Restaurant Review: 지실리애 (Hand-Made Tea)

 

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.
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Restaurant Review: 들플부빔 (비빔밥)

 

 

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 menu offers some classics (육회/멍개/불고기), a vegetarian option (산채), and at least one I’ve never even seen before (청국장공).  A pretty solid selection.

While you wait for your bibimbap, you’re served a small appetizer of cooked pork, onions and garlic to be eaten bossam style with a variety of leafy greens and a homemade 쌈장 sauce.  There is also a small spicy salad (think fresh lettuce kimche) and a side of acorn jelly.  Sounds simple, but it was damn tasty.

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.

If you’re off the beaten path far enough to end up in a place like this, you probably already know to scoop your rice out of the dolsot bowl and into the brass bowl.  The kettle on the table is used to fill up your dolsot bowl and should be set aside while you eat.  This will make “rice porridge” and is typically what you eat last (it’ll be piping hot so you don’t have much of a choice).  Depending on which type of bibimbab you order you will either mix in gochujang or a soy based sauce.

At 9,000won I’d actually consider this place cheap considering both how much you get and the quality of what you get.  I’ve been back a couple of times in the last two weeks just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke (we were famished during our initial return visit) and I can assure you everything on the menu is delicious…choosing a favorite would be tough!!

Looking for something else?  Plenty of other restaurant recommendation can be found here.

Restaurant Review: Hwansun Black Tofu (달맞이 흑두부)

 

 

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