EAT STREETThe Three Musketeers may have been known for their valor, but Samcheong-dong’s musketeers are famous for their scrumptious cuisine, dishes that leave one’s taste buds embedded with fond memories.
Among the three most sought-out restaurants in the vicinity of Samcheong-dong, the French-Italian fusion restaurant called The Restaurant is located directly across the road from Gyeongbok Palace.
A second popular spot, Samcheong-dong Sujebi, dishes out bowls of hot broth bobbing with bite-sized dough morsels to the hordes who know its reputation. For folks who want to indulge in a full-scale traditional Korean course, Yongsusan is the answer.
Besides these well-known establishments, restaurants offering an array of choices for the hungry are peppered along both sides of the alley past the palace gates.
Seoul City Hall worker Kim Hyeong-seok, who regularly drives to Samcheongdong alley from his offices across the giant plaza, believes that because many civil service workers from the nearby Blue House or Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea come to this area, the food quality is quite high.
“Wherever I go I am never disappointed,” says Mr. Kim. “The service is fast and the high standards of the people coming here has raised the overall level of restaurants here.”
Besides a select few dining establishments like Yongsusan, all restaurants in the area are fairly compact, with the owner serving double duty as cook and server.
Since most eateries have fewer than 10 tables, their atmosphere is quite cozy. At the same time, their size intensifies competition for a table during the peak periods of lunchtime and weekends.
The number of restaurants here has doubled in the last year from 50 to 100 establishments.
When heading to this cornucopia of cuisine, be prepared to walk back because a taxi is not easy to hail during busy hours. Nevertheless, since the stroll follows Gyeongbok Palace’s stone wall and you can enjoy the agreeable spring weather and sunshine, then why worry?
A Samcheong-dong sampler: coffee to cow’s tail
1. Jazz Story: Domestic beers cost 5,000 won, 10,000 won if there’s a live performance. (02) 725-6537
2. Nunnamu Jip: Gimchi-mali noodles cost 4,000 won. (02) 739-6742
3. Darakjeong: Bean paste dumplings with vegetables cooked in casserole cost 9,000 won a serving. (02) 725-1697
4. Geonmichon: Vegetable soup with live mini octopus. Cost is 20,000 won for 2 people or 40,000 won for 4 people. (02) 737-5649
5. Aru: A slice of tiramisu cake costs 4,000 won. (02) 736-2390
6. Nanjang: A cup of Chinese tea costs 7,000 won. (02) 3210-4545
7. Oai Oai: Gourmet coffee costs 5,000 won. (02) 723-1259
8. Onmaeul: Uncurdled bean curd with rice costs 5,000 won. (02) 738-4231
9. Yongsusan: A complete dinner of rice cake soup, or tteokguk, plus steamed cow’s tail, sushi, seafood on a skewer, and pork with cabbage costs 28,000 won. (02) 739-5599
10. Gohyang Bori-bab Bunjeom (Branch): Boiled barley rice costs 5,000 won. (02) 736-9716
11. Cafe 37: A sandwich costs 4,000 won. (02) 734-2692
12. Seoulseo Duljjaero Jalhaneun Jip: Sweet red bean soup costs 4,5000 won. (02) 734-5302
13. Dam-dam: Buckwheat bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables and seasonings) costs 7,000 won per bowl. (02) 733-3535
14. Samcheongdong Sujebi: Sujebi (soup with doughy morsels) costs 5,000 won. (02) 735-2965
15. Deulhyanggi: Bibimbap with wild edible greens costs 7,000 won. (02) 732-775
16. Ppaeng and Ppang: Seafood spaghetti costs 17,000 won. (02) 722-5930
17. Hagung: Sweet-and-sour pork costs 13,000 won. (02) 722-6101
18. Yetnal Someori Gukbap: Gukbap (rice served with soup) costs 6,000 won. (02) 735-6603
19. Ujeong Jangeogui: Jangeo gui (broiled eels in soy sauce) costs 30,000 won. (02) 723-8346
20. Ramama: Rice in an iron pot with nutritious asides costs 11,000 won. (02) 723-8250
21. Solmoe Maeul: A full-course dinner that includes pumpkin porridge, salad, bulgogi, Korean pancakes and sushi costs 16,000 won. (02) 720-0995
22. Hyangnamu Segeuru: Fermented soybeans with rice and other side dishes costs 4,000 won. (02) 720-9524
23. 1, 2, 3, Mandugip: Soup with rice and dumplings costs 4,000 won. (02) 732-1230
24. Cheongsujeong: Rice with sea mussels and other side dishes costs 5,000 won. (02) 738-8288
25. Kkeulre: Fried pork costs 12,000 won. (02) 734-7752
26. Samcheongbokjip: Bok shabu shabu, a beef and vegetable hot pot, costs 60,000 won. (02) 739-9088
27. Hansang: The Gyeongbok Palace lunch course with 9 different foods including Korean pancakes, marinated beef and grilled fish costs 25,000 won. (02) 720-9500
28. Kongdu: Tofu steaks cost 27,000 won. (02) 722-7727
29. Suwarae: Seafood spaghetti costs 12,500 won. (02) 739-2122
30. Cave: The red house wine sells for 7,000 won per glass. (02) 739-1788
For 10 years, this eatery has been making its famous small octopus soup known as yeonpotang. Each octopus here was hand-selected from the Jeolla region. One order of yeonpotang (30,000 won, or $24) and a dish of yeonpo octopuses (20,000 won) should be sufficient to quell the hunger of three grown adults.
This chain, which specializes in cakes, has been gaining a following in the Gangnam area and at big shopping malls across Seoul. The bakery offers about 20 kinds of cakes, which are famous for their softness and sweet flavor. They are guaranteed to melt anyone’s tongue, leaving them crying out for more.
A teahouse with an unusual name and a 30-year old history of brewing. The tearoom’s name, Seoulseo Duljjaero Jalhaneun Jip, literally means “the second-best teahouse in Seoul.” Besides its ssanghwatang, a tea with traditional oriental herbs, the sweet red bean soup with rice cakes (4,500 won) is another favorite of customers.
This place offers rice with sea mussels, flavored with a slight touch of sesame oil, a dish that can’t be easily found in the Seoul area.
One order of a sea mussel rice bowl is accompanied by side dishes of seasoned vegetables, beef and yellow croaker. The cost of one order of sea mussel rice bowl, or honghap, with side dishes is 12,000 won ($10).
This house specializes in puffer fish dishes. For 60,000 won a family of four can treat itself to puffer fish cut into large pieces, which are then dropped into a soup.
Among the side dishes included are crab preserved in soy sauce, which is not too salty and a true gastronomic treat. Many civil servants are said to favor this place.
Fairly casual atmosphere with an interior that is not too fancy but quite attractive. The special lunch menu, in place from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., includes spaghetti and soda for 8,000 won. For an additional 1,000 won, diners can polish off their meal with a slice of cake.
The seafood pasta with sea mussels, shrimp and squid is the most sought after pasta at this place.
by Yoo Jee-sang