3 (Wed) July 2013
Pyeongyang Mul Naeng Myeon
at Bong Piyang
-Bangi, Songpa, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
Seoul Searching for Pyeongyang-Style Perfection (7 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, Bong Piyang is the 7th restaurant to be reviewed.
Bong Piyang (봉피양) is a Korean restaurant chain. It’s owned/operated by the growing restaurant empire that includes more famous Byeokje Galbi. More of a grilled meat restaurant, with a handful of classic northern items. The MNM is reputed to be one of the best examples of PYS, production across the chains overseen by a noodle master with over 60 years of experience, according to the website and self-promotional literature pasted all over the walls and printed on brochures at the counter. The name of the restaurant derives from a northern dialect pronunciation of “bon (bong (original)) + Pyongyang (Piyang (the city)).”
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 additions of vinegar and/or mustard (although the necessity of any such adjustment probably means that the game is already).
BROTH. Beefy. Not too much, a bit lighter than Pil-Dong Myeonok. And not too little, a bit richer than Pyongyang Myeonok. Just right, as baby bear would like it. A wisp of spice (maybe garlic?) and seasoning (maybe soy?) on the finish. Dry. Pure. Perfect. Score: 4.0.
NOODLES. Strong buckwheat flavor. 70% buckwheat content. Not that mealy but tasty nonetheless. Restrained elegance. Exquisite al dente texture, which was surprising, because Koreans tend to hate pasta cooked al dente, which they consider to be “undercooked.” I loved it. Not perfect but way way good enough. Score: 3.75.
TOPPINGS. Sliced beef, pickled radish, salted cucumber, winter cabbage mul kimchi (lightly fermented kimchi in white broth), egg ribbons. Unlike the sour kimchi at Woo Lae Oak, the kimchi here was subtle and added an appropriate level of tang; furthermore, the counterpoint provided by the cabbage’s dense/stringy texture was nice, like at Pyeonglaeok. Score: 3.5.
CONCLUSION. Despite any reservations/prejudices that I might’ve harbored against Bong Piyang due to its corporate nature, the MNM won me over completely. Come to think of it, a large chain with vast resources and facilities, under the tight supervision of a noodle master, may be better suited to produce and maintain a high level of quality than a smaller operation. Every element was excellent. I couldn’t find a single nit to pick. We may have a winner here. I suspect that Bong Piyang didn’t make the PYS list in the original newspaper poll that inspired SSPYSP because the old-timers who were surveyed probably didn’t know about it. Weighted score: 3.84.
PRICE: 12,000 won (most expensive yet) + 6,000 won for a double order (gobbaegi) or extra noodles after the fact (sari); the main photo shows a single order, which was more than enough.
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