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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hongdae snacks - THE Guksu, Kongbul, Maroon 51, Gilmotongi Chili Cha Cha Fingerfood Bar...

Riding a bike in Hongik University area is always fun and a perfect opportunity to taste various bits of cheap but original food along the way.

Hongdae is a little bit like Itaewon : a neighborhood progressively evolving into a series of very distinct areas, each one with its own character. Very much like Haebangchon grew an identity of its own, Seogyo-dong developped distinct villages and tribes.

The center remains a typical university area full of youngsters : that's the intersection between Seogyo-ro (the W/E street leading to Hongdae's main gate) and the winding street called Geotgosipeun geori to the North (걷고싶은 거리, the tree dotted "Pedestrian Street" or "I like to walk street" in the local lingo / on the konglish signs) and Juchajang geori to the South (주차장길, the grungier "Parking Street", which actually begins as 어울마당길 or "global gathering road").

Both sides deserving their names, I opted for the North and sat by a window at Kongbul's. The name of the restaurant mixes kongnamul with bulgogi : I had the hot and spicy samgyeopsal variety - nothing revolutionary but you get the expected bang for just a few bucks.

The Southwestern part of Hongdae (near Hapjeong Station, the rectangle square drawn by Picasso Street, Parking Street, Donkmak-gil, and Yanghwaro) is definitely quieter and more residential, even if private residences progressively turn into smart offices, shops and cafes. As spring temperatures rise to the level of a decent European summer, you don't really feel in Seoul.

Even the Korean classics are revisited. For instance, "THE Guksu" ("the noodles") proposes for only KRW 4,000 a very refreshing bibim guksu with a lemony flavor and fried bits that crack under your palate. And at Gilmotongi Chili Cha Cha, a self proclamed "Fingerfood Bar" that could pass for any tteokbokki place, you can have for the same price the trio of croquettes of your choice (KRW 1,700 apiece), and I strongly recommend their basil cream croquette - like a melting risotto in a fried shell.

Gilmotongi Chili Chacha has one mini terrasse seating two, from which you can observe the local fauna. The corner of Seollae-1-gil and Noeul-gil feels like a mix of bobo Bastille and vintage Camden.

Streets are much narrower on the other side of Parking Street, a denser cluster of eateries. We parked our bikes against the fences of Maroon 51's fake lawn, a small green triangle at a fork in the road. They are still in trial period and preparing for the official opening in June 2011 : their bulgogi-rice-egg combo probably needs to develop more character, but I really liked their beef and onion sandwich.

Seogyo-dong 345-2, Mapo-gu, Seoul, ROK
Tel +82.2.322.3545

THE Guksu / 더 국수 (noodle bar)
Seogyo-dong 395-7, Mapo-gu, Seoul, ROK 121-840
(New format : Yanghwa-ro 12-gil 26 (Seogyo-dong))
Tel +82.2.323.4776

Gilmotongi Chili Chacha / 길모통이 칠리차차
Seogyo-dong 400-11, Mapo-gu, Seoul, ROK
(New format : Yanghwa-ro 6-gil 79 (Seogyo-dong))
Tel +82.2.322.8405

Maroon 51
Seogyo-dong 409-14, Mapo-gu, Seoul, ROK
(New format : Wausan-ro 15-gil 34 (Seogyo-dong))
Tel +82.70.8682.5151

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