Tasty buns from China are a treat for dinnerMaybe a book should not be judged by its cover, but you can judge a Chinese restaurant by its buns. Less than a year since it opened in April, Gongximyeongwan, a Chinese restaurant specializing in xiaolongbao has been attracting media attention as well as the young and the trendy. The signature dish is a baozi, or filled bun, originating from the southern provinces of China where they are steamed in bamboo baskets.
The name itself reveals a lot about the restaurant. Gongxi, meaning “welcome” in Chinese, and myeongwan referring to “noodle house” in Korean, is a tongue-in-cheek hybrid word with a preferred pronunciation that reveals this establishment has attitude to spare. The two-floor, bright red restaurant, with bold Chinese-themed ornaments and a cute take-out booth filled with bamboo baskets, is far cry from the nearby Din Tai Fung, or Cheongdam district’s Nanxiang, both world-wide chains originating from China which have a more subdued, conventional atmosphere and more expensive xiaolongbaos.
Gongximyeongwan’s buns are almost half the price of the xiaolongbaos in the above two restaurants - being only 4,500 won ($ 4.70 ) for a set of eight pork xiaolongbaos and 6,800 won for eight shrimp buns. I tried the shrimp xiaolongbao hoping that the cheaper price wouldn’t mean inferior quality. Turns out, the buns met me half way. Although the meat could have been juicier and a little more tender, and the wrapping more delicate, I was still satisfied with the overall quality of the xiaolongbao, with the hot pork broth inside complimenting the hearty filling. At this restaurant, all xiaolongbao sets come with a complimentary bowl of noodles topped with stir-fried bean paste.
All items are available for take-out and would make a great side dish with either beer or strong Chinese liquor. Another plus is that the restaurant sits at the heart of Myeondong near the old Chinese embassy which makes for easy, quick pick-ups.
by Cho Jae-eun
The restaurant is open daily, from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. For more information, call (02) 778-8863.