Saturday, March 30, 2019

food pics, 3/29/19

The first four images below are of the Guksu Jeonmun restaurant that I visited for lunch on Friday. Good atmosphere, friendly service, decent—if not spectacular—food, and a menu with enough variety to make me want to come back and explore it. The final two images—also not spectacular—are of my chocolate tapioca pudding.

Up first: a wide shot of my meal. I took the simple path and ordered a straightforward bibim guksu as well as something modestly billed as "gogi mandu," which turned out to be gigantic. Sides were kept simple, and in the spirit of the sides you'd find at a Japanese-ish donggaseu-jip. While this gives the place a limited feel, I also think it shows a focused devotion to a few menu items done well.

A closeup of the bibim guksu (spicy noodles):

And now, the gogi mandu (meat dumplings):

My final in-restaurant shot, below, is of the menu. If you read Korean, you can see why I'm interested in coming back a few more times: there's plenty here to try. In the upper-left sector, with prices ranging from W9500 to W8500, you've got the various gukbap dishes. Guk means "soup," and bap means "rice." That's not as boring as it sounds because it's not simply a matter of dumping rice into soup and calling it gukbap. The actual soup is cooked in the manner of a stew, and the rice is added early. As the rice cooks, it evolves into an almost-porridge, and it's this confluence of turning-into-stew and turning-into-porridge that gives gukbap its particular charm. The three menu items on offer are a sirloin (deungshim) gukbap, a marbled-beef (chadolbagi) gukbap, and what I assume is a beef-belly cut (u sangyeop gukbap is literally "beef 3-layer soup-rice") gukbap.

The menu's lower-left sector, with items ranging in price from W9000 to W13000, is mostly about jeon (rhymes with "one," not with "peon"), which are savory Korean-style pancakes. The one jeon that caught my eye was the potato-vegetable pancake; I'll definitely have to come back for that one.

The menu's lower-right sector also has a couple items I'm keen to try. First up, for W15000, is the chadol dubu kimchi, or marbled-beef tofu kimchi, which sounds absolutely delightful. Next up, for W18000, is the golbaengi muchim, which is fat snails* mixed with vegetables and a somewhat sweet, somewhat spicy sauce. This, as my friend Charles noted four years ago, normally goes with fried chicken and beer.

The menu's upper-right sector, with only three items, showcases the three guksu (noodle) options available to you. Bibim guksu (the first item) is what I ordered. The word bibim simply means "mixed," but in the culinary context, it strongly implies "spicy" because a peppery sauce is mixed with other ingredients. I do find it a bit ironic that the restaurant is called Guksu Jeonmun (Noodle Specialty), but the guksu turns out to be in the minority on the actual bill of fare—only three of seventeen items.

And here's that bill of fare:

Next up: a deep dive into chocolate tapioca. It tasted fantastic, but it didn't look like anything more than a brown form of white tapioca pudding. I was bizarrely proud of having followed the instructions better this time around. It was nice not to have a pudding that stared at me.

And an even closer view:

Next week, I'll be visiting the Vietnamese place in our building's basement. For such a tucked-away restaurant, that place looked rather high-class. We'll soon see whether it is. Stay tuned.

*Google Translate renders golbaengi as "whelk," which makes my brow furrow in confusion. I normally think of whelks as huge—certainly much bigger than the snails you get in a can, which are about the size of jumbo shrimp—but when I did a Google search just now, I discovered that whelks come in all sorts of sizes, so maybe golbaengi really does mean "whelk." Hm. It's just that, when I was a kid and wanted to be a marine biologist, my first-ever encounter with whelks was in a British encyclopedia of living things (the Funk & Wagnalls Wildlife Encyclopedia), and one of the entries in that encyclopedia was for the so-called "left-handed whelk." Here—see for yourself why I ended up thinking whelks were huge. Anyway, I thought golbaengi was a generic term for "sea snail." Turns out that the word whelk is also a generic term applied to a diverse range of sea snails, so maybe I wasn't so wrong to think what I thought, and maybe "whelk" isn't a bad translation after all.

1 comment:

Charles said...

Beware, for if you gaze long into a pudding, the pudding will also gaze into you!

(Also, the whelks that are usually eaten by the British are indeed of the golbaengi variety--or at least very similar, from what I remember.)