Cycle 14 – Item 40
14 (Tue) February 2023
Baja Fish Tacos
-Itaewon, Yongsan, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
On the evening of 29 October 2022, the Saturday preceding Halloween, a crowd crush in a small alleyway in Itaewon resulted in 159 deaths. Investigations later showed that local police had neglected to plan for crowd control in advance of the weekend, and then ignored calls that very night warning of the ever-growing crowd.
As a regular patron of the Itaewon restaurant scene, which is largely concentrated in the area behind Hamilton Hotel (see for example 13.114 Piggie Volcano), I’ve walked up and down the alley countless times in my life, often at late hours, including on Halloween weekends. In fact, MtG and I were there 2 years ago on the weekend following Halloween, right after the government had lifted various pandemic restrictions, resulting in huge crowds that had compelled us to go elsewhere (see 12.305 Fried Mushrooms).
In 2015, during the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines, I recall getting caught in a potential crowd crush on the street right outside my apartment in Manila: “Never seen/experienced anything like it. I could imagine, feeling the intense pressure of so many bodies, how people get crushed to death in stampedes” (see 6.013 Beef & Bean Curry).
Immediately following the incident, restaurants in Itaewon voluntarily closed for 3 days out of respect for the victims. But after reopening, customers continued to stay away, presumably out of respect for the victims, or just not in a mood to wine and dine so close to tragedy. More than 3 months have passed, and still the restaurants remain empty. Which is sad, as many businesses were just beginning to recover from the pandemic.
EE is back in town, his 3rd visit (see most recently 13.301 Kimchi Mari Guksu).
For dinner, I challenge myself to take him somewhere Korean, while avoiding the obvious – the Korean-Mexican fusion of Vatos seemed just the thing, especially as he’s staying this time in the Mondrian, which located in Itaewon.
All the while thinking that I’m a fan of Vatos, I’m just now realizing that I’ve eaten the food on 3 prior occasions, never twice at the same location, each time less impressed than the last.
- Itaewon (original) (3.181 Kimchi Carnitas Fries)
- Galleria Department Store (3.328 Mexican Chili Lime Shrimp Tacos)
- Sinsa (7.358 Chili Lime Shrimp Tacos)
The food was okay. EE seemed to like it but, to his credit, wasn’t overwhelmed.
(See also BOOZE)
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)