The burritos, burgers and chilli bowls of Gyeongnidan’s Cali Kitchen have been a vital source of sustenance for many of us for a couple of years now; come rain or shine, owner Chuck Chun has been serving up a taste of California since mid-2015.
Having outgrown the original space behind Maloney’s pub, Chuck closed down operations during the spring of 2017 in order to bring his new concept to reality. It’s been an agonising wait for some of us, but with the partial help of a Kickstarter campaign to help them over the line, to which I contributed a small amount (does that make me an investor? are royalty cheques about to come flooding in? I can dream…), the newly rebranded California Kitchen and Craft Pub officially opens today after a short soft opening, and I’m pleased to say that it’s a winner.
Here it is, the most eagerly awaited post of the year; the second annual Soju Sunrise Food Awards, showcasing the best foreign food that I think Seoul has to offer. No doubt squadrons of restaurateurs are reading this with fear in their souls, whole chains poised to collapse if they aren’t mentioned in my year-end review. What can I say? With great power comes great responsibility.
As with last year’s favourites – quite a few of whom return this year – I don’t present this list as a definitive “best of” but rather a compilation of my favourites, the places I return to again and again, the places that made 2016 worth persevering with. No doubt in each category there are better places around, and you should feel free to set me right in the comments – but these are the places that pop up again and again on my Instagram feed.
Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and see you all in 2017!
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.)
One of things I miss about living in the leafy West End of Glasgow is the idea of a neighborhood bistro – somewhere near your house that you can drop in for a good, reasonably priced meal, usually Italian or French. Now, perhaps I’m biased because it’s 90 seconds from my front door (it used to be 60 seconds, but the crabby old halmoni next door has locked her gate to stop us using the alleyway outside her house as a short cut). But La Marmite, a new French restaurant in Haebangchon, looks like it might be able to fill that role. It comes at a price, as we’ll see, but it’s well worth your time.
The legendary Casablanca Sandwicherie recently celebrated its fifth anniversary as one of HBC’s best-loved institutions. They’ve marked the occasion by expanding the menu, which previously was comprised almost solely of baguettes (albeit fantastic ones).
Yes, here they are: the Korean food industry’s most coveted awards, at least since I came up with the idea in the shower fifteen minutes ago. Here are the Soju Sunrise nominations for my favourite places of 2015.
To be clear, I do mean personal favourites. Despite using the word “best” about 20 times in this post, I don’t claim these as in any sense definitively the top places in Seoul to eat the specific cuisine in each category; rather, these are my favourites, the places I’ve returned to after a good experience to try again, safe in the knowledge that I’m in good hands. There are almost certainly others out there that are better. That’s what the comments section is for!
So without further ado, here are some of my foreign food highlights of the year. Where applicable, there’s a link to my review; otherwise, Google and Naver are your friends. Get there quickly, because my recommendation is like Tasty Road to the power of 10, and there will be lines out the door within hours.
Here’s to 2016!
Maddux Pizza (Itaewon) [above]
Rye Post (Itaewon) [above]. Honourable mention: Fat Cat (HBC), Casablanca (HBC)
The Beastro (Hongdae). Honourable mention: Libertine (Itaewon) [above]
Brera (Beotigogae) [above]
Little India (Itaewon) [above]
Amazing Thailand (Hongdae) [above]
Pham Thi Chinh (Wangsimni) [above]
Best American BBQ:
Nagomi Ramen (Hongdae)
Best of the Rest that doesn’t fit in any other category:
Taverna de Portugal (Hongdae, currently closed), Da Korner (Itaewon) [above]
Anthracite (Hongdae) [above]
Cacaoboom gelato (Gyeongnidan / throughout the city). Honourable mention: Fell & Cole (Hongdae) [above]