Seoul’s 5 best Korean barbecue restaurants
In Seoul, it can be a daunting task to choose from the staggering number of gogi-jip (literally, "meat houses"), or Korean barbecue restaurants, that sit on almost every corner.
Undeniably a quintessential part of the Korean dining experience, Koreans will take any excuse to head to a barbecue restaurant.
Foodies search for the freshest quality beef --preferably hanwoo (Korean beef)--and are equally critical in terms of the "siksa" (the "meal" following the barbecue, usually comprised of noodles, stew or fried rice).
Whether it’s a casual after-work dinner with colleagues, an unusual blind date or after-clubbing munchies at 3 a.m., these five best barbecue restaurants in Seoul are where those with sophisticated palates go to grill some quality beef, Korean-style.
1. Daedo Sikdang (대도식당)
This is the stern "stick-to-the-basics" granddaddy of barbecue beef houses in Seoul; the menu features only three items, sirloin beef (₩38,500 for 250 grams), fried rice(₩3,000), and porridge (₩3,000). Despite the spartan no-frills interiors, you'd be hard pressed to find a seat in the flagship locations in Wangship-ri and the Samsung-dong on any given night.
You do get the choice of ordering your meat with or without the chewy tendons; and a seemingly innocuous off-menu item, a little bowl of cold kimchi soup as an accompaniment, is nothing short of the apex of Korean culinary achievement.
Success has spawned a franchise, with a Daedo Sikdang seemingly in every district, but few seem to get it quite like the original.
2. Saebyukjib (새벽집)
True to its name -- "House of Dawn" -- this is one of the perennial favorite after-hours eateries south of the river.
It boasts some of the best quality meat in the city, with the high prices to prove it. Featuring a stellar selection of stews and rice dishes, late-night favorites include a doenjang stew to cure all hangovers, while the yook-hwe (raw beef) bibimbap (₩8,000) is arguably the best bibimbap in Seoul.
For the truly adventurous, try the thick yook-hwe (₩28,000 plus 10 percent service charge) -- sashimi-style thick slices of fresh raw beef.
Gangnam-gu Cheongdam-dong 129-10 (강남구 청동동 129-10), alley across from the Prima Hotel; +82 2 546 5739; open 24 hours all year round.
3. Parkdaegamne (박대감네)
Opened in 1998, this self-proclaimed "celebrities' favorite barbecue restaurant" is located on the outskirts of the Cheongdam district. A generation of club-goers has been raised on the restaurant’s galbi-tang (beef stew), and in its heydey the restaurant employed more than 70 staff.
Even now, in its smaller new location next to the original house, the restaurant sells more than 300 bowls of galbi-tang a day, says 54-year-old veteran server Sa Chun Hwa.
In terms of gogi, its main menu, fresh beef is brought in every day from the Gwangju province, and is of "1++" quality — the highest possible level of quality for beef.
According to owner Kim Heemija, the menu is listed in order of popularity, the top three choices being rib eye roll (꽃살, ₩52,000 for 150 grams), outside skirt (안창살, ₩52,000 for 150 grams) and free beef ribs (생갈비살, ₩46000 for 150 grams) respectively.
Gangnam-gu Cheongdam-dong 124-3 (강남구 청담동 124-3), at the Cheongdam intersection; +82 2 545 7708; Open 24 hours all year round; www.pdgn.co.kr
4. Gombawui (곰바위)
Gombawi's menu proclaims its specialty as beef tripe (₩27,000 for 130 grams) and gop-chang (intestines, ₩25,000 for 130 grams), but you can't go wrong with just about any of the wide selection of cuts. Ask one of the servers "what's good today?" and they're happy to give you an enthusiastic recommendation.
The restaurant has expanded to three buildings, but the main building, with the old-school grills welded from oil barrels, serves up an extra cozy ambience and a dose of nostalgia that makes this establishment an enduring favorite.
Gangnam-gu Samsung-dong 76-10 (강남구 삼성동 76-10); alley across from the COEX Intercontinental Hotel;+82 2 511 0068; 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; www.gbw.co.kr
5. Nongoljip (농골집)
Hands-down, Nongoljip is one of the best value-for-money barbecue chains. They make no grandiose claims of daily farm-fresh shipments of beef, but overall, they get everything done "just right" and at half the price, with a good selection of stews and rice dishes.
Try the galbi (갈비살, ₩10,000 for 150 grams) or the outside skirt (안창살, ₩12,000 for 150 grams).
The decor aspires to a log cabin theme, and is an ideal venue for small, informal reunions with big eaters.
The restaurant's success has spawned a fully-fledged franchise, but the original Nonhyun and Chungdam locations remain the favorites.
Gangnam-gu Nonhyun-dong 15 (강남구 논현동 15); +82 2 549 9930; www.nongolhouse.com
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