8 (Sat) June 2013
at Nampo Myeonok
-Da, Jung, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with the Family
Seoul Searching for Pyeongyang-Style Perfection (2 of 8) (see also SSPYSP)
On a mission to determine Seoul’s best representative of Pyeongyang-style (PYS) mul naeng myeon (MNM), among 8 restaurants named in a newspaper poll a couple years back.
In no particular order, Nampo Myeonok is the 2nd restaurant to be reviewed.
Nampo Myeonok (남포면옥) is a Korean restaurant. Landmark, at least by virtue of longevity, been around for decades, still housed in a traditional Korean building, nestled in a back alley in the old part of the city. The menu is vaguely northern in composition, along with some mainstream items thrown in for good measure.
Upon entry, customers are greeted by the sight of these kettles half-submerged into the ground, supposedly filled with dongchimi, each labeled with a month and year to show everyone how exacting the restaurant’s aging methods are.
I call bullshit. Each kettle could hold enough dongchimi to serve a handful of tables at most, so there would have to be actual vats of dongchimi elsewhere. In fact, are we to believe that someone from the kitchen comes with a bucket to the front of the restaurant to get this stuff?!
As per the kitschy/ersatz antique knick-knacks lining the walls and hanging from the rafters, the place seemed more like a folk village for tourists than an old school joint for locals.
Indeed, the dishes were like cheap copies of the real deal. Bogus, blah, bland, banal. Even their signature dongchimi (white radish kimchi in broth), which may or may not comprise part of the MNM broth, though it is given as a complimentary side dish, was awful. The prices weren’t cheap – for example, the bulgogi came at an outrageous 24,000 won for 150 grams, a minimum order of 2. I can’t believe that the place has remained in business for so long.
The tasting process: (i) two sips of broth; (ii) two bites of noodles; (iii) two bites of noodles with various toppings; (iv) another sip of broth; (v) another bite of noodles; and, if necessary, (vi) another sip of broth following an adjustments with vinegar and/or mustard, although the necessity of any such adjustment probably means that the game is already lost.
BROTH. No beef flavor whatsoever. Bitter aftertaste, vaguely herbaceous, like canned green tea. Maybe crappy dongchimi was partly responsible. At least it was neither sweet nor sour, the only characteristic that might qualify this as “PYS.” Then again, to counteract the bitterness, I was forced to add liberal amounts of vinegar – which I rarely do, as most PYS enthusiasts don’t – so it turned out sour in the end. Score: 0.75.
NOODLES. Totally devoid of buckwheat flavor. Tasted a bit artificial. Thin and rubbery, almost to the point of Hamheung-style, necessitating a few snips of the scissors before they could be handled. Score: 0.75.
TOPPINGS. Sliced beef, sliced pork belly, boiled egg (half), salted cucumber, pickled radish, julienned Asian pear. The pork belly was kinda gross because the cold fat felt waxy. Score: 1.5.
CONCLUSION. I can’t believe that anyone would consider the MNM here to be good, much less PYS. It was perhaps even inferior to the crap provided at cheap barbecue restaurants for 2,000 won. If Nampo Myeonok could make the poll with garbage like this – granted, it was ranked last – I have to question whether I should even continue reviewing the remaining restaurants on the list. Weighted score: 0.82.
PRICE: 11,000 won + (an unbelievable) 7,000 won for a double order (gobbaegi) or extra noodles after the fact (sari).
(See also FOODS)
(See also PLACES)