Seoul: Chawoongga In Hongdae

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I had lunch in Chawoongga,  a restaurant housed in this beautiful hanok  with a courtyard garden in hippy Hongdae.  The restaurant serves traditional Korean food such as bibimbap, soups and stews.

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Initially, I wanted to brave the cold and eat my meal in the beautiful courtyard, but just standing there for 5 minutes snapping photos was enough to give me stiff fingers.  So into the restaurant I went.

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I am not such a cam-whore that I take photos in lavatories, but I couldn’t resist snapping the above when I was using the bathroom.  This is the pretty picture that you see while sitting on the toilet-bowl.  LOL.

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View of the courtyard from the inside of the restaurant.  Imagine how pretty it would all look if it had snowed then.

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I ordered the sea squirt bibimbap.  The meal was served and elegant copper bowl filled with loads of fresh vegetables, omelette and what looked like alfalfa sprouts (yucks!).  The bibimbap tasted so fresh, crunchy and wholesome, and I was so pleased that they gave me acorn jelly as ban-chan.

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Toss it all up and tuck in.  Piles of sea-squirt.  My first time eating this and it was quite tasty.  Not as strong tasting as sea-urchin but with a similar texture.

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I think this is a good place to rest your legs and fuel yourselves up with simple yet refine Korean food before you explore Hongdae.

Address: 20-12, Jandari-ro Mapo-gu Seoul 121-893 Directions: Take the subway to Hapjeong Station, exit #3., or Sangsu, exit #1 and follow the directions in the map below.

Opening Hours: 12pm to 10pm.

Seoul: Yukdaejang In Myeongdong

 photo IMG_7645-151130-v2__zps7tgnbr1k.jpgI am so pleased to have found an excellent yukgaejang restaurant in Myeongdong (near the main road where Shinsaegae is).  I love eating Korean spicy beef soup, especially the wild vegetables that go into the soup.  I have not tried a yukgaejang in Seoul that wasn’t hearty and tasty, but Yukdaejang’s is the best that I have eaten so far.  

 photo IMG_7646-151130-v2__zpsdilhgfbe.jpgWhat makes Yukdaejang’s spicy beef soup different from most of the others is the creamy texture of the soup.  I would describe the taste as a spicy version of seolleongtang that is very smooth, creamy and flavorful.  A bowl of yukgaejang costs W8,000.  It is a huge bowl with generous portions of ingredients.  I declined the bowl of rice that comes with the meal because it was impossible to find space in my stomach for rice.

Address: 45, Myeongdong 8na-Gil, Jung-Gu, Seoul, Korea
Directions: Exit #5 at the Myeongdong Station and walk straight, along the main road till you see a side road which is Myeongdong 2-gil.  Turn right into Myeongdong 2-gil and walk until you see a 7-11.  Turn left onto Myeongdong 8-gil and Yukdaejang is on your left.

Seoul: Dumulmeori In Yangpyeong

People always ask me why I don’t get bored visiting Seoul at least once every year.  Somehow, I always manage to find something new to do, or a new place to visit.  I never seem to run out of things to do in that city. One of the new places that I visited during my last trip is Dumulmeori, a water area outside Seoul where the Bukhangang River and Namhangang River meet.  I learnt about this place from reading Discovering Korea and a blog written by Pheuron Tay, a Singaporean studying in Seoul (btw, her blog is filled with beautiful, dreamy photos).

Dumulmeori (such a mouthful) is in Yangpyeong, about 45 mins away from Seoul by train.  Which is perfect for a day-trip from the city.  Dumulmeori is at the Yangsuri station on the Jungang Line, and from there, I could cycle or walk or cab to Dumulmeori.  I met an ahjusshi on the train who started a conversation with me.  He was a retired teacher, and wanted to practise his spoken Mandarin.  So he started asking me a number of questions, filling in any gaps with the help of the online Korean-Mandarin dictionary in his phone.  I obliged by answering his questions, also with assistance from the English-Korean online dictionary on my phone.  I was extremely amused by the conversation.

