Monday, May 17, 2010

Yeonhuigol Gumteo (Seoul)

My favorite Yeonhui-dong restaurant has a unique charm and cuteness, the food is both good and cheap, and the tenant very kind. A dream combo getting harder to find every year.

Typically, I found the place by pure luck, but also because I was hunting for this kind of gem in an area I felt could host one.

Unfortunately, Yeonhuigol Gumteo is doomed : this area South of Hongjecheon is expecting redeveloppement like Ellen Ripley her baby alien - in an unknown and dark future. In a city that cares for its soul and identity, the place could be saved and even become a very trendy spot, given the time... but no : instead of preserving low rise areas along its streams, Seoul prefers to plant corridors of apateus that kill all forms of life and natural landmarks.

Hongjecheon has already been disfigured by Naebu Expressway, a concrete dragon serpenting above the valley between Seongsan Bridge and Pyeongchang-dong. But the first day I landed in Yeonhuigol ("Yeonhui Valley"), even that monster contributed to the magic : monsoon rain was pouring, evacuated in impressive waterfalls under each pillar of the elevated freeway. From my table facing a two meter wide windowpane slightly below street level, I could not see the other side of the stream (Hongeun-dong and Moraenae-gil) : only vegetation, the pillars and the lower part of the structure, which then prolonged the small room's incredibly organic ceiling, covered with ivy growing from flower pots positioned in every corner. The light and atmosphere had a dreamlike quality, and suddenly a strange shape emerged from behind the blue bead curtains before parting them to reveal a smiling Yakult Adjuma straigth from a Miyazaki cartoon...

Yeonhuigol serves tasty meat, soups, and stews : samgyeopsal, ugeoji kalbi tang (우거지 갈비탕), sundubu, mandu-guk, pudae jjigae, dakdoritang... with delicious banjan and fresh ingredients from the nearby market. Customers are essentially neighbors and shop owners. You can eat either at a low table, in the main non-descript room, or at a high table, in this small corner which oddly feels like a vintage cafe by the Seine.

Yeonhuigol Gumteo / 연희골 굼터 (restaurant)
717-33 Yeonhui-2-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, ROK
Tel +82.2.3143.6883

Seoul Village 2010

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UPDATE 201109

Aaarrgh : this place has been converted into a nondescript meat restaurant ! The magic is over...

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