March 22, 2024

50 Best and then some day 2: basement Hanwoo

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I haven't seen my friend Jay Essu for a while. In fact, the last time I was with her 10 years ago we had hit Dominique Ansel Bakery together and waited in line for cronuts. My time in NYC back in 2019 was too short during a hectic business trip so I never bothered to arrange something, and then came the pandemic years... Anyway, now that she's moved back to Seoul, I took the opportunity to catch up with her.

I had asked her to pick a restaurant that she wanted to show me, so that's how we ended up in the basement at Wooga (牛家), a restaurant that specializes in aging Hanwoo beef. The menu at lunch is pretty simple, and we ended up choosing the simple sets.

First came the banchan (반찬), with a big bowl of salad plus tofu and, of course, kimchi.

Aged beef tartare bibimbap (숙성육회비빔밥) - this is a signature dish of the restaurant, where the aged beef comes in a big ball.

The raw beef is then torched on the outside to brown it. Then one drops it into the bowl with vegetables, add the rice, and mix it all up.

I gotta say that torching just the outside of the ball did give a slight bit of charring for some smoky flavors, while most of the meat remained raw and hence, the classic flavor profile of the bibimbap (비빔밥) was still retained.

The accompanying radish soup came with slices of beef inside.

Aged sirloin bulgogi (숙성 등심 불고기) - we would, of course, also have some bulgogi (불고기) while we are here. Seoul-style bulgogi means it comes with vegetables - in this case mushrooms - and also sweet potato noodles.

The marinated beef is then cooked on top of a copper dome, with mushrooms and noodles simmering in broth in the trough around the outside.

It's nice to enjoy the beef with some warm broth.

We also had some ciabatta on the side, with some cheese, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar.

Some of the cooked beef is then put on the bread to make a bulgogi ciabatta sandwich (불고기 치아바타 샌드위치). An unexpected way to enjoy bulgogi, but nice.

We finished our meal with some yoghurt sorbet, which was very refreshing.

I need to go shopping for L, and thankfully it was just within a short walking distance. After getting the goodies at Tamburins, Jay Essu took me to the basement of the same building for some coffee at Nudake, which has become one of the go-to spots for influencers and wannabes to create their posts on social media.

As we had just finished lunch, I decided against ordering one of their very artistic-looking cakes. This was probably a mistake in retrospect, as I remember Jay Essu mentioning that on previous visits, all the cakes she wanted to try were sold out. That wasn't the case today...

Instead, I got myself a creamy black latte. The plastic cup is coated with a thin layer of white chocolate. Squeezing the cup multiple times breaks the chocolate, revealing the mix of black sesame, black beans, and honey inside peeking through the pattern created by the squeezing. It's an interesting concept for sure.

I strolled around Apgujeong-ro and revisit Galleria, strolling through their gourmet food hall which, 7 years later, seemed a little less upscale than I remembered. I also walked through the men's designer sections looking for something in vain. Eventually I went back to my hotel, dropping off the goodies and waited for dinner.

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