We were staying in a quiet part of Gangnam (at the Novotel Ambassador, in case you were wondering), and were in search of bulgogi. Via Seoulistic, we’d come across Woo Rae Ok, a well-known barbecue restaurant first opened in 1946, which had a location a short fifteen-minute taxi ride to the south.
So with a reservation from the concierge, off we went. When we arrived, we knew we were probably onto something good: the locals were out in mass, with plenty of families and elderly Koreans bedecked in tweed mulling about in the foyer. And Wooraeok still gave off a traditionalist vibe, with servers in conservative uniform and a no-shoes communal table area next to our booth.
The holy grill. A classy copper, no less.We munched on some kimchi and cold vegetable soup while we waited.The servers brought out the condiments just as they were getting ready to cook our bulgogi. And there it is:A luscious dome of gorgeous, thinly-sliced beef, the tangy aroma of marinade sizzling on the grill. For good measure, we also got some galbi, which was subtly marbled, not in big swathes like a ribeye, but minute veins of fat like top-end Japanese beef. I ate my galbi with liberal chunks of raw garlic, but that’s because I have both a love of raw garlic and also a girlfriend of many years who doesn’t care because, not coincidentally, she also loves garlic. The last thing was a bowl of naengmyeon, which featured chewy buckwheat noodles, a few slices of brisket, fresh daikon and scallions, and a generous pour from a kettle of golden beef broth. Each ingredient’s consistency and quality was probably superior to the few other naengmyeons that I’ve had, but the flavors were excessively clean and subdued, the broth in particular.