Address: Hongik University
Directions: Go out exit 5 of Hongik University Station and make a left, and then take the second right. Walk to the main road and take a left and walk up the main intersection where you’ll see the main entrance of Hongdae University. Take a left and walk until you reach the Samjin building. It’s right across the street.
This restaurant serves nothing but freshwater eel, known as jangeo in Korean. Koreans believe that jangeo gives strength and vitality to the eater, and is especially popular hence among men. We weren’t there to test that out, but to genuinely just have a meal of barbecued eel, as it’s one of K’s favourite things to eat.
This is a very popular restaurant and is frequented by many celebrities, judging by the many Polaroid pictures of famous Koreans pasted all over the restaurant. We ordered their most popular dish, the barbecued eel done 3 ways – soy sauce, chili barbecue and lightly salted. While waiting, we had a little snack of deep fried jangeo bone chips. These were surprisingly good. We were given a basket of fried eel bones, literally, and they were crunchy and crispy, slightly fishy, but great fun to munch on. It’s also an amazing way to make use of every possible part of the eel; now, if only someone would find a way to do something like this to chicken bones and crab shells, for example.
No Korean meal is ever complete without a spread of kimchi and side dishes. We were just wondering if we were going to get any kimchi in this meal, since it’s not exactly Korean Korean, when our kimchi and side dishes appeared right in front of us. Some of them were really outstanding – the tofu dish was silky and really got our appetites going, and the miso/bean soup was extremely tasty.
The eel takes about 25 minutes to cook, and when it arrived we just couldn’t wait to jump in. However, gorging yourself silly with eel is the worst thing to ever do. Eel must be savoured and not gorged. We found that the longer the eel was left on the grill the better it tasted so it gave us all the more reason to eat as slowly as possible. We’ve never had eel this way. It was lovely being able to taste the natural flavour of the eel as unlike the Japanese version, the eel here doesn’t come with a lot of sauce that may overpower the delicate taste of the flesh. All 3 flavours were wonderful, and went very well with the lettuce wrap that is so typical of Korean cuisine. This was one of our favourite meals in Seoul so far.
As a side note, service here in Korea has been excellent. Everyone (in general) is so polite and gentle that we kind of feel obliged to behave in that manner too. We met 2 Americans while on our way to the Green Tea Plantation in Boseong who were on a teaching programme in some local schools, and they were also ridiculously polite and kept bowing, and were just simply unnaturally courteous. It’s a truly bizarre phenomenon.