Tag Archives: restaurant review

The best Japanese ramen in Seoul at Ittengo

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The Tonkotsu Ramen at Ittengo, a Japanese ramen restaurant in Hapjeong, Seoul. SCREAMfmLondon

For months, my friends and I have been obsessing over Ittengo, a small Japanese ramen shop located in a hip dining neighborhood near Hapjeong station. Day after day, rain or shine, the line of customers waiting to dine at Ittengo never seemed to get shorter. We pressed our faces up against the restaurant’s small windows like stray cats trying to see what made this food so special.

After watching dozens of people brave Seoul’s humid summer nights and, later, the freezing winter ones just to eat some of this ramen… We knew we had to try it. And, finally, we did.

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The minimalist facade of Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

There was, of course, a long wait when we eventually made it to Ittengo. And, of course, it was extremely cold out. But, at this restaurant, you write your name and your full order on the list out front, so you can kill some of that wait time deciding what to eat.

Ittengo is known for its special basil-based broth that comes out a kind of algae green color, but this was unfortunately all sold out when we dined there. There are three types of ramen served at Ittengo, all given animal names in Japanese depending on the broth’s color. Kitsune (wolf) is the lightest, a traditional tonkotsu ramen (7,000 KRW). Next on the list is the Midori Kame (green turtle), which is the aforementioned basil pesto-infused ramen (10,000 KRW). And last is the Kayomasa (red tiger), which is the spicy ramen (8,000 KRW).

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Ittengo’s Kitsune (wolf) ramen, named after its light-colored broth. SCREAMfmLondon

Once your party is taken inside and seated, the ramen is served almost immediately. The restaurant’s intimate set-up is, I’m sure, a main reason for the lengthy wait. The dining room is comprised of just one central table around which all of the customers sit and eat together. The room is dimly lit, and the counter is sprinkled with candles and small knick-knacks.

Another reason for the wait is, obviously, because the ramen is delicious. It’s absolutely the best Japanese ramen I’ve had in Seoul. The pork bone broth is beautifully rich and flavorful. The noodles are thin and mixed with green onions, served with tasty slices of braised pork belly on top. Every bite is excellent, and every element of this dish is done perfectly. Peppers covered in yuzu juice are served on the side to contrast the strong savory flavors of the ramen.

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Amazing thin ramen noodles at Ittengo in Hapjeong. SCREAMfmLondon

Ittengo
11 Poeun-ro, Mapo-gu
Hours: daily from 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Closed on Sundays.

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Food: Tim Ho Wan dim sum in Hong Kong

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Tim Ho Wan’s steamed dumplings with shrimp (shrimp siu mai). SCREAMfmLondon

Where in the world can you sit elbow-to-elbow with strangers speaking dozens of different languages while chowing down on Michelin-starred food for less than $10? That’s Tim Ho Wan — the Hong Kong-based dim sum chain famously called the world’s most affordable Michelin-star restaurant.

Dim sum and yum cha (drinking tea) date back to ancient Chinese traditions, originating with the Cantonese in southern China, when roadside teahouses were set up to give travelers and traders a place to rest and eat snacks along the Silk Road. The bite-sized dim sum dishes are fully cooked and ready to serve from steamer baskets and small plates, providing the utmost convenience.

Tim Ho Wan opened in Hong Kong in 2009, received its first Michelin star in 2010, and has since opened a number of additional locations around Asia. But nothing beats the original.

To get a seat in the packed restaurant, diners have to take a number at the desk out front and wait patiently to be called. I rolled up optimistically hoping there wouldn’t be a crowd, but, well. There was. As I waited for my number to be called, I realized that I maybe should have studied some Cantonese numbers. Luckily, I was dining alone, so the hostess quickly plucked me from the crowd and led me inside to fill an empty chair at one of the bustling tables.

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Tim Ho Wan’s famous baked buns with barbeque pork. SCREAMfmLondon

I sat at a table where five other people were already dining, their delicious-looking plates covering the cramped space as I perused my menu. An elderly woman sat across from me, eyeing me skeptically as I did things incorrectly (man, I think you’re supposed to rinse off your plates and chopsticks with tea before the meal, but nobody told me what to do?!) and tried to help me use the correct utensils.

After using a pencil to check items off the green paper menu, the food begins piling up quickly.

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Tim Ho Wan’s vermicelli rolls stuffed with beef. SCREAMfmLondon

First to arrive was my vermicelli roll stuffed with beef ($21 HKD, or about $2.70 USD). Seasoned soy sauce is poured over the dish as soon as it’s placed on the table. These three rolls were super delicious — especially the two on the bottom that were able to soak more of the soy sauce into their rice noodle wrappings. The perfect tenderness and consistency, but I might have liked a little more beef flavor.

