My wife always gives the best presents! It is rarely anything predictable and she never ceases to disappoint. This Valentine’s Day was no exception. This year she got me a private food tour hosted by O’ngo Food Communications. O’ngo Food Communications is the brainchild of Seoul Eats blogger Daniel Gray. Daniel also is a part owner of Brew 3.14, which is an amazing restaurant if you get the chance with some of the best pie in Seoul and craft beers. So based on my experience with Brew 3.14, I was really excited for this tour.
Meeting Our Tour Guide Christina
We met Christina at 6pm outside of Jongno-5(o)ga and made our way to Exit 5. For the record, this is a surprisingly long and dreadful hike to find the exit. We had to call Christina to find us. Finally we meet up after playing phone tag. First impressions of Christina was great. She was bubbly without being annoying. She was conversational, but she didn’t dominate the conversation. Her English was great! We had no communication issues throughout the tour and I would highly recommend asking for her if you want a fun and informative tour. After meeting her, we walked to Insadong for our first stop of four stops!
First Stop: 차이야기 (Cha-ee-yagi) for BBQ
I’ve been to Korean BBQ a million times, but it is a whole new experience going with an expert in Korean cuisine. They explain the food, and its taste which, at least for me, is interesting and puts me at ease. Korean food can be intimidating for a foreigner, but when someone is there to guide you through your dining experience, it creates a comfort and interest in the food. We had a feast ready for us, but we didn’t want to waste all of our appetite at a single restaurant, so we paced ourselves (reluctantly).
Stop 2: 호떡 (Hotteok) in Insadong: We decided after this delicious meal that we needed something sweet to complete the experience. Christina decided to stop for a little snack on the street. Now, hotteok is an awesome Korean dessert/snack. If you are in the Insadong neighborhood, it is an absolute must. Hotteok varies depending on the location and who is making it. Some hotteok is crispy, with little filling, but still has that sweet and cinnamon flavoring. Other hotteoks are heavy clumps of dough stuffed with honey and seasoned with cinnamon and sugar. I would highly suggest hotteok that is destine to contribute to heart disease. You can figure out what that one was.
Stop Three: 떡싸롱 (Deok Ssa Rong) For Doekbukki and Banchon (Side dishes): After a pound of meat, soju, beer and a fucking deep fried cup of Korean donut in your stomach, most foodies would call it a day. Hell no. This is where you need to dig deep and discover your inner fat kid. Our third stop to 떡싸롱 was going to test my endurance. 떡싸롱 is famous for 떡볶이 (tteokbokki). My first experience with tteokbokki was not a good one. My old boss bought it for me and my stomach lining disintegrated. However, after five years later, feasting on a steady diet of Korean heat, I decided to give it another shot.
Final Stop: 광장 시장 (Gwangjang Market): Now it was time for a nice walk. We walked for about 20 minutes to Gwangjang Market, the final stop on our tour. Some how, some way, I ate some more. But seriously, after this stop, we took a cab back home and slept in a solid food coma for a day. Pacing is definitely key at this stage of the tour. The night market was awesome! Lots of energy, some great smells and an atmosphere that feels as though you’ve been transported back into the golden age of the Asian market.
박가네 (Pak Ga Neh aka Night Walking): The final restaurant on the tour. The raw beef and pear was a little intimidating at first, but it was surprisingly delightful. This is where having a food guide is beneficial because Christina walked us through the steps and explained the process, thus putting our minds at ease. We were very happy with this restaurant and we will return!
Now the end is near…: The whole tour was around 3 hours and it was all you can eat and drink. This was an excellent value in my opinion. The private tour costs 150USD each, but it is a private experience. Personally, I’m not too much of a people person. I like having people I know surrounding me when I go out and have a good time. The last thing you want is to have some foreign jackass ruin the night with too much soju. I would do this again in a heartbeat!
Who Should do the Korean Night Dining Tour: Newbies to Korea who want to sample a wide range of Korean food with an educated guide. This is perfect for people who might be having friends or family visit Korea because O’ngo takes care of everything for you, and lets you sit back and relax (or get drunk).
Who Should avoid the Korean Night Dining Tour: Get your big boy pants on. You are going to try some interesting Korean cuisine. If you are picky eater, I would suggest the countless chains around the city. Also, the private tour was expensive, however, there are cheaper tours available. Check out their website for the tour that will fit your budget.