled and seasoned, but the cilantro-onion relish combined with the secret slaw brought in a slightly herbal yet semi-spicy punch to this south of the DMZ border fusion dish.  I would definitely recommend getting the tacos.  Next came the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich with Korean ingredients. IMG_3095 I loved the jalapeno pepper slices and the juicy pork pieces that were simmered in a Korean gochujang (hot pepper sauce) marinade.  What I didn’t love were the pickled daikon radish strands and the extremely fresh bread used to bring all of the great ingredients together.  The radish took a lot away from the other elements with its overpowering pickled flavor which I didn’t appreciate.  As for the bread, you might think I’m crazy for ragging on the crunchy yet chewy loaves used to make scrumptious banh mi, but in this case, I felt it was too much bread for too little ingredients.IMG_3096  While I do love carbo loading when I’m not going to run a marathon, I felt this was a case of going buck wild with the baguette to the loss of the other ingredients.  I tried a bit of Heidi’s 불고기 (bulgogi; bbq beef) sandwich, and it was the same deal.  Too much dough stopping the other ingredients’ flow.  These sandwiches weren’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination and a better value for the price compared to the tacos, but the tacos were more finger-licking good.  Then there was the kimchi.  Kimchi flows through the blood of every Korean, and it is the be all end all of foods for them…and me and my friend, Meropi.  There is even a special time of the year where Koreans gather as a family to prepare the kimchi for fermentation for the winter.  That’s how highly Korean regard this fiber-tastic but not vegetarian friendly delicacy.  While there are many different types of kimchi, the most popular is the spicy kimchi that consists of pickled cabbage and chili sauce.  I shocked my Korean coteachers every lunchtime with how much of the fermented vegetables I’d pile on my food tray, but it made up for a lot of the other options that had tentacles sticking out of it.  After so many days of eating the cabbage, I really came to love it, so I wanted to see if Del Seoul’s could match up to the motherland’s special blend of spices.  From the first delicious chopstickful, I was taken back to the land where I was complimented on my chopstick skills and scolded for mixing other foodstuffs with my bland white rice.

Kimchi just chillin in the corner

Kimchi just chillin in the corner

  Long story short, it was the real deal, and I’m sure that I will always remember my adventures in the East when I savor this much maligned food in the West.

Overall, I’d recommend Del Seoul to anyone who’s a little wary of jumping tastebuds-first into Korean cuisine or those who want to experience certain Korean classics reinvented through fusion food.  The prices aren’t overwhelming, and the environment is simple and welcoming.

Del Seoul on Urbanspoon

 

You Have Been Dvowred!

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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!gost4[1]

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. IMG_1918 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. IMG_1919 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.452149  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.IMG_1921  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. IMG_1922 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!

Foodie tested, Putin approved

Foodie tested, Putin approved

I Believe I Can Fry

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Hey, everybody!  Welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues which is my early Christmas present to the world.  Today I’ll be talking about a restaurant that Santa himself would love to dine at in place of downing his traditional fare of milk and cookies.  The place in question is called Gongdeok Town (공덕전타운) which is located at Gongdeok station going straight out exit 5.IMG_1426  Walk for about 8-9 minutes, and you’ll see it on your left amongst many narrow and claustrophobic alleyways including one that specializes in jokbal or pigs’ feet.  What should you be looking for?  Fried food as far as the eye can see.  You can smell it coming from a mile away that’s how intense this dining experience is.  So let’s begin at the start of the adventure.

First off, I would have never found this place had it not been for the luck of my friend, Steph, who found this fried food heaven on the internet.  Naturally, she shares my same sense of culinary curiosity, so we made plans to go there after a very long work week.  After going out exit five and going left, we were quite lost.  I looked to my right in the distance, and I could see an alley that seemed to be more bustling than the others, and we were greeted by incredulous looks by the restaurant owners at the fact that two waygookins (foreigners) were in this labyrinth of produce and meat.  After walking past a few eateries, I could see plates piled high with pork knuckle and no fried food.  They sent us further down the main road, and we finally saw the promised land.  They had a mind-boggling variety of tasty morsels to try that ranged in price from 500-5,000 W per piece.  IMG_1409IMG_1412

Mmm shrimp

Mmm shrimp

Lots of fried sweet potatoes, kimbap, and vegetables (left to right)

Lots of fried sweet potatoes, kimbap, and vegetables (left to right)

Some of the pajeon or Korean pancakes of egg or kimchi

Some of the pajeon or Korean pancakes of egg or kimchi

How it works is they hand you a wicker basket along with a set of tongs, and you just work your way down like a Supermarket Sweep of sorts.  Some of the labels were a bit hard to follow due to the imperfect translations and others were just very vague.

Skinflints for only 500W?  What a deal!

Skinflints for only 500W? What a deal!

Something looks a little fishy...

