Taste this: 9 Unforgettable meals in Korea
We're back with more on the Korea Joa Project trip! One thing I'll remember (in case I haven't made it clear enough) about our tour of Korea is the FOOD. The Korea Joa staff prepared great meal stops wherever we went in Seoul, Busan, or in between. They were also kind enough to prepare a roundup of all the places we stopped to eat during the trip. While we always ate well (seriously, every meal was great!), some places were real standouts. So for the sake of a little drama, I've ranked everything we ate, from "that was nice" to "I'm never leaving Korea." In addition to the places that we went with Korea Joa, I've added a few notable places I ate on my own. Please try them (especially the spa)! Want to visit and enjoy what we ate? Click on the restaurant name to see more information. So here we go, from good to OMG:
Okay so you don't come here for the food; you come for the AMAZING view! Perched halfway up N Seoul Tower, this Italian restaurant serves up the best views in the city. It's a really romantic spot for couples since you can sit in high-backed loveseats that basically give you total privacy: it's just you, your food, and the ENTIRE CITY OF SEOUL to look at. Although the food was fine (pizza and pasta), the real reason to come is obvious.
This is a nostalgic, down-to-earth roadside dining hall in Busan that is a nice place to go with a group for noodle dishes, fried seafood, and beer. No-frills but tasty. I'm personally not a big jjajangmyun person (I know I know) so it was a little heavy for me. But it just feels good to relax here after seeing the gorgeous Haedong Yonggung Temple.
Fried octopus and fried chicken is the specialty here, and this is a great late-night place to relax in Seoul. The other specialty, shown above, is the frozen beer. Kloud beer is Korea's answer to German Pilseners, and I have no idea what the frozen foam is made of, but it did not ever melt. I'm not even sure it's capable of melting! Just say no to drinking beer with a straw and mysterious frozen foam (I said yes to a few though).
Dragon Hill Spa is one of Seoul's biggest and best 24-hour spas, which I tried out after the Korea Joa Project concluded. However, I'm including it here because it was also a really memorable midnight (more like 3am) snack. The grumpy lady behind the counter has three types of boiled eggs for sale along with shaved ice and ice cream, all of which are very tasty (I'm told that Cookie O is the best ice cream sandwich in Korea, so now you know!) Above you can see our feast of "coal eggs" and ice cream. How do coal eggs taste? Just like regular eggs!
When I heard we were going for Tex-Mex in Seoul, a huge question mark appeared over my head. It turns out that Vatos is the restaurant that most resembled going out to eat in the United States. The tacos and burritos hit the spot (also the huge margaritas), and the only thing that reminded you that you were actually still in Korea is the famous kimchi fries (which are also fairly common here). Everything tasted great, but my favorite Korean take on tacos is still here.
We went here for shabu-shabu right before seeing iKON's debut concert. Situated in the Olympic Park, it's a pleasant place to enjoy some group cooking. The thing I hadn't seen before is the conveyor belt system (you can see it above). Just like in a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, small plates of fresh veggies and other shabu shabu ingredients circulated around the bar, adding a little hunt-and-gather fun to the meal.
Technically, we were only supposed to be here for a snack. But the shockingly fresh seafood of Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan was too entertaining and delicious to pass up. Yes, we had the still-moving (but not still "alive," we were assured) squid, and also super-fresh sashimi with rustic banchan (side dishes). You can't get any fresher than picking out your fish downstairs, then walking upstairs and having it served to you.
My search for great bibimbap lead me to this famous restaurant in the heart of the Myeongdong shopping district of Seoul. I'd heard that bibimbap varies a great deal depending on where in Korea you are eating, and I wanted to try something with a little more style than what I could find at home. I really enjoyed the version I ordered above, with unusual vegetables and flavors I hadn't had before (I still have no idea what the curlycue thing in the lower left is). This restaurant has become a tourist destination for its bibimbap, so I saw many other adventurers trying out the house specialty.
Even though I'm no noodle addict, this was maybe my favorite meal in Korea. With a history stemming from food shortages during the Korean war, milmyeon are wheat noodles, here served in a tasty, icy broth with fresh vegetables and meat. It's the lightest noodle dish you can eat in my opinion, and it was absolutely delicious. I can still taste it now!
Want more from the Korea Joa project? Read about things that surprised me, learning to cook with a K-drama Food Director, iKON's debut concert, and things every smartphone user should know before visiting Korea. And there's more to come! Is there something you'd like to know about the trip? Ask me in the comments!