 photo FullSizeRender-150529-v2__zpskoye5ccy.jpgI alighted at the Yangsuri station and found myself at a loss as to how to get to Dumulmeori.  Feeling a bit distressed, I wandered around the station for while, then decided to plop myself at one of the eateries outside the station where I ordered a bowl of spicy cold noodles.  OMG, the noodles were excellent.  The eatery did not use the usual chewy buckwheat noodles, but something similar to cha soba.  If I had made a wasted trip, at the very least, I got a good meal out of it.    I asked the ahjumma in the eatery for directions to Dumulmeori.  She kept pointing in one direction, and firing off in rapid Korean which I could not understand a single word of.  Despite my love for Korea, I have never picked up the language beyond the barest of basic phrases. Like – “Dumulmeori, oh-di-so-yo?”  There is hardly any point in asking where is a particular place in Korean, and not being able to comprehend the response.  I decided to take the next train back to the city.

However, the stubborn streak in me refused to give up.  I was really looking forward to seeing this place and I felt annoyed at having to go back “empty-handed”.  Last ditch attempt was to follow a group of ahjummas sporting exercise outfits and ahjumma aviator caps.  I spotted them leaving the station, and took a gamble that they were heading to Dumulmeori.  “Let’s follow them! Hehehe.  Safety in numbers!” 

 photo IMG_2665-150529-v2__zpscidtgyfy.jpgSomewhere along the way, I lost the group of ahjummas after being distracted by a a shop selling succulents, and plodded my way to Dumulmeori alone.  It was a good 20 minute walk from the Yangsuri train station and I managed to find the park.

 photo L1001079-150529-v2__zpsuhmu3rgc.jpg photo L1001123-150529-v2__zpsgzznhg0s.jpgThe entire park has several parts to it and occupies a fairly large area.  I entered Dumulseori at the lotus pond section of the park.  The lotus pond was huge but it was pity that it was not flowering in May.  I strolled along the pond and came to the “waterfront area”.  The view of the waters and the mountains was stunning.

 photo L1001086-150529-v2__zpsqzm5ft2y.jpg photo L1001084-150529-v2__zps9ogtfec9.jpgIt feels so tranquil and peaceful to look at this view.  I could stare at it all day.

 photo 1047a768-13e3-4fd7-bbde-23dd0be544fb_zpsa4eov7ke.jpg photo L1001090-150529-v2__zps9g48jrhu.jpg photo L1001112-150529-v2__zpskilzlfa4.jpgI just finished watching the Korean drama, She Was Pretty (a lousy show and an utter waste of time), and noticed that they filmed a scene in the last episode at Dumulseori. I recognized the rectangular wooden frame in the drama.

It was such a lovely day, I could not resist zoning out for an hour with a can of beer with this view in front of me.

 photo L1001070-150529-v2__zpszzzekx4l.jpgCross this long bridge and you will get to the other side of Dulmulmeori.  More parks and beautiful open spaces to fill up a couple of hours.

 photo L1001145-150529-v2__zpstspf2pin.jpg photo L1001146-150529-v2__zpsstisewsb.jpgDumulmeori is a great day-trip out of Seoul.  Take the Jungang Line and alight at Yangsu Station, then stroll to Dumulmeori.  Wear comfortable shoes and get ready for plenty of walking.

Seoul: Coffee Libre In Hongdae

 photo IMG_2723-150530-v2__zpszecv1x8i.jpgI have finally tried the coffee from Coffee Libre after putting it off for a while (‘cos it is quite a hike away from the popular area in Hongdae). It is not an easy place to find and I got lost trying to find my way there. Coffee Libre is not the usual hip and cool cafe. It is very tiny, with hardly any sitting space, and looks like a storage room more than a cafe.  Not surprising since its main business is coffee roasting.

 photo IMG_2726-150530-v2__zpsaoyjhx1d.jpgThe cafe does not offer many options – just expresso, Americano, latte, Dutch coffee and hot chocolate.  I was torn between the expresso and Dutch coffee, and went with expresso in the end.  Expresso was very good – very smooth and not too acidic.  I managed to squeeze myself into a small empty space on the bench at the front of the cafe.  It was rather uncomfortable, but it beats standing. 

 photo IMG_2730-150530-v2__zpsn20dakz0.jpgThat is how the rest of the cafe looks like.  Messy, with paint peeling off the walls and boxes and cartons stacked on the floor.  Not a place for hanging out at but definitely worth a visit.  