As I was finishing up these rolls, my steamed egg cake ($16 HKD) arrived. Y’all, this was so amazingly good. I was definitely expecting something that more closely resembled egg, but when a tasty, sugary sponge cake appeared, I was not mad about it. It was so light and fluffy with a tantalizing brown sugar kind of flavor. I loved this and could have eaten 20 of them.

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Tim Ho Wan’s fluffy, spongey steamed egg cake. SCREAMfmLondon

The Tim Ho Wan menu items I’d heard the most about were the baked buns with barbeque pork ($20 HKD for three buns), so I obviously had to try them out. These char siu bao did not disappoint! The three buns were served encased in perfectly-cooked, flaky breading. Slightly sweet and crunchy on the outside, but chewy and meaty on the inside. I think I could eat 20 of these as well. The texture is absolute perfection and the flavors blend together so well. These are Tim Ho Wan’s signature dish for good reason.

Finally, I ended the meal with some steamed pork dumplings with shrimp ($27 HKD). I used to eat a lot of microwave shrimp siu mai from Trader Joe’s, but it’s an honor to get to try the real deal. These were great (what else did you expect?), packed with shrimp filling and bursting with flavor. Hot and juicy, and the perfect way to top off a great meal.

After the four small plates, I was feeling pretty stuffed, but so happy that I was able to taste these excellent dishes. It’s worth the wait, it’s worth the trip to Hong Kong — Tim Ho Wan is a fantastic dim sum experience.

Food: Samgyeopsal, galbi and more Korean BBQ

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Love this delicious samgyeopsal: thick, fatty slices of pork belly cooked on a grill with mushrooms, kimchi and bean sprouts. It is (obviously) one of my favorite meals in Korea. SCREAMfmLondon

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We came to this restaurant near Wangsimni Station to keep the party going after the last Big Bang ‘MADE’ concert. Ordered the samgyeopsal and galbi (marinated beef short ribs). They also carry the (amazingly delicious) pineapple-flavored soju! And we love how they cook egg on the grill inside of a slice of onion. SCREAMfmLondon

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I wrote about this restaurant in my first Korean food post last year, and I still love it just as much! Nothing beats that excellent little omelette that surrounds the grill and cooks alongside your meat. SCREAMfmLondon

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Can you tell that I really love samgyeopsal? This restaurant in Hongdae plays good music, has a serve-yourself counter for side dishes, and hands out free ice cream as you leave. Couldn’t get much better than that. SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya

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Fantastic ramen at Ichiran in Shibuya, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Ichiran is the perfect restaurant for someone like me who likes to travel alone and eat delicious food at all hours without having to interact with mankind. This 24-hour Japanese ramen chain is famous for its tasty dishes and private, one-person booths in the dining area.

You can spot Ichiran’s Shibuya location from down the block because of the long line that winds up the narrow staircase and spills out onto the street. It moves moderately quickly as you inch your way closer to the red cloth signs hanging over the door.

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The ominous entryway to Ichiran. SCREAMfmLondon

Once inside the foyer, you insert money into a vending machine and make your initial ramen selection. The machine dispenses change and prints out a ticket.

While you wait for a seat to open up, you will fill out a worksheet about all the exact specifications of your desired bowl of ramen. The worksheet is super detailed and even offers suggestions, which I mostly took: medium-strength flavor, medium richness (oil content), regular garlic, green onion, sliced pork, half a serving of Ichiran’s original red sauce, and medium firmness for the noodles.

When a seat is available, you’re lead into the dining area. This is the best part. I love this set-up. I feel like every restaurant should be like this.

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The private ramen-eating booth for one at Ichiran in Shibuya, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Each diner is seated in an individual cubicle with high wooden walls separating you from the diners beside you and a thick bamboo curtain separating you from the kitchen staff. It’s just you and the ramen. When you’re ready to order, you ring a bell and slide your order sheet under the curtain. When the food is ready, they slide it back under. You never even see the chef’s face. It’s wild, and I love it!

There’s a little spout in the cubicle from which you can pour your own ice water, and you can even order extra noodles if you still have broth left after you finish.

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It’s so beautiful. SCREAMfmLondon

Have I mentioned that I love this restaurant? Because I love this. The ramen was delicious. The medium richness was perfectly spot-on, and the noodles and pork were tasty and flavorful. I wish I had gone a little stronger on flavor and definitely on the red sauce, which was not noticeably spicy. I would make some alterations to my ramen requests and add a soft-boiled egg next time, but Ichiran is certainly customizable enough. And all for about 800 JPY.

