When in Korea, do what the Koreans do. Which means…Korean barbecue!
Barbecue is an integral part of Korean cuisine. In fact, I would consider it their second identity?.
We were in Hongdae, so I picked Choigozip Hondae based on the many positive English reviews on Tripadvisor, hoping it would be foreigner-friendly. This restaurant was located right near the Hongik University subway station. Prime location?.
The server seated us right away and brought us the foreigner’s English menu. Thank god, lol. We have had our fair share of using Google translate to decipher Korean menu, and it just isn’t the same. I really should have learned to read basic hangul instead of only learning how to say “kid, man, woman” in Korean after 5 weeks of using those Korean language apps?. Well, maybe next time, I’ll prep better.
We ordered one serving of pork belly and back ribs, one serving of marinated beef thin skirt, and pork and kimchi stew.
You can feel the intense heat radiating from the uncovered coal. That suction hood right above is for the fumes from the BBQ. You can adjust it by pulling it down closer to the grill to capture all the smoke. The only reason I know that is because part way through our barbecuing experience, there were so much smoke coming off of the grill and irritating my eyes and throat, and dissemminating throughout the store that one of the servers couldn’t stand it. He quickly came over and pulled down the suction hood for us so that it contained the smoke right where it began. He had the “what a bunch of idiots” look, but I don’t blame him because we WERE totally clueless?, lol.
First came the pork belly and back ribs. There were a few side dishes, and some condiments for flavouring your grilled meat. The white pieces circling around the grill top were chunks of bread, which we didn’t really touch because we didn’t know how to eat it and we forgot in the end. We also had no idea what to do with the two raw eggs as well?.
The portion was a lot smaller than I had anticipated for 14,000 kwon and based on the menu picture. It was just 2 pieces of pork, which I assume one to be belly and one to be back rib. The server helped us cook, flip and cut the meat into bite size pieces for us. Excellent customer service! The juicy, hot, tender bits of meat was delightful when I wrap them in lettuce and topped with their with some shredded green onions and ssamjang. O, I really liked their pork and kimchi stew. So delicious! Pork and kimchi are literally soul mates for each other, savoury and tart. O so good!
This was cold buckwheat jelly soup. Apparently, this was “service”, which in Korean culture means it is free and on the house. Well, I didn’t know that, all I knew was that we did not order this. I asked one of the passing servers what this dish was, he looked like he wanted to explain but was limited by his lack of English. He then went to grab another server. The other server came over and pointed to a picture on the menu. It was helpful to know what the dish was, but it was an item that we did not order, so I said again ” but we didn’t order this”, because I didn’t want to pay for something that we did not intend to order. The server then seemed irritated and blurted out “It’s service! It tastes good! ok?!” Ok?. I just wanted to clarify, he didn’t have to be so brash about it?. Anyways, it wasn’t that tasty. The jelly was bland, and the cold soup was slightly tangy and sweet with some sliced vegetables but not flavourful enough to boost the jelly. It was interesting how they leave chunks of ice in the soup to keep it chill. I was still glad I got to try something new, for free.
Then came the marinated beef thin skirts. They changed the grill gates for us, seems like they have different grill grates for different meats. There was some shredded cheese in that little cup on the grill. Mmmm, melted cheese.
This was kind of a funny story. So, we weren’t too sure if we were supposed to cook this ourselves as the server had grilled the pork for us from the start to the end and most of our Western Korean BBQ experience was like that as well. Since neither of us was confident and we both did not want to steal the thunder, we waited. It was about 5-10 minutes in, and finally this older man server came over and started cooking for us. While he was flipping the beef, he gently asked why we didn’t start cooking it ourselves.? Haha, oops. Next time, we’ll take the initiative.
The beef skirt was yummy. Even though I thought the portion looked small, we were both happily satisfied at the end of our meal. Not engorged, just the right amount?.
So I made a boo-boo while paying. The server said total 41,000, so I took out what I thought was a 50,000 kwon bill. Except, I took out a 5,000 bill. Darn it, and it had to be the same inpatient server from earlier. He gave a huge stink eye and with a lot of attitude, he slowly repeated “forty-one thousand”. At that point, I still didn’t know what was wrong. He didn’t explain and just kept giving me the death stare. Thank god I realized my own mistake after a second, or else it would have been an awkward long staring contest. Honestly, my whole food experience was wonderful at this place and the rest of the servers were awesome and friendly, but that one server did kind of put a damper on things. However, I would still go back for the food though?!
25, World Cup buk-ro 2-gil, Mapo-gu,
Pork belly and side rib – 14,000 kwon
Marinated beef thin skirt – 22,000 kwon
Pork and kimchi stew – 5,000 kwon