Coffee Libre
Address: 27-15 Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Direction:  Exit 3 at Hongik University subway stop and follow map below.

Galettes & Crepes At The Daily Roundup

Besides pancakes and waffles, I also like crepes and buckwheat galettes. I have given up on finding a place in Singapore that serves good pancakes, and decided that I will make them at home. I get delicious waffles at Assembly Coffee whenever I feel like having one of these crispy-fluffy things with a huge dollop of ice cream.  (I just bought myself a waffle maker on so am looking forward to making some soon.)  

I used to satisfy my crepe and galette cravings at Creperie Des Art, this cosy Brittany creperie at Prinsep Street.  I loved their buckwheat galettes, sweet crepes and apple cider.  They make an excellent crepe suzette – which I usually order for dessert. It is a pity that the owners of Creperie Des Art have given up the business.  I hope they know that they are sorely missed.  Thankfully, there is still Entre-Nous at Seah Street that I can go to for galettes and crepes.  

I am so gonna eat my fill of galettes and crepes when I am in Paris in November!  

 photo IMG_4644-150911-v2__zpswbe3tcdq.jpgRecently, a friend recommended that we try the galettes and crepes at The Daily Roundup.  The cafe is located in a bright and spacious unit in The Working Capital at Keong Saik Road.  After casting our vote early in the morning on Polling Day, we headed to The Daily Roundup for breakfast.  They open at 9am on weekends, which in my view is the latest time that a cafe serving breakfast should open for business.  

 photo IMG_4643-150911-v2__zpsdan4hu2k.jpgWhere is everybody?  We had the entire place to ourselves for quite a while.  Not that we were complaining.

 photo IMG_4658-150911-v2__zpsuxuxtxmi.jpgTBH ordered the ham and cheese buckwheat galette and I chose the plain crepe with yuzu butter and vanilla ice cream.  The food is quite good – not as tasty as the ones at Creperie Des Arts or Entre-Nous but good enough for a repeat visit. 

Seoul: Wangbijib Korean BBQ In Myeongdong

 photo IMG_2738-150530-v2__zps06qhesli.jpgI often get asked for Korean BBQ restaurant recommendations in Seoul but have none to give because this is something that I don’t normally eat when I am in Seoul. If I have grilled meat cravings, I would usually go to a gopchang restaurant.  I prefer grilled fatty innards over pork belly!

During my last trip, my friend wanted to eat grilled meat so I looked up the Internet for some good places around Myeongdong where we were staying. There are plenty of BBQ restaurants in Myeongdong so if one isn’t fussy, you could just turn a corner and walk into one.  

After some research online, I decided to try Wangbijib (왕비집).  Located near the Myeongdong subway station (take Exit #9 of Myeongdong Station, Subway Line 4. Walk straight ahead for about 50m from Exit #9 and turn right at the first corner. Continue straight for another 50m and turn left. Wangbijib  is located on the second floor on the left side of the street), it had mostly good reviews.  We arrived at around 7pm and saw that a queue had formed on the stairway.  Egads!  We hear Singaporean voices too!  So we decided to walk around Myeongdong and look for another grilled meat place. We ended up at another Wangbijib located closer to Metro Hotel (just two streets away from Myeongdong Skypark Hotel II and A Twosome Place) but unfortunately, there was also a long queue at this outlet.  

Okaaaay, this place must be pretty good then.  We decided to return the following evening, at 6pm, hopefully enough to beat the queues!  Which we did, and at 6pm, the restaurant was almost full!  I am not a big fan of grilled meat but I enjoyed my meal at Wangbijib very much.  I can no longer remember what cuts of meat we ordered – a beef and a fatty pork-something.  I felt that what made the food stand out was the use of charcoal to grill the meat. Charcoal gave the meat a deeper and fuller flavor. Oh look at the charred bits in the photo. I should have taken more photos of the food, but was too busy stuffing my mouth to do so.

Just like that, Wangbijib is going to be a regular feature in my dining itinerary in Seoul.

Crocheting: Cushion Cover In African Flower Hexagon Granny Squares

My second cushion cover. It is much smaller that the first one because I ran out of patience to crochet more granny squares needed for a bigger-sized cushion cover. I have always liked the African flower pattern and have been itching to make something with it.

