Photos and Review by Katelyn Hemmeke, ETA ’12-14
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City: Seoul (서울)
Restaurant Name: Yaetmat Seoul Bulgogi (옛맛서울불고기)
Food Served: Korean BBQ
Restaurant address: 서울특별시 마포구 상수동 15-4 / 15-4 Sangsu-dong Mapo-gu Seoul
Directions: From Gwangheungchang Station (광흥창역, subway line 6), walk straight out of exit 1 for just a few minutes. The restaurant will be on your left, past a Baskin Robbins and a few other restaurants/cafes and next to a “Dream” eyeglasses store.
Cost: 15,000 won per serving
Payment: Cash or credit card
Bulgogi (불고기) ranks up there with foods like kimchi and bibimbap on the list of Korean foods that are well-known to foreigners. Bulgogi is marinated, thinly-sliced beef that is usually grilled with mushrooms, green onions, and glass noodles. With its rich and savory flavor, bulgogi is a safe bet for those who aren’t a fan of spicy food.
Yaetmat Seoul Bulgogi (옛맛서울불고기), located just a hop and a skip away from Hongdae in Seoul, is a fantastic place to sample this popular Korean dish. The constantly full restaurant and long line of people out the door proves this restaurant’s status as a local favorite, so arrive early to put your name in or be prepared to wait. In addition, this is not a restaurant to visit if you’re looking for a quick meal; enjoying the bulgogi at Yaetmat Seoul is a leisurely, drawn-out process. 15,000 won per serving of bulgogi may sound a little steep, but the servings are massive; three servings was more than enough to leave four people completely stuffed.
You’ll be started off with a bowl of simple beef soup that is similar to galbi tang (갈비탕), then your server will bring you two large bowls: one containing a mountain of raw bulgogi mixed with thin ribbons of green onions, the other holding an assortment of mushrooms, onions, and glass noodles. You can cook your bulgogi at your own pace on a dome-shaped grill in the middle of your table. A ring of broth around the bottom of the dome catches any stray meat or veggies and cooks up into a delicious soup. Side dishes such as kimchi, garlic cloves, lettuce leaves for wrapping, or green chili peppers with ssamjang that you mix yourself (none of that boxed stuff here!) are all refillable at a self-serve counter.
Although the restaurant was crowded and noisy, my friends and I took our time cooking and savoring our bulgogi. Although we heaped several scoops at a time onto the grill, our bowl of bulgogi seemed bottomless. All of the side vegetables were fresh and crisp, and the bulgogi was definitely the best I’ve ever eaten. If you’re looking for a quintessential Korean dish, a barbecue alternative to samgyupsal (삼겹살), or just a hearty, savory meal, Yaetmat Seoul Bulgogi is an excellent choice.
Atmosphere (Out of 5)
3 – Typical Korean barbecue atmosphere – it’s crowded and can get smoky from the grills.
Service (Out of 5)
4 – Brisk, prompt service; the staff have their hands full, but they are quick and efficient.
Food (Out of 5)
5 – Definitely the best bulgogi I’ve ever eaten.