The best octopus and samgyeopsal: Infinite Dongwoo's restaurant

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The best meal I had during my stay in Korea was samgyeopsal. It was not an ordinary meal of samgyeopsal, as - how do I put this - the place we ate in was special. We ate in Jang Dongwoo's family restaurant known for its octopus dishes.

Who is Jang Dongwoo? Hehe Fandom had actually brought us to the place, as the place is owned by the family of Dongwoo, a member of Infinite, which I am (secretly... and now it's not so secret) a fan of. Being a long time fan of Metallica, it's quite hard to admit that I'm fangirling on seven Korean boys who actually sing and dance pretty well. And their music is inspired by the 80s and since I was born in the 80s... :))

It seems there are a lot of smart Korean idols investing in the food business. In Infinite alone, four out of seven members have their own restaurant. But Inchang Jjukkumi, or roughly translated to Octopus restaurant, has already established itself within the fan and foodie community. So that's why we specifically visited this place to get our octopus and meat fix.

The restaurant is in Guri, located within the province of Gyeonggi, which according to reliable Wikipedia, means the area surrounding the capital.

From Cheongpyong to Guri according to Metroid

Our travel to the restaurant was sort of an adventure. We came from Nami Island and Petit France and had a dizzying and hunger-filled 30-minute bus ride where we had to stand the whole time. It was a Memorial Day holiday in Korea, so there were a lot of locals and tourists travelling that day. We thought we will have the chance to sit down and relax once we reached Cheongpyong station but no, even the vending machine did not want me to get that precious mineral water (they ran out). There were a lot of people waiting for the train and once the train stopped, my sister checked her trusty Metroid first and suddenly decided that we boarded. She wasn't entirely sure it was the right thing to do but once she saw the advisory that it would stop by Mangwoo station, she knew we were on the right track.

Of course, we stood again in the train, with me trying to distract myself from feeling the dizzying hunger by steadying and rocking back and forth to keep me from falling down. There were some youths in the train but there were also a lot of old people, some of who were already sitting down on the floor. There was even an old Korean couple who smelled of Indian food - we weren't sure if the smell came from their food or if the smell came from their bodies. @__@ This same couple also did not even bother to ask if it's all right to take our place on the corner and just barged right in to take over. Being harmless tourists, we ignored them... and stepped out of their way.

Apparently, the train we boarded was an express train - I thought, ah, so that's why it skipped stations and was pretty fast for a pronvincial train. Unfortunately, we were charged with 5,000 KRW for a single trip, on top of the 1,000+ KRW that was charged from our T-Money. Oh well, we thought, it's the price of convenience.

We safely arrived in Guri station, took exit 3, and walked in anticipation to the restaurant. From exit 3, you can go straight and turn left after you walk on a pedestrian. After turning, walk a bit and turn right, and you'll see the Inchang Jjukkumi sign! For a more visual instruction, please view:

Ta-daan! You can see the restaurant from the street corner

Inchang Jjukkumi!

The restaurant has a traditional setup with low tables with a gas stove fitted on each one. As a tourist, you have to make sure you're wearing socks as you have to take off your shoes. Not wearing socks while visiting a house or any establishment for that matter is considered rude or is seen as unpleasant. And of course, the restaurant was filled with posters and photos of Dongwoo.

Entering the restaurant, we were greeted by Dongwoo's dad, who was manning the cashier. He was so friendly he even asked if we were tourists and where we were from. My sister and I felt like it was a dream as the first time we saw Dongwoo's parents was from afar during Infinite's concert in Manila.

Well, we were in Korea that time so it would be completely normal to see them manning their own restaurant.

A lady approached us with a pitcher of water and two cups. What I love when we dined in Korea is that they serve water first without you asking. It depends on the type of restaurant since there are others where you can serve yourself water from the available dispenser in the store - either way, water is always there. In the Philippines, you typically ask for water and the servers even forget your request. Well..

The lady also gave us a list of meals that doubles as a receipt. It was all in Korean. Thankfully, my sister has done her extensive research and she ordered the octopus, samgyeopsal, and bokumbap or fried rice.

The lady placed the grill on the stove with the octopus in spicy marinade. Liempo cut pork without seasoning surrounded the octopus.

Side dishes that were served included a steamed egg in an earthenware bowl, kimchi, soybean sprouts, shredded cabbage in mayonnaise, spiced onion leeks (not sure), seaweed, and perilla leaves.

Hello Angulyan

We've tasted perilla leaves during our first day and it was different. It's like munching on herbal tea and swallowing it.

From time to time, the lady checked how the octopus was cooking and turned the meat for us. The meat absorbed the marinade of the octopus, so we expected it to be spicy too. She also cut the meat into strips and turned off the stove so we can finally eat! We were dying of hunger by that time.

Basically, eating samgyeopsal requires you to wrap the meat and other side dishes in the perilla leaf, ball it up, and eat it. Then follow up with the plated side dishes. Yum! So healthy. :))

Contrary to the reviews we read, the octopus was not too spicy - it was manageable, to say the least. Plus, it was chewy and the spice did not overpower the flavor. In terms of the meat, my sister previously said that eating the fat part of the meat would be disgusting but after tasting the meat, she particularly said that the fat part was so tasty. I agree with her - the fat part tasted sweet without the greasy texture.

We also love the steamed egg yolk which is like salty custard, the yellow part of the balut, or penoy. We emptied it, of course. Sometime during our meal, the lady approached us to tell us to eat the soybean sprouts. We emptied it also. :)) We decided to cancel the bokumbap as we were feeling full after we emptied the meal.

Going back to the fandom, there was a table near the entrance with a Japanese girl accompanied with an older lady that speaks Korean. Dongwoo's mother was with them on the table and the older lady translated what the mom said. Sometime later, the Japanese girl started crying. Okay, we thought, she's obviously a fan. Haha. Dongwoo's dad even joined the conversation and jokingly called out Dongwoo, eliciting surprise from the girl.

My sister, who is a long-time fan of Infinite, even brought a fan with a caricature of Dongwoo and wrote her name and hometown on it. She gave it to Dongwoo's dad when we paid the bill. I told him slowly in English that my sister is a fan and the dad said 'ah, Dongwoo, Dongwoo!' Then I wanted to convey that my sister drew the design on the fan but he thought I was saying that he sign the fan. Sigh, language barrier.

My sister asked for a photo and the dad was kind enough to agree. I guess he got used to it. After my sister's photo, the dad asked, 'how about you? picture?' Err, I gave in. :))

It was a great experience all in all and I recommend that fan or not, visit Inchang Jjukkumi to get your quality fix of samgyeopsal. Go to Guri now!

Edit: RIP to Dongwoo's Dad :( 

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