Something looks a little fishy…

 Nevertheless, we soldiered ahead and took a little bit everything.  Once we had our baskets filled to the brim, we brought them to the end of the line where a lady weighed our food and gave us a number.  We were then ushered inside where we found out that the smoking section is downstairs and the upper level is non-smoking and much larger and warmer. IMG_1421 Eventually they brought us our plate of food along with the bill.  For this mountain of food, it was 8,000 W between the two of us.IMG_1416 IMG_1417 Within our fried cornucopia that lied on our table just beckoning us with its golden-hued breading, we had more conventional foods like gooey Western style cheese sticks and crunchy chicken tenders that came with a complimentary drizzling of honey mustard.  Then there were pieces that were more Korean like the squid tentacles, kimchi pajeon, and various forms of sweet potato which I was semi-averse to since I prefer regular potatoes.  It still was a nice contrast to the savory, semi-greasy breading.  An interesting selection in the mix was the fried beef liver.  Texture-wise, it was quite firm, and it had a rich beefy flavor with plenty of body.  I greatly enjoyed the fried cucumbers, chilies, and pork stuffed perilla leaves as well.  Plus, they had plenty of different forms of taro root like the purple sesame seed coated balls you see on the first plate.  So for all you vegans out there, there is plenty of selection for you too aside from that last one.  There was also a mystery nugget that I chose because it looked like it had a strip of bacon in it, and I loves me some bacon.

My mystery nugget and I.

My mystery nugget and I.

 When I finally tried it, it was quite bizarre since it didn’t taste bacon or anything else for that matter.IMG_1420  It had a generic flavor of meatvegetablesbreading?? that left me generally confused along with the imposter  “bacon” strip that just tasted like burned matter.  It was quite the letdown.   Once we finished our first plate, I had to go back for a second helping since I still was hungry.

Round 2 (starting lower left corner and going clockwise):  scallop, taro ball, cheese sticks, potato bread, chilies, millet cakes.

Round 2 (starting lower left corner and going clockwise): scallop, oyster, taro ball, cheese sticks, potato bread, chilies, millet cakes.

 The scallop was quite delectable as it was rich and buttery like breading that enveloped it, and the oyster was quite good aside from a rubbery texture that might put off some diners.  The potato bread was a bit of a mystery to me at first since I was anticipating it to be stuffed most likely with pork, but it just ended up being a ball of fried dough.  Last and definitely the least favorite of all the food I tried there were the millet cakes.  They looked almost like mini-red velvet cakes minus the cream cheese frosting, but they were the opposite of the tantalizing dessert.  Not only did it taste quite musty, but it was filled with red bean paste!  Arrghhh, my Korean culinary arch-nemesis.  Foiled once again from having a completely fantastic dinner.  That minor bump aside, we ended up eating a ton of food for about 12,000 W each which is a bargain any way you slice it.

So if you’re looking for a warmer way to eat street food in the winter or perhaps need to layer up on some blubber for winter hibernation, go to Gongdeok town for some greasy good times.

Passed with Flying Flavors

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Finally, Korean winter is here complete with chilly winds that were noticeably absent during the sweltering summer along with the occasional snow storm.  It’s still not as bad as back home in Chicago, and I’m glad that I grew up in the crucible of Chicago winters it since it seems like a piece of cake  in Korea so far.  However, I don’t mind going to new restaurants that make me forget about the cold and instead feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  This is how I could describe my dining experience at the Flying Pan in Itaewon in Seoul.  It’s quite easy to get there.  You just go to the Itaewon metro stop and go out exit two.  Walk out straight until you see the Ctrl A on your left hand side.  Make a left on that street, and after walking straight for a minute, you’ll see the Flying Pan’s stairway leading down to the entrance.1550626_image2_1

First off, I knew was going to have a great time there simply based off the name of the establishment because it’s a linguistic pun.  With many Far East Asian languages like Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, it is difficult for native speakers to differentiate between the letters “L” and “R” while pronouncing words.  Therefore, the logo of the restaurant is a flying frying pan.  I don’t know if they did that on purpose or not, but I think it’s genius.  As for the decor, it’s a cozy little dining nook that could almost double as someone’s living room complete with couches, pillows, and decorative vases.

A culinary sanctuary from the cold

A culinary sanctuary from the cold

I took it all in along with the gigantic menu while waiting for my friend, Bora.IMG_1300  I could see that they had brunch options all day along with French toast, pancakes, omelets, and sandwiches.  It’s not cheap which is typical for foreign fare in Korea with a range of prices from 14,000 W to 25,000 W.  Eventually, Bora joined me, and we made our choices.  I went with the bacon French toast (15,000 W), and she got the farmer omelet (17,000 W).

Mine came out first, and I thought they could have done a bit better on the presentation instead of the slapdash creation that lay in front of me.

Ah ma cherie!

Ah ma cherie!

