Reviewed by Rachel Lim ETA’12-14
City: Chuncheon (춘천)
Restaurant name: Nam-Chuncheon Dalkgalbi
Restaurant address: 강원도 춘천시 퇴계동 875-2
Directions: From Nam-Chuncheon subway station, take exit 2 and go over the overpass to cross the street. Enter the alleyway immediately in front of you and take a left. You should see the restaurant to your left.
Food Served: Korean
Payment: Cash or credit card
Price: Dakgalbi is ₩10,000 per serving. Makguksu is ₩5,000 per serving.
Dakgalbi is one of my favorite Korean dishes and a recurrent craving. Spicy cuts of boneless chicken, rice cake, cabbage, sweet potato and onion are stir-fried on a giant stone hotplate. Like other Korean BBQ dishes, the meat is then wrapped in ssam (쌈), such as lettuce leaves or sesame seed leaves. Though dakgalbi restaurants can be found all over the country, the mecca of the spicy chicken dish is Chuncheon, the capital of Gangwon Province.
Chuncheon, which also has the distinction of being one of the most beautiful cities in Korea (seriously, go visit!), has a dakgalbi restaurant on nearly every corner. The fierce competition, and the finely tuned taste buds of Chuncheon residents, mean that only the best restaurants achieve longevity. There’s even a “Dakgalbi Street” in the city’s downtown area, an entire alleyway lined with dakgalbi restaurants and decorated with cartoon chicken mascots.
While you can’t really go wrong with choosing the most crowded restaurant on Dakgalbi Street, my favorite restaurant is not on the tourist circuit. Tucked behind an alleyway next to Nam-Chuncheon subway station, Nam-Chuncheon Dakgalbi’s costumers are taxi drivers, college students and other restaurant owners (though sheepishly admitted).
It’s hard to place what exactly about the dakgalbi makes it so good — the marinade is just right, the chicken is tender, the portions are generous. After the meat is eaten, either rice or noodles (or a combination of both) are fried with the leftover sauce, creating a crispy, delicious treat. Though it may be difficult, try to limit your portion sizes so that you have room for the makguksu, a cold, spicy noodle dish mixed with vegetables. It’s particularly delicious here, with ground sesame seeds and nuts providing the perfect balance to the spicy, cold taste.
Atmosphere (Out of 5)
4- Clean and large, with mostly floor seating.
Service (Out of 5)
4- The staff is friendly, though I don’t think they speak English.
Food (Out of 5)
5- This restaurant offers my favorite rendition of one of my favorite dishes.