My favorite restaurant in Seoul is not one you can stumble upon by walking through the glittering boulevards or winding city alleyways. It is a big wooden mansion set beside highway 6, east of Guri. Inside is the best duck I’ve ever eaten. For 40,000won, you can get an entire smoked duck, unlimited amounts of noodle soup, rice, kimchi and other side dishes. I realized on my last trip before leaving Korea that when the smoked duck is BBQ’d it gains a flavor similar to a high class hot dog. It’s not the best analogy, but the simple crispiness of duck skin and well charred meat creates a very familiar taste. (And what is more familiar to an American carnivore than a hot dog?) We dip it in a sweet black sauce before adding onion and jalapeno and wrapping it all in a lettuce leaf for a monster bite of delectability. The noodle guksu (thin soup) consists of rice noodle in a mix of seaweed, tofu skins and kimchi. The kimchi tastes homemade and has both varieties–spicy red and original white. There are also sweet potatoes wrapped in foil mixed in among the charcoal cooking as you eat, so don’t forget that starchy little dessert. (As an added bonus, sweet potatoes are put outside in first come first serve manner about twice every hour.) Soju, makkeolli and soda are present on all tables. It’s a place suitable for dates, entertaining, families and discerning foodies. Outside there are at least three fire pits burning with the Han River behind making a peaceful background for digestion after the big meal. Kids run around playing as adults sit sipping cocoa and coffee by the fire. It’s an experience of Korea that is worth the drive.
I interviewed the owner, Mr. Seo, a diminutive man in stature but full of personality and loves to talk. He told me he had worked many jobs, such as editor and actor, before he and his family opened several of these restaurants around Korea. Although lots was lost in translation, I gleaned that the restaurant was 13 years old, he used to wrap the duck in mud and foil before he found a more efficient way in the modern smoker, he is a Christian and he only has about five more years of working before he can retire to Jeju Island. He’s a friendly guy and has reason to be happy.