버드나무집 서초본점 (Budnamujip)
Reviewed by Annie Namba on September 28, 2011
Bucket of hot Korean charcoal = perfect for grilling kalbi
We live in Seoul now, but before when we used to visit, my aunty would take us out for 갈비 and 냉면. Recently, my sister came back to Korea for the first time in many years, and that was more than enough reason to celebrate. Thus, my aunty took us to 버드나무집, which seems to be her all-time favorite place for kalbi. It has several locations, but this is the original.
As with many Korean beef restaurants, you must order at least one portion of meat per person. Since they only serve Korean beef, the price is a bit steep, but well worth it in my opinion.
더덕튀김: Fried deodeok (bonnet bellflower root) with 고추장 sauce
가지구이: Grilled eggplant
Crisp and refreshing salad with vinaigrette
When you order kalbi, a server will bring out a searing hot bucket of 숯 charcoal for your table. Soon after, a sea of side dishes arrives. None of the side dishes were similar in any way and they all tasted really healthy as if they were home cooked.
Dipping sauce for kalbi
선지 된장국: Bean paste soup with beef blood
Each person gets a dipping sauce with chopped onions and chives, plus 동치미 and 선지 된장국 (bean paste soup with beef blood). Apparently, it was the first time trying this soup for Aaron and my sister.
본갈비: Marinated beef ribs, 45000원
Servers skillfully cook the meat for you
Then the star of the show appears. The kalbi hits the grill immediately and the servers cook them over the fire, cut them into bite-sized pieces and distribute them to each person. They even cut off any burned bits that may appear. This process happens so fast that the next thing I know, the meat is just melting in my mouth.
쌈: Lettuce and other leaves for wrapping meat
I love my vegetables, so I usually try to wrap the meat in lettuce or 깻잎, but I think their meat is best when I taste it all by itself. Aaron likes to eat the meat with just the dipping sauce (and some onions and chives).
It felt like the kalbi was consumed in a flash, but we were too full to continue ordering more meat. It is customary to order your actual "meal" afterwards (식사, usually noodles, soup and/or rice).
I got my usual favorite, 물냉면 and Aaron got 비빔냉면. It was interesting that my noodles were 평양 style, which features more thicker and flavorful noodles while Aaron's 비빔냉면 was 함흥 style, which is more of micro-thin noodles which don't have much flavor in and of themselves.
I normally enjoy the 함흥 style noodles, but this thick noodle was exceptionally flavorful and worked very well. The broth was the best I have tasted and the thick slice of beef was a nice touch. Aaron didn't really like his 비빔냉면 too much. When I tasted some of his 냉면, I felt that it could be because the taste of the sauce was too mild for him.
When we were all done, a simple, Korean-style dessert of pineapple and 식혜 was served. Aaron especially liked the pineapples and wish they served more of it (there was just one piece per person). The pineapple was perfectly ripe and sweet. Korean rice punch was quite delicious as it wasn't overly sweet as the ones that are commercially sold. As always, this place leaves strong impression of the melt-in-the mouth kalbi. The price is high but is well worth the experience for a special occasion.
- Food: 5/5 - Among the best quality Korean meat you will find in Seoul. Wide variety of banchan, all of them delicious.
- Service: 5/5 - Servers cook the meat for you (and even cut out any burned bits), all you have to do is eat.
- Atmosphere: 4/5 - Clean and nice, but nothing memorable about the decor.