4.215 OKRKL/6 Myeong-Dong Halmae Nakji: Nakji Bokkeum

-Cycle 4, Item 215-
8 (Thu) August 2013

OKRKL/6 Myeong-Dong Halmae Nakji: Nakji Bokkeum


at Myeong-Dong Halmae Nakji

-Myeong-Dong, Seoul-

with MtG

Given 100 landmark restaurants listed in the book Old Korean Restaurants that Koreans Love (OKRKL) (한국인이 사랑하는 오래된 한식당) (see generally 4.173 OKRKL/1 Woo Lae Oak...), I'm taking it upon myself to visit and review as many as I can.  For obvious reasons, I'll start with the 28 restaurants in Seoul, which I hope to complete within this cycle.

This is the 6th restaurant, in no particular order, to be reviewed (see previously 4.206 OKRKL/5 Jeonju Jungang Hoegwan...).  

Hidden in plain sight.

Nakji bokkeum (낙지볶음) is a Korean octopus stir-fry.  It consists of the species nakji (see generally 2.027 Nakji Jjim), along with various aromatics, such as onion, scallion, garlic, carrot, tossed in gochujang (red chili paste) and other seasonings, such as soy sauce, sesame oil.  

The restaurant's eponymous signature item is nakji bokkeum.  Famously, the rendition here is super spicy, even for Koreans.  Buffers to soften the effect include loads of shredded white cabbage in the stir-fry itself, a side dish of parboiled bean sprouts, and steamed rice upon request.  

OKRKL describes the open cooking setup in positive terms, equating it nostalgically to an old world marketplace stall; personally, once I'm inside a brick-and-mortar establishment, I appreciate the hygienic benefits of a closed kitchen where the stove isn't literally arms-length from the cash register and entrance/exit.

I was underwhelmed by the food.  Even though I don't like spicy, I requested "botong (보통) (standard)" when the server asked for preferred level of heat, as I didn't want to dilute the experience.  However, even the standard was so absurdly hot that I was sweating after the first bite.  The white cabbage and bean sprouts didn't really help.  We didn't order any rice.  But heat aside, the sauce didn't really taste like anything, totally bland.  Like at Imun Seolnong Tang (see generally 4.192 OKRKL/3 Imun Seolnong Tang...), I wondered if perhaps this is what the dish used to taste like back in the day, back when they didn't have the technique/technology to make things taste good. 

Mostly a lot of filler, like the aforementioned white cabbage.

According to OKRKL, Myeong-Dong Halmae Nakji was established in 1950, the 15th oldest restaurant listed in Seoul.  Beyond that, no additional information is given about the restaurant's origins, not even the original owner's name, now lost to antiquity, just speculation that she was an old woman who, starting no later than 1940, had done business in the neighborhood for at least 10 years, eventually settling down here at this restaurant--hence "1950," the most dubious establishment year among the restaurants in the series thus far.

A restaurant beloved by Koreans?  Really?  Arriving at 18:15, the place had just 4 other customers. 

By the time we left at 19:00, one additional couple had come in.

Address: Seoul Jung-Gu Myeong-Dong 2-Ga 31-7 (서울시 중구 명동2가 31-7)
Phone: (02) 757-3353
Hours: open 11:00 - 22:00; closed on holidays
Parking: none
Menu: Korean, Japanese
Wingspoon Rating (as of this writing): 6.20 (67 ratings)

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