23 (Fri) September 2011
at 101 Namsan Cutlet
-Namsan, Jung, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ
In one of my even-more-verbose-than-usual posts, I provided some general background on the Japanese tonkatsu and how it’s (d)evolved in Korea (see 1.302 Tonkatsu). The big brother is the so-called “wang” tonkatsu – the descriptor “wang” literally means “king” but it’s often used to describe something especially large.
101 Namsan Cutlet is restaurant. Established 1992, something of a landmark. Famous for wang tonkatsu. The establishment also offers fishkatsu, hamburg steak, and a combo plate of all three. Located just a short stroll from the cable car station for the landmark Seoul Tower on Namsan, it was once a popular destination for couples and tourists, as well as locals, giving rise to a string of competitors along the same street. In recent times, all but one of the other restaurants have gone out of business and/or transformed into fancier establishments serving pasta or whatever. But the original remains, old-school as ever, still doing quite well, apparently.
For the first half of the meal, everything seemed copacetic. The breading was perfectly crisp. The brown sauce was sweet and savory (maybe a bit too sweet). DJ was digging it. I was disappointed that it came not as a single large patty, as the name would suggest, but rather as a pair of biggish patties, which seemed something of a cheat, like ordering a jumbo shrimp but getting two medium shrimp. Anyway, a pretty good value at 8,000 won.
But then, through the open window of the kitchen, I noticed the cook dumping big scoops of shortening into the deep fryer. Hence the crispiness. I have no idea about the trans fat content of domestically produced shortening, nor much of an idea really about the dangers of trans fat, especially in small quantities on rare occasions. Nevertheless, I started feeling a bit queasy just at the thought of it, even though I’m not that sensitive about such food issues. The sauce also became suspect, probably loaded with MSG. That sweetness suddenly seemed to taste like saccharine. Old-school, indeed. I put my fork down. I didn’t stop DJ from eating but neither did I encourage him to eat more when he started to slow down.
(See also FOODS.)
(See also PLACES.)