Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog, or who follows my Instagram, will suspect that I’m not a particularly regular consumer of salad; anyone who’s met me in person will know it for sure. So, in the interests of living past the age of sixty, I enticed one of my fit, healthy-eating friends to come with me to try out Root, in Hannam-dong, in the hope that it might persuade me to ditch the burgers and gogi at least one or two mealtimes a week.
Readers occasionally complain that I don’t write about enough places outside the Itaewon “bubble” – a bit unfair (as a quick look at my Seoul food map page will demonstrate), though I do see their point. Well, today I am reviewing a restaurant so far out of the city that I won’t even attempt to put it on the map; the mighty Sweet Oak in far-flung Wonju.
El Pino is a well-known landmark in East Los Angeles, and despite being open for just a couple of weeks, its namesake El Pino 323 is already well on the way to becoming an equally notable landmark of the Seoul food scene. Opening officially last weekend, hidden in a basement near a little-frequented subway station on line 5, this takeaway-turned-restaurant is dishing up some of the most authentic and certainly best, Cali-Mex food that you’ll find anywhere outside the 323 L.A. area code.
[UPDATE, JULY 2017: This location has now closed, with El Pino reopening near Noksapyeong Station. Please see my new review for details.]
It’s been very busy in the real world of Soju Sunrise, but things are quietening down so hopefully I’ll be posting some more reviews and notes on Seoul eateries very soon. In the meantime, here are some of the things I’ve been eating over the last few weeks. (You can see most of these pics, as well as many more, on my Instagram feed at instagram.com/sojusunrise.)
A couple of weeks back, I was chatting to the owner of the HBC gogijip in Haebangchon (now temporarily closed as they relocate to larger premises further up the road). He was raving about a new burger joint in Itaewon that I’d never heard of. How could there be a burger joint in Itaewon I had never heard of? I decided to hunt it down to try for myself.
I love dakgalbi. For some reason – I don’t know why – the Korean tourist and food promotion agencies don’t believe me. Their marketing campaigns concentrate, usually witlessly, on the undoubtedly healthy properties of bibimbap and the much more dubious health-promoting properties of kimchi. Whenever the authorities are asked what they think foreigners want, the usual foods come up again and again – see this 2010 post at ZenKimchi, for example – but dakgalbi is often nowhere to be seen. A shame, because for me it encapsulates so much of what Korean food is about – a huge bubbling dish, cooking at the table and waiting to be shared, red as the fires of hell and hopefully just as hot. In addition, I don’t review enough Korean restaurants on this blog, and one of my resolutions for 2016 is to write up some more of them (this is not a kimchi-free zone ㅋㅋㅋ).