[cycloneslider id="seoulmodeat"] Modern Seoul eating is definitely not for the fainthearted or for those with clogged arteries - strong spices and flavours, all things fried with a side of beer (or other alcohol) is the modus operandi, often for ridiculously cheap prices and I am simply amazed everyone seems to maintain good skin and slim figures. At its heart, it's probably because dining in Korea is very much a social event, where the energy expended via laughing, talking and generally having a good time cancels out all the calories being inputted.
It takes a little walking from Hapjeong station to get to Cornerside Chilli Cha Cha but it has all the hallmarks of a great croquette specialist - small shop, simple decor and basically only serves croquettes and other fried foods. Unfortunately, the fruit croquettes were sold out but the basil cream croquette is heavily recommended - it takes almost like the white sauce that goes on pasta, with small chewy mochi-like bits inside. The croquettes are double-fried, which means the batter is crumbly and not as oily as you might expect.
Our dining companion also had the pasta bowl, which was like the sauce of spaghetti bolognese - cheese included - mixed with light rice-cake like crumbs. Very interesting and tasted great.
'HONGDAE NOODLE PLACE' (미청국수홍데?)
We stumbled upon this store in Hongdae and, unfortunately, I can't remember the name (if anyone who can read Korean can read the receipt and let me know, that would be super! I did my best but I'm not sure if I got the name...or something else).
That being said, this noodle bar was one of the best value food spots we happened upon in Seoul - super cheap, healthy and filling. The noodles are a thin, round white rice noodle that is flavoured with a special blend of soy sauce that is very Chinese-style. Add some vegetables on top and you're good to go. The pork rice ball was also great value - a huge ball of solid, fresh-tasting rice with a tiny hint of pork and crispy bits.
Tasteful design (architect approved) is always a surefire way to make me take a second look at any cafe and sitting inside, it was one of those beautiful places you could easily spend half a day in, with a laptop, work to do and a coffee or cake beside you, with a range of little details to catch your interest like magazines or English posters on the wall.
We had to try the cafe's claim to fame - the Hawaiian Kona Coffee (apparently imported?). At $11 a cup, it does not come cheap and, like with most things coffee-related, its quality (or lack thereof?) was completely lost on me. The initial sip is a sharp, almost sour taste, which then quickly tapers off into a more familiar coffee flavour that leaves a lingering coffee aftertaste in the mouth. Definitely interesting.
The chocolate marbled cheesecake provided a sweet counterbalance to the coffee's. Very solid, rich cheesecake that will probably let you skip dinner.
And of course, you can't traverse Seoul without Korean Fried Chicken. Unfortunately, Han Chu, often touted as the 'best fried chicken' in Seoul by blogger word-of-mouth, actually ended up being quite disappointing.
First of all and most damning, the chicken was overcooked. This may have just been bad luck on our part for happening upon a particular batch but...well, there's no excuse. Though served piping hot and clearly right out of the fryer, the flesh was quite dry and the pieces seemed like they were chopped up very indiscriminately - some were basically chicken bone encased in batter with very little meat and there were quite a few fine bones to pick out. The batter also incorporates chopped green peppers that are very spicy, so I would actually suggest those with low spice tolerance to try somewhere else.
Also, they are utterly inflexible with the menu - the chicken is sold at a set price and quantity. No half portions or non-spicy options in this joint and you are expected to order at least one drink (though it can be a soft drink that you share). The upside is the free refills of pickled white radish (my absolute favourite) and puffed rice crackers.
I wouldn't hold out for going to just one fried chicken joint and I'm kind of wondering if NaruOne in Sydney will prove to actually be better.