The previous restaurant in this location, a steamed chicken place, shut down late last year for unknown reasons. A shame because it was a tasty restaurant and also the location Uncle Jung chose to introduce us to the village when we first bought property here. They also served some of the oldest and funkiest kimche around.
This former BBQ restaurant (숫불갈비), no more than a five minute walk from the house, was the kind of place that made you NOT want to visit. I had walked/driven/cycled by it a million times over the last couple of years and could never really tell if it was a functioning restaurant and open for business or…something else. It had that run down “given-up” look to it.
Continue reading “Restaurant Review: 지실리애 (Hand-Made Tea)”
Both 들플 restaurants are run by the same family. The mother runs the larger 한정식 (han jung shik) restaurant serving ddeokgalbi (of course) and the son runs the nearby bibimbap restaurant; the focus of this review. They’re both located right across from the Gwangju Lake dam (map) and because they’re just a few kilometers from the house, were some of the first restaurants we visited. Unfortunately our first visits to both were lackluster and because there are so many other restaurants around, we never really went back and simply forgot about them.
That is until about a month ago. During at least three unrelated conversations with three very different people, the name of this place came up. It’s not exactly an inconvenient location and our initial visit wasn’t necessarily bad, so we headed back to see what, if anything had changed.
Sure enough, the signage outside was new. Possible renovation? A good sign (no pun) nonetheless.
I remember our first visit being sort of uncomfortable because it was so empty and quiet inside. Needless to say we were shocked when we walked into a full and absolutely bustling restaurant. I had to go back the next day just before opening time to get the second (people-free) picture of the dining room.
The bibimbap comes out just about when you’ve finished these snacks. It arrives as a stacked combo; the heavy dolsot bowl/rice on the bottom and a large brass bowl filled with your bibimbap selection on top. Another large brass plate with homemade kimches. A+ for presentation for sure.
I’ve spent a lot of time at this restaurant over the years so it goes without saying I’m a bit biased and probably couldn’t give an objective review even if I wanted to. However, judging by the reaction of family and friends I think I’m justified in giving this no-frills restaurant an enthusiastic two thumbs up.This place is well known amongst locals, mostly due to the cheap prices and pungent flavors (seriously the kimche at this place is beyond “fermented”!), but also has it’s fair share of signatures on the wall from visiting local/national celebrities. Famous or not, this place is packed with customers during mealtimes, mostly ordering the star of the show: the kimchee jiggae. The kimchee jiggae (see photo above) is made with the aforementioned “funky” kimchee, but is also chocked full of pork and homemade green tea tofu. Best 6,000 you’ll ever spend!
The green tea tofu can be ordered on it’s own (comes with dipping sauce) and will usually be served with the ban-chan before your main dish arrives. It’s fresh. It’s delicious. Order some to-go on your way out!
Speaking of ban-chan, the six pictured above are usually what you get…the portions are certainly representative of Jeolla-Do (read: large) and refills often happen whether you ask or not. The ban-chan (and food for that matter) is definitely on the salty side, but most good Korean food is. The menu has a few different options, all of which you would expect to find in a place like this, but honestly I never venture far from the kimchee jiggae. They are accommodating for vegetarians as well, but make sure you ask (everything except the tofu itself has meat and/or seafood in it).
Getting there from the house is easy. Head towards the Eco-Park (take a right on the main road and a left at the gas station) and continuing walking past the park entrance (it should be on your right) for another few minutes. The restaurant will be on your right and looks like this:
Black tofu restaurants can be found littered throughout the Korean countryside and the Damyang area is no exception. Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend the two I’ve visited in Damyang (the one across from Sosaewon and the one across from Sanggyo both received a thumbs down) and instead will point you in the direction of the DalMatJi Black Tofu Restaurants.
The two I know of, have been to, and would recommend, are in Gwangju (신창동) and Hwansun. The Hwansun branch is of particulary importance because it’s on road 817 which is a road frequently used by cyclists. The “beast route” and the route I use to Wolchulsan National Park both use this road. There is tons of good food along this road, and oddly enough, a plethora of Damyang style galbi restaurants!
The traditional hanok style restaurant is easily visible from the road and will be on your right if you’re headed toward Gwangju. The decor inside maintains the traditional theme and has seating for groups of just about any size, although it’s limited to floor seating.
No surprises on the menu; it offers a variety of tofu dishes as well as bossam (pork) and jeon. I’ve only eaten the beosut jeonguel (버섯전골), but made sure to make everyone else in the restaurant uncomfortable by staring at their menu choices. It all looked delicious.
The banchan was small and boring by Jeolla-Do standards, but refill requests were gladly granted.
The mushroom stew (버섯전골), however, was impressive and plentiful. It only takes a few minutes for the veggies to cook down before it’s ready to eat and if it cooks down too much you can simply ask for more broth (called 육수).
It’s not the cheapest lunch option around, but well worth the price for the quality and quantity that you’re given. Not to mention it’s a beautiful restaurant and a fun place to take visitors or stop by while you’re out exploring the countryside. Enjoy!
Looking for a bit more meat in your diet? Plenty of other restaurant suggestions can be found here.