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I joined all the squares hexagons on the reverse side using a single stitch, and the cushion insert has also been sewn in, so it cannot be easily removed for cleaning.

This was quite an easy one to make.

Crocheting: Cushion Cover In Solid Granny Squares

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Didn’t get around to posting a photo of my first hand-made crochet cushion cover

I was thinking about autumn when I first conceived the idea of crocheting a cushion cover.  I don’t think this has a autumn-y feel but I am pleased with how the colors turned out.  The size of this cover is for a 20″ x 20″ cushion insert.  The one from IKEA is a perfect fit for this, if you like your cushion to be soft and cuddly.

Seoul: Ricotta Cheese Salad At Cafe Mamas

On my way to Samcheong-dong to hunt for clothes (work dresses, casual tops, kimono cardigans, shoes, costume jewelry) one morning, I walked past Cafe Mamas, a popular cafe near the Cheongyecheon stream.

I have gone past this cafe many times during my trips to Seoul, but have never been in there. It is usually very crowded in the evenings with long queues forming during the weekends. In a city with so many cafes and bistros, I have always wondered what is the attraction of this place, to attract queues on a weekend when there are so many attractive options in the vicinity.

 photo IMG_2701-150530-v2__zps5qglqhmv.jpgAs there was no queue forming outside Cafe Mamas that morning, I decided to drop in for a cup of coffee.  I was quite full from eating a huge bowl of porridge at Bonjuk so I didn’t think about ordering food.  

I looked around and saw that almost every table ordered the ricotta cheese salad, and this made me very curious about the dish.  What is so special about a slab of ricotta cheese with salad leaves and bread?  To get the answer, I had to order one for myself even though I could not eat another bite of food.  Or so I thought.

 photo IMG_2700-150530-v2__zps0m8k4nlw.jpgIt was incredibly good!  The ricotta cheese was creamy, slightly sweet and flavored with lemon juice.  The chopped nuts and raisins gave it crunchy bite.  The bread was soft and delicious, and was a lovely accompaniment for the ricotta cheese. Overall, this was a simple, tasty and appetizing dish.  I mopped up everything in the bowl, including bread, tomatoes and salad leaves!  I don’t know where I found the space in my stomach to put in that extra food, but I did.  

I came home and attempted to make the lemon-flavoured ricotta cheese.  I managed to get the same flavor, but I could not get the same thick and creamy texture as Cafe Mamas.  The texture of my ricotta cheese was a little too thin and runny – not sure why but heck, it worked fine as a sandwich spread.

I looked up Cafe Mamas on the Internet and realize that they have 4-5 locations in Seoul.  I went to the one near the Cheongyecheon stream and the SK Telecom Building (exit 4 on the Euljiro-1ga subway station).  Even though I don’t usually eat Western fare whenever I am in Seoul, the ricotta cheese salad will be an exception.  I just hope it doesn’t get retired from the menu when I next visit Cafe Mamas.

Koko Coconut Ice Cream At Amoy Food Centre

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Coconut ice cream is my new favorite ice cream. This one, by Koko Coconut Ice Cream located on the second floor of Amoy Food Centre, is very good. I like the texture of the ice cream. It is smooth and creamy. I don’t like the sorbet-y version.

At $4 for 2 big scoops, served in a coconut shell, this is pretty good value for money. It also comes with a free cup of coconut water, and two toppings of your choice (ground peanut, sweet corn, gula melaka sauce, cornflakes) are free. I always pick the sweet corn and/or ground peanut!

Dstllry At 21 Media Circle

I have been to Dstllry thrice in the last couple of months, and have been meaning to blog about the place for a while.  The name is kind of weird, like where are the vowels?

Photos of Dstllry have been making its rounds on my Facebook feed and Instagram feed for a while. But I couldn’t quite figure out what sort of F&B place Dstllry was.  The only impression that I had of the place from these photos are ‘why so dark…?’   Looks hip and edgy, and I wondered if I could see what I was eating.    It was only when a friend raved about their bespoke cocktails and value-for-money omakase that I was compelled to check it out one Saturday afternoon.

