At this second-generation tonkatsu joint located near Sinsa Station, you’d never find a knife on your table. Instead, Hanseong’s tonkatsu is cut with a heavy cleaver before they’re served. Once you receive your dish, you’d know why: the pork inside the cutlet is so thick you’d have to wrestle with it otherwise. The star of this dish, however, is found with another of its element: oil has been extremely well removed from the batter which has got the perfect thickness to compliment the pork. The atmosphere of this restaurant is rather humble, but trying their menu will give you another opportunity to realize that it’s the substance that counts. The spicy mustard, tonkatsu sauce and miso soup are all made in-house. 9000 won is in no way cheap for a tonkatsu, but the large portion and patent-worthy quality is definitely worth every won.
Seasoned wild vegetable rice, Wolsan mulberry leaves, Hwageok gooseberry sprouts, Ilpo Aster scaber leaves and Grandma Bang Wisun’s soy sauce. No, they’re not names from a natural science documentary, they’re items featured on the menu board of this restaurant. Young Ms. Kim, who runs this restaurant, decided to make good of the excess produce many elderly women in the Gangwon province were selling. She combined the freshness of these ingredients with her mother’s recipes to produce dishes such as seasoned wild vegetable rice, whole pollack roe bibimbap and soy bean paste soup. Koreans eat here when they miss mom’s home cooking, so come to see what authentic everyday meals are like.
As the name indicates (“Tamra” is an old name for Jeju), Tamra specializes in traditional Jeju cuisine. Hailing from the island himself, the chef uses ingredients delivered straight from Jeju. Our contributing editor from the States described the place as: “somewhere she doesn’t wanna let anybody else know, cause it’s so good” (although, to her chagrin, it’s popular enough now). Weathered seashells and an artificial palm tree brighten the interior, bringing the Jeju-esque atmosphere all the way to Seoul. Some of the signature dishes are meat noodles in a ric pig leg bone broth; gulfweed soup simmered with meat; and Jeju-style sundae (Korean sausage) made with buckwheat powder, ox blood and sticky rice. Boiled pork belly slices are one of the most popular menu-items.
Sometimes, getting Korean food with friends can be a hassle—one person wants to get bibimbap, another wants to get meat, and yet another wants savory pancakes and makgeolli. And if you’re in Hongdae, where decent Korean food is hard to find, you may be tempted to call it a night. Enter Chawoongga, which serves individually-sized portions of Korean food on trays and has a fairly diverse menu that ranges from bulgogi to kimchi-jjim. The recipes come from the owner’s mother, Mrs. Cha, a woman well over seventy who still comes in and brings her magic to the kitchen. Her nickname was “Bear Grandmother,” which lent itself to the name of the original restaurant a few minutes away (Hongdae old-timers may recall Bear Who Eats Greens). The new restaurant is housed in a beautiful 90-year-old hanok with vintage doors and windows, and a small courtyard garden (yes, in the middle of Hongdae—it’s a miracle).
Even before being labeled by Michelin Bib Gourmand Restaurant in 2017, this place always attracted young and old crowds of Seoul. The thing about pork, and jokbal especially, is that it can have a slight odor to it when it’s not cooked properly. It may not be as obvious when it’s served hot, but let it cool a bit and the odor could take over the whole dish. At Majok Ohyang Jokbal, however, you won’t have such a problem: scrumptious pieces of pig's trotters served in brilliant traditional brassware will be already cooled down. It’s not overly chewy, though, despite the lower temperature — it’s been cooked so perfectly, that it won’t take much effort to pull the meat off the trotter pieces with chopsticks. The almost caramelized skin has a slightly sticky texture, which is nice with the soft texture of the meat under it. The pork is cooked until it gets soft, with 5 different types of spices: star anise, clove, dried orange peel, Chinese pepper and cinnamon. Blended in the layers of meat, the combination creates a distinctive earthy aroma which can be rather addictive.