13 (Fri) April 2012
at Sandong Gyojagwan
-Sinsa, Gangnam, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with DJ, Mom + Dad
I’ve had my eye on this place for years, perhaps as far back as the birth of our first boy, when I was similarly scouring the neighborhood for good eats. One, it’s unusual for a Chinese restaurant in Korea to put so much emphasis on dumplings, which are usually an afterthought given away free with a large order. Two, while offering other items in addition to the dumplings, the most cliché dishes are conspicuously absent from the menu, including jjajang myeon, jjambbong, and sweet & sour pork, which suggests mad confidence. And three, despite the side alley location and 4-table seating capacity, it’s managed to stay in business all this time. It was due for a visit.
For some reason, the name of the restaurant refers to “gyoja,” but their product is otherwise referred to as “mandu.” Mandu is a broad category of various dumplings, whereas gyoja is a specific type of mandu involving a meat filling in a thin wrapper sealed or crimped at the edges, such as here.
Whatever they’re called, the dumplings were pretty good. The pork filling tasted more Korean than Chinese, but with a deeper and slightly distinctive flavor, a proprietary touch that I couldn’t quite pin down, making it a step above the typical Korean-Chinese freebie mandu. The handmade wrappers were nice and chewy, especially on the steamed (“jjin”) version, while the boiled (“mul”) version, which featured the same filling, felt a bit mushy by comparison. At 5,000 won for 8 steamed dumplings, or 14 smaller boiled ones, they weren’t cheap but not too pricey either.
However, the other dishes were outrageously overpriced. Ranging from 20,000 to 55,000 won, the initial prices didn’t seem too bad, at least not by the standards of Korean-Chinese restaurants in Korea, particularly in this neighborhood. But the amounts of food served with each order were paltry to the point of being insulting, like “This is a joke, right?” Not funny.
Just stick to the mandu.
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