By Hazel Smith
I first went to this restaurant over a year ago, but not knowing the Hogye neighbourhood too well back then, it took me another year to find it again. Boy am I glad I did.
This is an all you can eat style of restaurant that primarily serves raw tuna. You can pay anything from 35,000won per person to 120,000won per person. Each time I have gone we have gone for the cheapest option (entitled “mi”(미) on the menu which is only in Korean) This has resulted in a lot of food arriving at the table, and has been amazing each time, so one can only guess what you would receive if you chose the more expensive options.
Arriving at the restaurant you can chose to sit at the bar, where the chef will serve the tuna directly to your individual plates until you can eat no more, or you can sit down at a table (better for bigger groups) and a tuna platter on dry ice will be brought out to you. Again this is unlimited.
After deciding how much you want to spend on your meal you can chose from a selection of sake. There are bottles around the 300ml mark which are ideal for sharing between two, these start at about 30,000 each. There are also 700ml bottles for a larger group. The one we were recommended was around 60,000won, but split between a group this is worth every penny. Of course, there is the obligatory soju and Korean beer on the menu too. (No Japanese beer unfortunately.)
The meal starts off with each person receiving a platter of garlic, ginger, wasabi, pickled cucumber and soy sauce and as many seaweed wraps as you desire. The first dish to arrive is a tuna version of yuk huay (육회 – minced raw fish), and is very delicious. As a group you also receive side dishes with a variety of different pickled veg.
Next comes the platter of raw tuna; there are about 5 different cuts, displayed beautifully on a platter of fake noodles (don’t eat these) and sprinkled with gold leaf. If you are sat at the bar, different cuts of tuna will be served to you directly throughout your meal, as much as you can eat. The cuts are thick, tender and melt in your mouth. For me the more reddish cuts where tastier and more tender than the paler cuts, but I think this is a matter of taste.
Next to arrive is a cooked tuna steak. The three times I have been, this has been different cuts but all equally as good. The last time we received the jaw part of the fish which I have been told is one of the most expensive and tastiest parts. And tasty it was (just watch out for the teeth).
Next up is a cooked spicy tuna stew. The tuna falls off the bone, and again just melts in your mouth. Still the raw tuna continues to arrive. The best way I found to eat the raw slices (although they are great by themselves) is dipped in the soy sauce-wasabi mix and wrapped in a seaweed sheet with a blob of minced radish (mu) and/or ginger. I lost count how many of these I managed to put away, but needless to say I was more than a little full by the end.
One time I went, we also received a plate of tuna shoulders which were delicious but might be a little strong tasting for some people. I’m not sure if this was part of the set menu or an extra service item. (Tuna have shoulders?! – ed)
The three times I have gone, we have also received a selection of other dishes that seem to change each time. These have included a sushi platter and also sea snails.
The meal comes to a close with the chef bringing out a shot glass for each person, containing shavings of tuna eyeball and gold leaf. He mixes this with whatever alcohol you have on your table. I have drunk it with both sake and soju, and one time he offered to mix it with beer. I’m not sure how that would taste. This concoction is drank one-shot style, and while it is a little slimy, not everyone can say they have done a shot of tuna eyeball, so I recommend giving it a go. I think it is best done with the sake of course.
If you can still eat more, the raw tuna slices will keep on coming, but usually by this point I am ready to tap out. I highly recommend this restaurant for a little bit of Japan in Korea. The chef is very friendly and really tries to explain about each cut of tuna, even though he doesn’t speak English. The waitress can speak a little English and will help you order from the Korean-only menu, which is very simple. Alcohol on one page food on the other, all you really have to decide is how expensive you want to go. All prices for food are per person. All in all, it is a very pleasant dining experience.
To get to the restaurant you need to get to Hogye by one of the many city buses that service the area, 422, 102, 732, 257, 402 are some of the buses that go nearest to the restaurant. If you are heading north on the main street through the centre of Hogye you need to make a right at the Kyeongnam bank (on your left) this little side street goes slightly uphill. You will pass a Family Mart and Queen Bar on your right, and BRD chicken on your left. Take the second right down an even smaller side street and the restaurant is about 50 meters down on your left, directly across from a GS25. I have included a picture of the front of the restaurant along with a business card and telephone number. I would recommend getting a Korean to call though, as their English is very limited. The restaurant seems to stay open late as there were new customers arriving when we were leaving around 11pm.
I hope you enjoy your experience there.
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