Review: Aladdin’s Lamb in Jamsil
I’m a big fan of the Chinese lamb restaurants dotted around Seoul – those ones with the little skewers dusted with fragrant spices and cooked at the table alongside little bowls of peanuts, pickles and of course ice-cold Tsingtao beer (so much better than Cass, and usually pretty cheap). Outside of places like Little India or Samarkand – not to mention the mighty Braai Republic – they are one of the few places to get your lamb fix, if like me you miss your Sunday roast lamb or even lamb chops on the barbecue.
So, where better to welcome in the Year of the Sheep than with a trip to one of Seoul’s more unusual variations on the lamb theme? Aladdin’s Lamb is a slightly weird fusion of Korean and Middle Eastern, where your lamb is cooked up galbi-style and then served with hummus and pita bread (and Tsingtao). It’s a strange combination, but does it work? The menu is all lamb. We started with lamb chops, which are slapped on the grill and then cut from the bone by the waitress and sliced into chopstick-sized pieces by the waitresses. They were reasonable, but somewhat expensive at around 20,000 won per 200g portion, especially when you consider that a fair proportion of each chop is bone. There are a couple of different types of chops, and you can also get lamb galbi served off the bone if you prefer. The star, I suppose, is the lamb skewers – much bigger than the basic miniature versions you get in most Chinese places, these are 4 skewers for 10,000 won and, to be fair, excellent value. The meat was fairly tender and reasonably lean, albeit with the occasional chewy bit in there as well. It could maybe have been fresher, but given that the restaurant advertises the food as halal (slightly incongruously, given that it is in the middle of Jamsil), I assume that the lamb is imported frozen from Australia or New Zealand. The grill was ringed with mushroom, tofu and onion, as well as some egg poured into the well and allowed to cook with some runoff juices from the lamb – delicious. The side dishes are where the fusion element really kicks in – there’s ssamjang there and bean sprouts, but also a little mint jelly and some chopped olives, which were good. Pita bread is 2,000 per portion, and it’s served warm, fresh and tasty – we really liked this. The hummus, though, was a major disappointment. It so happened that two of my Palestinian friends were, quite randomly, with me that night, so perhaps we were harsher critics than normal; but there was barely any salt, lemon, garlic or even tahini to be tasted. It was basically a plate of mashed-up chickpeas. We were sad about that, because we’d looked forward to it. I can make far better myself. It’s worth noting that our Korean friends on the evening really enjoyed it, and declared themselves converts to lamb. For the rest of us, the verdict was that we enjoyed our meal, but it was nothing special. The price was fair given that lamb is unusual here, and the kebabs were good.
Overall, it’s a good place for dinner if you are in the Jamsil or Sincheon area, and makes a nice change from the usual pork or beef, but I wouldn’t necessarily travel across the city for it. (And don’t head for the university district by mistake – there are two Sinchons, this is the one near the Olympic stadium in the southeast of the city.) Next time I’m in this part of town, though, I will definitely be prepared to come back.
- Category: Korean / Middle Eastern
- Price: $$$$
- Must try: Lamb skewers
- Subway: Sincheon (신천역) exit 3
- Directions: Come out of Sincheon station exit 3 – to be clear, that’s the Sincheon in Jamsil, *not* the one near Hongdae – and take the first road right. The street you walk down has a whole bunch of sidestreets coming off it – you want the fifth one on the left. If you lose count, then when you pass the GS25 convenience store, the correct street should be the street after that corner. If you are still lost, try asking someone for “Aladdin yang gogi”, plug 서울특별시 송파구 잠실본동 187-15 into a Korean map app or GPS, or show them this:
- Hours: 3pm until 2am – not sure what days it is open, but the phone number is in the photo above.