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The best restaurants in Hongdae

Hidden between the glitter and glitz of nightlife and art are these amazing restaurants in Hongdae

There are so many things to do in the Hongdae area. Everything from live music to cat cafes, but where to eat after or before? Time Out Seoul has the inside scoop. 

Modern East

The perfect place for those looking for fine dining at a reasonable price, this restaurant offers a unique three-course dinner that comes with an amuse-bouche. The owner-chef Choi Jong-mun calls it a "fairy tale course," as the meal was inspired by children's stories. The course includes an amuse-bouche made with beets and balsamic vinegar, an appetizer made with carrots and orange puree and steak with sauce served in a glass slipper. Since the courses are seasonal, those who enjoy Gothic fiction can try the "Dracula Course" to be released later this summer.

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Anh

One of the most talked about restaurants in the area right now, Anh has a line almost as soon as it opens. Owned by a Canadian-Vietnamese couple who use family recipes to make what they boast as being “home cooked Vietnamese food,” the restaurant has only has three main dishes—a hot pho dish, Vietnamese-style pork chops with rice and our personal favorite, the bún thịt nướng chả giò (a cold vermicelli bowl with vegetables and fried spring rolls). We say it’s definitely worth the wait.  

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Oksang Dalbit

Order the fried and garlic pepper chicken and prepare for an Instagram moment as the chicken comes to you hot—it’s literally flaming! Although the portions are quite small for the price and the wedge fries aren’t necessarily our favorite; the well-cooked, crispy bird is quite delicious (and not burnt at all). Plus, we have to admit that blowing out the chicken is half the fun. 

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Chicken in the Kitchen

Branded as a “kind restaurant,” this chicken eatery got famous after a TV program showed how meticulously clean they are in the kitchen. Similarly, their delicious, spicy marinated fried chicken called Red Hot Chili Pepper is about as light as marinated fried chicken can get. While the portions are quite large, the dim lights and warm colors of this restaurant make it a great place to go with a significant other. 

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SF Bagels

Looking for a crispier alternative to the famous New York bagel? Watch out for its strong competitor from the West Coast—the San Francisco bagel now available at this corner store in Yeonnam-dong. Made without yeast or sugar, these bagels are smaller in size, have a bit more of a crunch and, of course, have a sour tang. Cream cheeses are also available. Be sure to check out the bagel shop’s aromatic baked goods—their cinnamon roll is to die for! 

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Robadaya Kaden

Dilated pupils, sharp intake of breath, a slight smile playing around the lips. These are not uncommon physical reactions observed at Robadaya Kaden.This is Chef HoYoung Jung’s third restaurant after Izakaya Kaden and Udong Kaden. Robadaya is known for its fresh fish, meat, and vegetables cooked on the robadayaki (brazier grill), widely considered a winner among local izakaya. The difference comes from the quality of fire used. Chef Jung uses top quality charcoal made of high heated, impurity-free wood that has a strong flame and the taste of fire. Some of the signature dishes include geumtae, tile fish, baked fish from Jeju Island and Berkshire grilled pork neck garnished with pickled seafood. The chef recommends the grilled sea bream as it makes use of live tile fish. This dish is known for its crispy scales nicely seasoned with a taste of charcoal fire, which removes the fishy smell and taste. It's the kind of meal you have to try in order to appreciate. There are just 32 seats in total, and reservations are recommended.

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Seogyo-dong
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Jinjin

To dine at Jinjin, reservations must be made at least a week in advance. Recently, rumor has it that even making a reservation is difficult. At first glance, the restaurant looks quite simple, but it serves an exquisite Chinese cuisine that appeals to everyone. The owner of the restaurant is Head Chef Yook Sung Wang who is the oldest chef of Korean style Chinese cuisine. He is such a prominent figure in the industry that he ended up removing mainstream Korean-Chinese dishes like jajangmyeon and tangsuyuk to keep himself from driving nearby Chinese-Korean restaurants into the group. Most of the full-course meals begin lightly with ohyang-naengchae, a Chinese five spice cold soup. Next, you might enjoy king crab doused in chili oil, followed by fried menbosha sandwiched between chewy shrimp bread. Mapo tofu with intense hot flavosr is also a popular dish here.The dishes at Jinjin are prepared with high quality ingredients, which are comparable to those used in Chinese restaurants in hotels, with one key difference: most of the dishes at Jinjin do not cost more than 20,000 KRW. Opening hours are restricted to the evening and most customers order alcoholic beverages such as beer or yeontae-goryangju with their meals. Dishes off the menu can be served if requested at the time of reservation.

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Seogyo-dong

Ciuri Ciuri

Ciuri Ciuri, opened by husband-wife team Enrico Olivieri and Filippa Fiorenza (Fiore), serves up authentic Western Sicilian cuisine in a brightly painted second-floor space. Seoul’s Italian community is a fan—you’re just as likely to hear Italian as Korean in the dining room. The star of the menu is arancine, orange-sized saffron rice balls with a variety of fillings, toasted golden brown and sprinkled with grated 24-month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano. Ciuri Ciuri’s arancine recipe comes from Fiore’s Sicilian grandmother—the ragu filling is most traditional, followed by the prosciutto cotto with béchamel (an influence from French conquests of Sicily). The other exclusively Sicilian menu item is annelleti, a small ring-shaped pasta that they import directly from Palermo. Dense and slightly chewy, it’s served wrapped in thinly sliced eggplant and tomato meat sauce. Don’t be shy asking for wine recommendations—Enrico is an Italian sommelier and stocks his cellar accordingly.

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Mapo-gu

Mokran

The criteria for being the best Chinese food chef in Seoul is simple. Take the meal that customers order most and be the best at making it. We think dish is one of the simplest and yet hardest to perfect: tangsuyuk, or sweet and sour pork. Mokran's owner and head-chef Yeon Bok Lee is one of the top Chinese food chefs in Seoul. His tangsuyuk at Mokran is close to perfection. What makes a perfect tangsuyuk? First, the state of the batter needs to be top quality, crispy but not hard. You have to achieve that exquisite balance of intense-sweetness and soft-sweetness. And basic ingredients, like the quality of pork, must always top grade. Mokran checks off all three, serving up an exquisite tangsuyuk. Other dishes at Mokran are delicious as well. The full-course dinner is a fantastic deal for the price. Almost all of the menu features that are rich, and the seasoning at times can seem a bit on the strong side, though never overwhelming. The chef’s mastery in finding an impeccable balance is the key to his skills. Tip: If you want to indulge in the deep flavors of dongpayuk (fried pork belly in soy sauce), you'll need to order it a day in advance.

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Yonhui-dong
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The Beastro

The Beastro serves upscale New American cuisine at Hongdae prices, a steal considering the work that goes into every dish. Brother and sister team Matthew and Catherine Chung grew up around the world before settling in Seoul and eventually starting the Beastro—named for their love of unapologetically hearty ingredients. Matthew has formal culinary training but a soft spot for casual food, so you’ll find crispy fried chicken and buttery biscuits alongside orechiette with pesto and blue cheese. Every last detail is given the highest attention: the chicken is brined for six hours, the pork belly takes 24 hours to cure, braise and compress, they make their own ricotta cheese, and they bake all their bread in house. You can’t go wrong with the fried chicken (seriously), not to mention their cocktail list, but you’ll need several visits to appreciate all the Beastro has to offer—did we mention they serve brunch?

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Seogyo-dong
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