Located at 21 Media Circle, Portsdown Road, Dstllry sounds like a perfect place to escape from the crowds on a Saturday afternoon. I had a bit of difficulty locating the restaurant, which is housed in a scruffy-looking building  called Infinite Studios, in the middle-of-nowhere, near Portsdown Road.  One thing for sure, the building has plenty of parking space.

 photo IMG_1727-150411-v2__zps5u2rrgqw.jpgWalking into the restaurant for the first time, I was impressed by the cool vibe and uncluttered feel of the space, largely due to the high ceilings and a dark interior.  Unlike most restaurants who feel a need to pack as many tables as possible into the space, the owner of Dstllry did not try to maximize the seating space.  Just a simple U-shape bar counter and a narrow ledge lining each of the two walls. I did not feel boxed in by the close proximity of diners huddling around the counter. 

I like the funky industrial lamps lighting up the space, and the sound system was excellent.  Wholly-appropriate background music that didn’t bounce back from the walls, creating an echoey and noisy effect.  Not surprising, given the owner’s music background.

 photo IMG_1761-150411-v2__zpssa2w82bg.jpg photo IMG_1938-150418-v2__zpsyljpoacm.jpgDstllry has a fairly small lunch menu. A couple of donburis and no cocktails.  During dinner, they serve a 10-course omakase for $100, or you can order ala-carte from the menu.  From what I gather, the omakase menu is different every month, and changes are announced on their Facebook page.   

 photo IMG_1759-150411-v2__zps05lxy0sm.jpgTheir bara-chirashi is quite popular. At $18 a bowl, it came with a generous pile of salmon and tuna, dressed in a yummy sauce, topped with ikura and dried seaweed, on top of a warm bowl of rice.  Delicious.  Love how the pearly globules of roe pops in my mouth.  I like that they give fresh wasabi, and not the stuff that comes out of a tube.  

 photo IMG_2810-150604-v2__zps9gp2v904.jpgI have also tried their bara-ramen which, as the name suggests, is raw fish in a bowl of ramen, instead of rice.  Interesting twist to the rice version.  I cannot decide which version I like better, but I think the bara-ramen may have a slight edge over the bara-chirashi, simply because I like noodles and theirs have a nice bite.

 photo IMG_1753-150411-v2__zps61tbht3x.jpgTBH tried the wagyu beef don (higher price point at $38) and thought it was quite good. Besides the rice bowls, we also tried some of their bar food – cockles and ika mentaiko – and they were great. All washed down with a number of excellent bespoke cocktails which seem pricey but are worth every penny if you are love cocktails.

 photo IMG_2099-150418-v2__zps7czu9zfr.jpgLove these fresh and tasty cockles.  May not yet be able to rival the ones at Putien and Two Chefs, but still very good, especially so when you can sip a cocktail while eating the shellfish.

 photo IMG_2806-150604-v2__zps707uh2jb.jpgGrilled ika with some mentaiko.  Good combination and the ika was grilled to perfection.

 photo IMG_2101-150418-v2__zpszxes8tye.jpgBeautiful yuzu-laced with gin concoction.  I have tried quite a number of cocktails served up by their bartender, but my favorite is still their G&T, which is one of the best that I have ever had.  Unlike the watered-down versions served in many places, this one had plenty of gin.  Be sure to order that if you are a G&T fan.  

 photo IMG_2100-150418-v2__zpsnx7k8eof.jpgAnother exotic concoction made with beer and coffee. 

We also tried their omakase.  I like that their chefs give their own creative spin to some classic Japanese dishes using local ingredients.  It has been some time since we ate the omakase, and I cannot remember what we ate now, but each dish was quite interesting.  Just do not order the omakase and expect the standard to be what you would get in a traditional Japanese restaurant.  

We will probably drop by some time soon to try their July omakase menu – some items on the menu sound very good.  

 photo IMG_2102-150418-v2__zpsrf3gquq0.jpg photo IMG_1932-150418-v2__zpsfsjtzaf5.jpgDstllry is really a fun place to chill out either with your other half, or with a group of friends, without having to dress up and watch your table manners.  It is comfortable, easy and unpretentious, and I like the communal dining concept that you get at the bar counter.  You get to see the chefs up close and personal, prepping the food that they are going to be serving you.  

I am hoping to see more of such interesting indie dining concepts sprouting up in Singapore.  

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