This little gem of a restaurant has been sitting under our nose for the last year and a half, and for one reason or another we never walked through the doors and sat down for a meal. Thankfully a day out with the Gwangju Birds Korea Group put this place on our radar and we’ve been back multiple times since.
The restaurant is located directly in front of the parking lot entrance for the Gwangju Lake Eco-Park. Here’s the google map.
Upon entering it’s pretty clear chunggukjang (청국장) is the star of the show at this spot. If you’ve never had it, it stinks…in a good way. The interior is small, but that’s understandable considering the entire operation is run by an adorable elderly Korean couple. The 할아버지 (grandpa) runs the front of the house and the 할머니 (grandma) cooks the food. They’re both ultra friendly and a little Korean and a smile goes a long way in a place like this.
The menu is simple and reflective of the location by offering some true Korean countryside classics.
The steamed chicken (백숙) is served EVERYWHERE around here and I can almost guarantee I know a better place to get it (남향가든 just around the corner) so stick with the cheaper (and faster!) menu items. The zucchini stew (애호박찌개) isn’t shy with either the zucchini or the pork and uses the 닭도리탕 broth (a bit on the sweet side). It’s delicious, but the Chunggukjang (청국장) is much better in my opinion. It’s the real deal.
청국장 (to be fair this was take-out)
Additionally, if you’re a fan of Korean food and strong flavor, you’ll love the banchan at this place and similar places around the neighborhood. They’re made with local ingredients, in-house, with pride and without short-cuts. Restaurants in North America would advertise this to ad-nausea, but around here it’s just what’s expected. Those massive re-purposed water jugs behind you with fermenting locally-grown garlic? They’ll be on your table in a few weeks. The owners were making the dried anchovy banchan when we arrived and were so proud of it they gave us a healthy portion to take home when we left. Amazing.
Not interested in locally grown food cooked with care? Here’s a few more options you proably wont’ like.
The SanSuOk Momil (soba/buckwheat noodles) franchise is a staple around Jeolla-Do. They’re littered throughout the neighborhoods of Gwangju, but oddly vary in terms of quality and consistency. The most famous one is downtown and the same family owns operates this one adjacent to the Duam-dong Home Plus (동광주). The Duam-dong location (specifically) offers hands down the best buckwheat noodles in town and is a convenient option for lunch if you find yourself at Homeplus picking up some last minute items for the weekend.
The Duam-dong SanSuOk restaurant is located on the northside of Homeplus, directly across from the parking garage entrance (map). It’s an unassuming storefront to say the least. Inside you’ll find chairs and tables in the front and floor seating in the back. It’s guaranteed to be packed during peak mealtimes, but the wait is never long as Koreans tend to inhale their noodles at warp speed.
The menu offers a variety of different momil dishes, both hot and cold, as well as some other traditional favorites you’d expect to find in a place like this (만두, 돈까스, 떡만두국,etc). I’ve honestly never been disappointed with anything on this menu and for just over ten bucks between two people it’s surprisingly affordable and filling (and vegetarian friendly!).For a cold noodle dish I would recommend the 마른모밀, which comes with a small bowl of broth and a cup of cold sauce to either dip your noodles in or simply pour into the bowl of noodles. For a hot dish I’m a big fan of the 냄비모밀, which comes with bits of fried tofu as well as a cooked egg in addition to the momil noodles. And don’t sleep on the buckwheat mandu (메밀왕만두)…they’re amazing!
Don’t be fooled by the goofy name of this restaurant…it actually used to be a functioning mill and was used to grind the crops gown by local farmers. They’ve kept a lot of the old machinery intact and it makes for a really unique atmosphere inside. The additional antiques around the restaurant provide just enough eye candy to keep you busy while you wait for your food. Nice views of the nearby river and excellent background music (60’s and 70’s Korean pop music) as well.
This place was empty for years so we were pretty excited when the owners finally decided to remodel the space and convert it to a momil restaurant and cafe. I’m a HUGE fan of both momil and don katsu, the main two dishes here, so it was going to take a lot more than a quirky atmosphere to impress me. Sure enough our first visit left me not only unsatisfied, but also annoyed that the server wouldn’t give our group more than one order of don katsu because they thought it was too much food. It wasn’t.
To be fair, we went shortly after they opened and it’s very possible they were still sorting out their menu. We decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and recently returned to see if things have improved over the last six months. They definitely have.
The momil is handmade and the odang was a welcome addition. The broth was a bit on the weak side, but it was otherwise a solid effort and something I’d be happy to eat on the regular.
The don katsu is also handmade and one of the best I’ve had around Damyang. This is what I’ll return for! The additional fried treats, salad and rice were all tasty as well. Not as fancy as what you get at SoHo down the street, but still pretty damn impressive.
Two piping hot bowls of soup and a fried pork cutlet for 20,000won. They even gave us free americanos in to-go cups as we left. This is a perfect spot to grab lunch after visiting the Eco-Park, or just stop by for a latte and enjoy the warm caste-iron stove, unique atmosphere, and countryside views.
Not a fan of noodles? Plenty more restaurant suggestions can be found here.