Talk about chicken and rice to any New Yorker and they can whip up stories of the famous Halal Guys cart on 53rd and 6th. I, myself, can tell you how after four years of living in Seoul, the first place I visited as soon as I dropped off my bags was 53rd and 6th. The cart is not just food, but a legend amongst the millions of people who visit there – including Woosik John Kim, who once studied in upstate New York. “When people go abroad, they talk about how they want this and that in Korea. Chicken and rice was one of those infamous dishes.” After having scoured every corner of the city for even close knock-offs, I didn’t let myself get my hopes up when headed to Jil’hal Bros in Chungdam-dong. At the small yellow-colored restaurant, my combination platter equated to slices of grilled cuts of spiced chicken and lamb over turmeric yellow rice and a bed of lettuce and tomatoes topped with its signature white sauce and red sauce. The white sauce is normally concocted with variations of Greek yogurt, miracle whip and mayo while the red sauce has variations of chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, cumin and olive oil – with Woosik’s particular recipe being secret. Unlike its New York muse, the dish isn’t Halal certified, doesn’t drip with oil and the spices (cumin and chili pepper) are nowhere as strong. Yet, dinnertime fills with expats and Koreans (lots of Korean-Americans) alike wolfing down one plate, and taking one to go. One preppy looking twentys-something (possibly former study-abroad student) next to us tells his friend “I came here yesterday, too” and someone else comments “it’s finally here!” I give Woosik my real opinion. “It’s almost as good.” And even though that word “almost” can be offensive, we both understand cumin’s an acquired taste for most locals and the spices doubly difficult to come by. Magical’s a word I use sparingly but I gotta give it to Woosik, he’s pretty much made something out of nothing. So when I say “almost as good,” I really mean that it’s pretty damn magical.
|Venue name:||Jil’hal Bros|
32, Apgujeong-ro 79-gil
|Transport:||Cheongdam Station (Line 7), exit 10|
|Price:||Combination platter 7,000 won|