Review: Gusto Taco at Yongsan Army Base
The good news is that while we await the opening of the new Noksapyeong branch of Apgujeong’s Coreanos Kitchen, there is another new taco place in the area most frequented by foreigners, and it’s pretty damn good. The bad news? It’s on the US base at Yongsan, so unless you have base access, or access to someone with base access, you’ll have to give it a miss. Fortunately I fall into the latter category, and am not above bribery as a means of getting to good food. So, armed with a promise to pay for dinner, I inveigled myself onto US soil and headed on down to the new USAG Yongsan branch of Gusto Taco with a friend in uniform to show me the way.
This being the US base, everything is denominated in dollars, though you can pay in won or by card as well. Gusto Taco is known for its tacos, but also does quesadillas, taquitos, nachos, burritos, and so on. Regular readers, if there are any, will know that I am a diehard Don Charly fan, but this is far more like American food than Mexican – and none the worse for it.
The manager recommended the chipotle pork tacos (above), so they were our first stop, along with some chicken tacos by way of comparison. The pork is slow-cooked for hours before being shredded, and it showed. It was soft and tasty; the meat was possibly, dare I say it, a little dry, but it was a damn fine taco nonetheless.
Still hungry – give me a break, I hadn’t eaten all day – we went up to the counter for round two. This time we added some huevos rancheros tacos to the mix, as well as a chicken burrito.
I’m not a big fan of burritos; I find them just a bit bland compared to the concentrated flavours in other Mexican food. I have to say that I thought this was pretty good – again, generously filled, lots of rice but also plenty of chicken, and not too much lettuce and beans, in stark contrast to a lot of Korean burritos which pile on the tasteless filler like there’s no tomorrow. At $9.50, it’s not terribly cheap, but it hit the spot.
By now I was beginning to get seriously stuffed, but there was just space for the huevos rancheros (above) – chorizo, egg and salsa, to those of us who don’t speak Spanish. This tasted to me exactly like a bacon and egg taco; it was a bit like eating a full English breakfast in a corn taco shell. That’s a compliment, by the way.
The restaurant itself has a somewhat… canteen-y feel. It’s functional rather than comfortable, bright and cheerful, and good for larger groups and families (both were in evidence on the day that I visited). By the nature of its location, it’s not really somewhere you’ll go to linger for hours, unless you have a few friends on base and can knock back a few beers. The service was extremely friendly and efficient and we were made to feel very welcome.
The last bit of good news, then, is that even if you can’t get on to the base at Yongsan, you can still enjoy Gusto Taco’s original location near Sangsu station in Hongdae. I haven’t been to that outlet, but on the basis of my visit to this one, and the reports I have heard from Hongdae, I can certainly say that I’ll be paying it a visit.
This is a much more American experience than Don Charly, but there’s no reason one can’t have two Latina mistresses, is there? The food was fresh, fairly priced and very satisfying, and marks another step forward for Mexican food in Korea. Me gusta.
- Category: Mexican/American
- Price: $$$$
- Must try: Chicken taco
- Subway: Samgakji (삼각지역) exit 13, Noksapyeong (녹사평역) exit 1
- Directions: Gusto Taco is a little way past the Dragon Hill Lodge on the South Post at USAG Yongsan, in the USEA building near Jamba Juice and the Korea Palace “Fusion Korean” restaurant. To be clear, you’ll need base access, or a friend who does.
- Hours: Monday – Saturday 11am -9pm, with extended hours and Sunday opening planned in the future. Check out their Facebook page or their website for more details.