Cycle 4 – Item 195
19 (Fri) July 2013
Hanwoo Jeontong Bulgogi
at Bong Piyang
-Chengdam, Gangnam, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ, Mom + Dad
The occasion was my father’s birthday.
The venue was Bong Piyang. For convenience, we went to the branch location in Cheongdam, rather than the one in Bangi.
Wouldn’t you know it, earlier this morning, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety reported that harmful levels of bacteria had been detected in the food at several restaurants across the country, including the Bong Piyang branch in Gangnam Station. Between 17 June to 3 July, 1,599 establishments had been tested, 2,038 samples taken, 59 positives: all cold items: 14 naeng myeon, 33 kong guksu, 12 gimbab. 15-day suspensions for 55 restaurants with coliform bacteria, 30-day suspensions for 4 restaurants with Bacillus cereus. Although the story wasn’t mentioned in the printed editions of the English-language newspapers that I subscribe to (Joongang Daily, Korea Times), the story made the front page in all the local rags. Singling out Bong Piyang, the general tone of the reporting seemed rather gleeful in that even the expensive restaurants weren’t immune.
We kept the reservation. When I called the Cheongdam restaurant to see what they had to say, the manager admitted that the ingredients for the naeng myeon came from the same central source, but the contamination likely occurred during the final stages of prep in that particular kitchen, a freakish accident given their company-wide ultra-strict hygiene standards, or so he claimed. In any case, he assured me 1000% that all the food at his location was 100% safe. For some reason, nobody in the family seemed very concerned, not enough to go through the hassle of finding another restaurant at the last minute. Other customers also didn’t really seem to mind, or know, because the place was packed.
The mul naeng myeon – recently rated by GMTD as the best MNM in the city (see SSPYSP) – was excellent. As per personal practice, I had a bowl to start off the meal. Then, as per social custom, I had a bowl to finish off the meal. It’s that good.
Being a special occasion, we ordered bulgogi. “Jeontong = traditional.” The hanwoo was tender and tasty. The sauce was sweet and savory, well-balanced. Cooked in a bulgogi pan over oak coals. The best part was adding plain naeng myeon noodles to the remaining soy-based broth, now rich and beefy. A great dish.
The menu at this branch differs from the other place, both in price and content. For some reason, the bulgogi here was 30,000 won for a 250-gram order (12,000 won per 100 grams), compared to 25,000 won (10,000 won) there; even the manager had been unaware of the difference until I told him. Whereas this branch was mostly about grilled beef and beef soups, the other place offered more northern-style specialty dishes. Smaller kitchen, the manager explained.
(See also MUL NAENG MYEON)
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)