Then again, I could really care less what it looks like as long as it’s delectable, and boy oh boy was this French toast tres magnifique.  Most people associate French with being the language of love, and I think I needed a private moment with this mademoiselle.  Not only did it have a soft, brioche battered body, but it was further enhanced with some non-crispy bacon that was flung about its shoulders like some form of pork boa sans feathers.  The syrup was standard maple syrup, but one big surprise was the hunks of pale yellow spread that I originally thought were globs of butter.  I’m not a big fan of butter on my pancakes or French toast, but I tried some of it just to be sure.  Good thing I didn’t neglect them because they turned out to be nuggets of cream cheese.  What’s more French than putting some delicious cheese on some quality, fried bread?  The other big surprise was the secret stash of apricot marmalade that was lurking between the folds of the toast which went quite well with the smooth sweetness of the syrup and eggy-goodness of the French toast.  The strawberries were fresh and slightly tart and were the proverbial cherries on top of the masterpiece.  As for Bora’s omelet, I tried a couple bites and then a couple more as she put more on my plate since I was still hungry/she’s a sweetheart. IMG_1303 The eggs were fluffy and seemingly infused with a slightly strong tasting white cheese possibly an aged Camembert.   It was eggcellent with the grilled greens on top along with the sauteed mushrooms and roasted cherry tomatoes.  We left the restaurant for some adult libations, but my pain perdu would not be lost on me.  Definitely in the pantheon of top three best breakfast meals I’ve ever eaten…for dinner.

So, if you’re looking for some wonderful breakfast that doesn’t really have the greasy spoon prices but plenty of quality flavors, jet on down to the Flying Pan.  You’ll be over the moon once you’ve tried it.

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!)

Thinking Outside the Box and Eating Inside One

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Hey, everybody!  Well, it has been another long and arduous week at work, so I was definitely looking forward to my friends’, Lauren and Kevin, birthday party at Charcoalo, a somewhat secret barbecue joint in Apgujeong.  Here is their address:  642-12 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu.  It’s a bit complicated to explain how to get there, so I won’t bore you with the details.  The closest two stations are either Apgujeong or Gangnam-gu Office.  Just let Google Maps lead the way for you.  After navigating our way there, we were greeted with a large, red corrugated metal that almost seemed to glow like some sort of Polaris for barbecue lovers all over Korea.  I knew I came to the right place when I saw the window in the front let you watch the cooks in action while they slapped large slabs of steak and ribs on the sizzling stove tops.  Culinary poetry in motion.IMG_1110

Upon entering the establishment, it was definitely different than what I was expecting when I read that the restaurant was inside an industrial shipping container.  Instead of being greeted by a dank and dark interior where I would have expected to be tortured by members of the Korean mafia, it was a warmly lit dining room with an industrial edge in terms of decor.

Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

Meropi obviously had a great time

Meropi obviously had a great time

It even had skylights cut in the ceiling which would be a blessing and a curse on a sunny day since I could see the rays of light possibly blinding some unlucky customers.  Giving the menu a once over, I could see that Charcoalo isn’t the cheapest barbecue eatery I’ve been to.  Case and point, a bottle of Cass Korean beer that’s normally 2-3 bucks was 7 bucks.  The menu contained different types of burgers, ribs (44,000 W for a rack), steaks, pizzas, and sides to go along with your main meal.  I went for the bacon cheeseburger set (16,000 W) which meant I got a side of fries and a soda (Coke, Sprite, Diet Coke, or Welch’s Grape).  I picked the last one since I needed something sweet after quite a bitter day with one of my coteachers.  When it came out, I was very excited due to its exquisite appearance and my gnawing hunger pains.IMG_1111

Almost everyone else at my table got double cheeseburgers, but they were kind of crestfallen once they saw the meaty masterpiece towering above my fries.

Sad Heidi is sad

Sad Heidi is sad

First, I’d like to say that this burger wasn’t the easiest thing to eat since you’d have to be a reticulated python to be able to take an adequate bite.

Now that's a burger

Now that’s a burger

It was piled high with a thick beef patty, mayo, ketchup, lettuce, cheese, tomato, semi-crispy bacon, and some additional pickled jalapenos, onions, and roasted garlic cloves that came on the side.  So, I was taking small bites, and each one was a small step towards to the center of this cheeseburger in paradise.  Still, the buns should have been bigger in order to accommodate the plethora of ingredients because there was definite slippage as the mayo caused the patty to sneak out the back of the burger.  Overall, it was a great cheeseburger without any surprises like at Burger Bay, and the french fries were superb.  They were crispy, golden-brown sticks of heaven, but I wish they were a bit bigger to grab with my fingers.  I’m not a big fan of the slightly-enlarged shoestring potato type of French fries.  Maybe these are more common in Korea because Koreans are afraid to eat with their hands.  Who knows?

So if you’re looking for quality barbecue and are willing to spend a little bit more to get it or just want a masterfully crafted burger, check out Charcoalo.

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