12 (Thu) August 2010
at Ilmi Jangeo
-Dongja, Yongsan, Seoul, Korea-
with the Family, MtG and CBD
Ilmi (일미) is a Korean restaurant. Specializes in freshwater eel. Doesn’t take reservations, won’t allow a party to be seated until everyone is accounted for (no late arrivals permitted), has exactly one menu option, limits the booze to one bottle per customer (presumably so as to prevent loitering and drive quick turnover), closes at 9PM, and rests on the weekends. That’s confidence.
While eel isn’t a common item in Korean cuisine, it’s highly appreciated. Especially among those who believe it endows “stamina” of a certain kind. In any case, while the saltwater variety is cheaper and more common, usually marinated in a spicy sauce and grilled, those in the know swear by grilled freshwater eel with a touch of salt and pepper.
The restaurant didn’t disappoint. For KRW 20,000 (about US$16), the customer gets 1 whole eel, minus the spine, which is removed and deep-fried for an appetizer, a pot of spicy shrimp stew, a bowl of rice, and an assortment of traditional sides. The eel itself was the most succulent specimen that I’ve ever had, perfectly seasoned and perfectly balanced with the perilla leafs, lightly pickled napa cabbage, and spicy chive salad served on the side.