So private. So atmospheric. And nobody was there to see when I somehow dipped my hair in the broth. It was perfect.

Food: Angels Heart in Harajuku

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Angels Heart crêpes in Harajuku, Tokyo. SCREAMfmLondon

Crêpes are big in Tokyo, and there are about a million crêperies along Takeshita Street, one of Harajuku’s most popular pedestrian-only shopping streets. The foot traffic on Takeshita is so intense that there’s little room for actual movement, so the small restaurants and side streets are essential for a quick escape from the crowds.

Angels Heart is a crêperie located on the corner of one such side street, which provides a nice reprieve from the chaos of the main drag. There was periodically a line, but it went quite quickly.

Angels Heart serves a variety of freshly-made crêpes (both sweet and savory) with your choice of fillings. The girl in front of me definitely ordered some sort of leafy green crêpe filling, but I went with banana, chocolate and cheesecake for around 500 JPY. It was prepared quickly and served wrapped in a sturdy, pink paper cone. The entire side street is lined with people chillin’, eatin’ crêpes, and I was happy to join them.

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Banana, chocolate and cheesecake in one great crêpe. SCREAMfmLondon

The street is on a slight incline, so it provides a good vantage point from which you can do some great people-watching. While I was hanging out, I heard lots of shouting and clanging coming from the main street as several groups of men dressed in short robes pushed their way through the shoppers carrying some sorts of altars on their shoulders. I assume it had something to do with the Mid-Autumn Festival, Tsukimi, that was going on around the same time as the lunar eclipse during the last week of September.

But who knows.

At any rate, the crêpe was delicious: the slice of cheesecake was solid, the chocolate syrup was plentiful, the whipped cream was cool while the crêpe itself was warm. What more do you need? Angels Heart is a sweet spot to stop by when you become overwhelmed by the crowds in Harajuku.

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The view of Takeshita Street during Tsukimi 2015. SCREAMfmLondon

Food: Sushiro in Yeonsu-gu

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Sushiro at the Square 1 shopping mall in Yeonsu-gu. SCREAMfmLondon

Sushiro is my favorite restaurant in the Yeonsu Square 1 shopping mall. It is a Japanese chain — the first overseas Sushiro was opened in Seoul in 2011. I love conveyer belt sushi mainly for the privacy of the high booths and (surprise!) the lack of human interaction it requires.

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Squid with wasabi. That’ll wake you right up. SCREAMfmLondon

The most popular types of sushi are prepared behind a glass window at the back of the restaurant and then sent on their way past the tables on a rotating shelf. If you see something delicious, you grab it off the shelf as it passes your table.

The different plate colors signify different prices, but it’s all pretty reasonably priced — even if you eat excessively, as I do.

If you’re not seeing anything that appeals to you, you can order specific dishes using a touchscreen menu fastened above the table.

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The gang’s all here. SCREAMfmLondon

Everything I’ve had at Sushiro has been delicious, which differs wildly from my experience with other conveyer belt sushi restaurants. Usually, the fish is poor quality and the freshness is very doubtful when it’s been going around and around the room on the little belt all night. But Sushiro’s dishes are always freshly prepared and tasty.

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Delicious sushi comes down the conveyer belt faster than you can eat it. SCREAMfmLondon

I always have several orders of the butter octopus: two pieces of nigiri that are warm and savory, covered in delectable buttery goodness. I am also a fan of the fried eel and the wide variety of salmon.

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Octopus with butter: the best. SCREAMfmLondon

Sushiro also offers some more unusual dishes: rice topped with egg, beef, corn, something that looks like old meatloaf? But I can’t bring myself to try them even for novelty when the rest of the sushi is so good.

Convenient, scrumptious and private: Sushiro is definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Incheon for obvious reasons.

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Deep-fried scallops. SCREAMfmLondon

April 13: A collection of delicious things

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Bulgogi jungol in Bupyeong. SCREAMfmLondon

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Gorgeous kimbap that came with some delicious kimchi and soup. We intended to have a study session, but it turned into a food tour instead. SCREAMfmLondon

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This barbeque is everything that is right with the world. The samgyeopsal is surrounded by a ring of omelette: egg, green onions and spices that cook while you barbeque. I could eat this every day forever. SCREAMfmLondon

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I honestly love the Lotte Mart food court. Pork, kimchi jjigae, kimchi, spicy broccoli, rice and seaweed for 6,500₩. And you place your order on a computer screen, so you never have any human interaction. That jjigae is to die for. SCREAMfmLondon