Sunday, August 25, 2013

of blood loss and meat intake

This evening, I somehow managed to catch my foot on my new bathroom scale. I tripped and twisted at the same time, clumsily slamming into the wall between my apartment and that of my next-door neighbor, then slumping with a loud bump to the floor, thereby recompressing Ye Olde Coccyxe. No neighbor ran up to see whether I was OK, although I imagine the impact of ass on floor made my fellow residents look up from whatever they were doing.

I felt a pain in my right pinky toe and thought, Dammit, I've ripped the nail. I looked down and saw a tiny spot of blood. Not wanting to peel off my sock and reveal the true extent of the damage, I peeled off my sock, anyway, and saw that my toenail was fine, but that I'd somehow ripped the skin on the tip of my toe. Since blood wasn't pouring torrentially out of the wound, I grumbled and limped over to the bathroom to get a bandage. I applied it to my toe, put my sock back on, then went out to do what I had intended to do before tripping: go to dinner.

It was raining hard outside, and it was evening, so the weather was cooler than it had been for the past few days. I walked over to a restaurant that I had discovered just the other day. It advertised itself as a "meat buffet," and was charging only W9000 per head, which is an unheard-of price for Infinite Meat. I was worried, at first, that the resto wouldn't allow a lone diner in: many Korean establishments have a stupid "two-person minimum" policy that allows only couples and groups to dine. I folded up my umbrella and went inside.

I was immediately greeted by a businesslike ajumma dressed in ├╝ber-casual clothes. I asked her whether my coming alone was OK; she gave me a laid-back "no problem" shrug. She then pointed me to a seat and, when I asked her how to proceed, told me I could just go back and forth, grabbing and cooking meat as I went. A male server seated me and turned on my table's burner (as with many Korean restaurants, this one had tables with burners in the middle of them). Ass and toe still throbbing from my tumble, I wandered over to the serving station, grabbed a plate, and began piling raw meat onto it. The selection was spicy chicken, bulgogi beef, several types of fatty pork, and octopus or squid tentacles. There was also a vegetable station that had onions, garlic, fat saesongi (king oyster) mushrooms, green chilis, Korean-style green-leaf salad, and dwaenjang sauce. Another station held condiments like sesame oil, soy sauce, red chili powder, and salt. Over several trips, I gathered raw meat, chilis, dwaenjang, salad, saesongi, sesame oil, and salt.

I had brought reading material, but ended up consumed by the need to prep my own food. Some Westerners find this loopy: if the customer is paying for the food, why does he have to prepare it himself? But this is part of the fun of Korean dining, and it diffuses responsibility for the quality of the meal: if your meat is burned, it's your own damn fault, not the cook's. I, of course, laid out and cooked my meat perfectly.

I liked the restaurant's ambiance immediately. It was unpretentious and foreigner-friendly: half the clientele were Southeast Asian workers. I had no idea what country they were from, but they were loud, happy, and relaxed. This was a resto for working people and for families, and despite my own white-collar job, I felt immediately at ease among the other patrons.

The restaurant displayed ominous signs warning that patrons who didn't finish their food would be fined an extra W5000. I thought this was only fair. In the end, I managed to polish off two heaping plates of meat, two clusters of saesongi, and a small bowl of green-leaf salad. It was more than enough, and surprisingly Atkins-friendly. I didn't see any rice, although I might simply have missed it. Barely anything at the resto qualified as carbs.

My meal finished, I lumber-waddled over to the cashier's desk and paid my W9000. I told the lady, very sincerely, that I had eaten quite well, then I asked her how she was able to charge such cheap prices. Somewhat mixing cause and effect, she smiled and replied, "Because customers keep on coming!" "You're obviously popular," I said, pointing to the full parking lot. She smiled again; I collected my umbrella, bowed in thanks, and left.

When I got home, I took off my shoes and looked at my sock. Sure enough, the right pinky toe had bled around the bandage. Here's a picture so you don't have to imagine it:

I wish I'd taken pics of dinner, but I didn't bring a camera with me, so all you get is a bloody right toe.



John McCrarey said...

You have described what both what I like best and what I miss most about Korea in this post. Well, not about the falling down down and stubbing toe, but otherwise...

Charles said...

I'll tell you how they are able to charge such cheap prices: cheap meat. I avoid cheap meat buffets like the plague, as the two have similar effects on my digestive system. Those with stronger plumbing may fare better, but I would still be wary.

Kevin Kim said...


My plumbing was just fine after a zesty session in Meatville. I do see what you mean about cheap meat, at least as far as the bulgogi and chicken go; some of the cuts of pork, however, seemed quite solid and not skanky at all. I'd go back.