Over the years we have shared countless times with Cuca’s customers our favourite restaurants from every city we know. The truth is that people in search of the tastiest food from around the world seem to trust chefs’ picks when choosing food, and since everyone asks our humble opinion, we have decided to start a proper “Our Picks” section where we give you our recommendations on where and what to eat. Go ahead, try for yourself and share these lists as you please, but just because we may help you find a new favourite, please don’t forget about your first love, Cuca!
Korea as a travel destination is not topping anyone’s list, but it should, and for those visiting its capital of Seoul they will leave bewildered by its extremely friendly population, huge futuristic city, astonishing efficiency and deeply delicious cooking unlike anywhere else in the world. Seoul is possibly our favourite city to visit and devour in all of Asia and nobody knows just how incredible it is, yet.
Kyochon Chicken Yeouido (various locations)
This place takes chicken seriously and is a must visit for anyone who wants to see what the hype with Korean fried chicken is all about. Since 1991 they have been crushing it, and for a good reason they proudly boast the status of #1 in Korea with many outlets scattered throughout the city. Their chicken is damn good. With 4 signature flavours – either Kyochen series (garlic & soy), Honey series, Red series (Cheongyang red pepper) and Black series (black sesame, soy sauce), they got you covered.
What to order: Kyochen original
This humble comfort food eatery is located in a trendsetting area dominated by state-of-the-art fashion boutiques and has boldly stood its ground for 30 years with a modest dish of dumpling soup that has wowed the palates of countless diners. Mandujip specializes in Pyeongando-style dumplings, filled with minced beef, bean curd, mung bean sprouts, green onions and sesame oil, and seasoned with love. Each order comes with six large dumplings in a clear, flavourful beef broth made with chunks of brisket… Ooh lordy lordy!
What to order: Dumpling soup, 1/2 portion Red pepper pancake, 1/2 portion Bindaetteok (mung bean pancake)
This beloved family-owned culinary landmark, located on a busy side street in Myeong-dong, has been serving rustic bowls of beef bone soup since 1939. The version here is served in traditional brass bowls with rice lovingly submerged in the hot soup. The broth is pure and rich with an unmistakable sweetness that comes from boiling large amounts of beef for a very long time. This old-fashioned, no-fuss eatery opens early in the morning and closes when its soup vats run dry so it’s an early lunch or no lunch at all!
What to order: Gomtang (normal beef soup)
Like eating at grandma’s house, this unfussy and heavily porky menu consists of only 2 dishes. Both dishes are utter Korean comfort nostalgia and not shy on the portion. The original matriarch who opened this restaurant in 1975 is still the heart and soul of the kitchen, which has been dishing up her legendary pork backbone stew and boiled pig’s feet. It’s a common sight to see Mrs. Mun walking around showing her patrons how to eat her food “the right way”, so take note and obey.
What to order: Small Gamjatang (pork bone soup)
Woo Lae Oak
This family operated restaurant has been serving seriously delicious North Korean food since 1946. Known for its two star dishes, the first is Pyeongyang cold buckwheat noodle and the second is their marinated beef bulgogi. Both are excellent and a must try to understand the magic of these great classics.
What to order: Pyeongyang cold buckwheat noodle and beef bulgogi
Manjok Oh Hyang Jokbal
This place specializes in Jokbal and they do it perfectly. This beloved Korean dish of braised pig’s feet here is impeccably crafted and super flavourful. Ordering was a bit on the tricky side but as always good staff will hold your hand all the way to deliciousness.
What to order: half and half Jokbal
This place specializes in Bulgogi made not from beef (as is traditional) but from octopus. It also comes with other options like squid and baby live octopus, but don’t be distracted… you want normal octopus. It all comes raw and unattractive, dumped on the tables’ hot cooking element, so the uncertainty soon begins and fear looms of impending dinner doom. But don’t worry… they got this, and soon amazing, delicious vegetables and octopus are cooked and ready to be devoured. Then comes a confusing question of rice or noodle… “For what?” – you wonder…. Well, rice is the answer, and they will basically make a Spanish-like paella with the balance of sauce and veggies. Delicious!!!
What to order: Jjukkumi Bulgogi (octopus), fried squid
Brilliantly well-crafted cocktails using pure honest local ingredients in experimental new ways. Here great bartending takes centre stage where everything is done in-house and concoctions are delicately balanced affairs in gorgeous glasses with quirky garnishes.
They do get very busy so timing is key to grab one of the few seats available.
What to order: Caprese cocktail
It does seem really silly to recommend a coffee place in Seoul but wait until you try their sneaky little Signature Coffee called the Shaak Latte… This masterpiece is a blend of rich earthy espresso with savoury milk and marshmallowy gently whipped cream. It is certainly the best milk coffee we have ever tried and we do love our coffee. It is very difficult to find these little franchise shops scattered around town so keep an eye out and smash it when you can.
What to order: Signature Shaak Latte