부일갈비 (Bu-il Kalbi)
Reviewed by Annie Namba on June 7, 2011 / Updated August 11, 2011
Aaron says he can eat 자장면 every day, but as for me, I think I could eat 냉면 (cold noodles) every day. This unusual dish has been my all-time favorite Korean dish ever since I was young. What I really like about it is the combination of the texture of chewy noodles in a refreshing and not-at-all greasy beef-based soup and the sweet-and-sour taste explosion (which I'll explain in a bit)! Perfect for a hot summer day, but really, I can eat this any time of year.
Mouth-watering 비빔냉면 (mixed noodles in spicy sauce).
There are two main types of 냉면 noodles, hailing from two different parts of North Korea. 함흥 (Hamheung) style is my favorite. The noodles are extremely thin (thinner than angel-hair pasta), and an odd, almost grayish-white color. The other, from 평양 (Pyongyang), has thicker, dark brown noodles (think dark, rubbery spaghetti noodles), and it lacks the chewiness found in the Hamheung-style noodles.
The front is small, but once you step inside it's bigger than you expect
부일갈비 is located a couple streets behind Gyobo Tower in Gangnam. This area is particularly busy during the weekday lunch hour, when the area's many office workers are seeking a quick meal. We went on a Saturday this time and it was rather empty.
They offer popular one-bowl meals such as 갈비탕 (beef rib soup) and 된장찌게 (fermented soy bean soup). But on hot days, we always come here for 냉면.
As with most places, 냉면 is offered in two different forms. 비빔냉면 (mixed noodles in spicy sauce, 6000원) is always Aaron's choice while 물냉면 (soupy cold noodles served with vinegar and mustard, 6000원) is definitely my choice.
냉면, as with many bowl meals, doesn't come with a lot of 반찬 (side dishes)
Side dishes for 냉면 are always simple; lightly picked turnip, which is also part of the topping itself is served on a small plastic dish. Within 5 minutes of ordering, our 냉면 is served.
The 비빔냉면 is accompanied by a hot beef & turnip soup on the side. The soup, while delicious, packs quite an aroma, especially if you're not expecting it. If you smell something funky every time you put your head down to eat, place the soup at the far end of the table until you're ready for it.
Almost slushy soup in this dish will chill you up on hot days.
My noodles are served with vinegar and mustard bottle. I squeeze couple round of vinegar into my soup (I like the sourness) and about 7 inches worth of mustard. Be careful not to go overboard with the mustard. Unlike the yellow mustard you put on hot dogs, this kind has a wasabi/horseradish-like sting. They also serve a pair of scissors with this dish, since the noodles are very chewy. I cut my noodles once in one line, and Aaron's in a cross pattern. Both of our 냉면 come topped with pickled cucumbers and turnips, strips of pears and half of hard-boiled egg and a thin strip of beef.
All done! It's that good.
As always, my noodles were perfectly chewy and the sweet and sour with tinge of mustard was refreshing. Aaron's noodles were just as good, with the right amount of sweet and spicy, with nutty sesame seed oil mixed into every thin strand of noodle. Within 10 minutes, our bowls were completely empty.
Although their specialty is grilled kalbi, ordering meat can set you back to about 40000원 to 50000원 per serving. And if you eat till you're full, will come out about 100000원 per person. Thus, at lunch time, few people go that route, instead choosing to order one of the simpler dishes.
- Food: 5/5 - Well... I guess we've never been here to eat their actual specialty, 갈비. But every last one of the dozens of orders of 냉면 we've enjoyed here has been excellent.
- Service: 5/5 - The servers seem to be well-trained to handle the lunch rush. Fast and efficient service.
- Atmosphere: 3/5 - They've been in business at the same location for over 20 years, and the atmosphere seems to reflect that. During their lunch rush, you may be seated in one of the floor seating areas. If you're not used to sitting on the floor, it might be uncomfortable.