I have been staying in Gwanak-gu (冠岳區) for almost a year. My life in Korea revolves around this area. Be it grocery, drug and beauty products shopping or even settling my meals. Although it is just a few subway stops away from the hipster Gangnam Station, Gwanak-gu is still somewhat less developed. You can see low-rise shophouses, traditional market that oozes historic charm in the alley that you least expected, and the little carts selling all the delicious street food around the area. A very simple area with personality I would say. Famous for its beautiful Gwanak Mountain and of course, the prestigious Seoul National University, the area consist of some really quiet cafes, popular brands and some quality eateries.
I came to notice that despite staying for a considerably long time here, I didn’t wrote any review/ blog post about my area yet. So I decided to come up with a series of “SNU Station Gourmet” introducing good eateries around the school area. The first post for this series will be a cosy little Japansese Izakaya nearby the Seoul Nat’l University Station. To be precise, it is just 6 minutes walk away from the station.
Izakaya Cho (아자카야 초) is located down at the alley in between Angel-in-Us Coffee and Olive Young at SNU station Exit No.2. People have been raving about this whole stretch of shophouses because of its unique charm. Stepping into the alley, you will find all kinds of different little bars/ restaurants along the way, just like a mini Itaewon. Although less polished than Itaewon ones could be, this stretch of mini shophouses (each could only accommodate 4 to 5 four-seater table) is more localized with an exotic touch.
Interior of Izakaya Cho. As a mini izakaya, it sits limited patrons. A little squeezy as it can be, especially when it is full house. However if you come slightly earlier (about 6pm for my case), you can pretty much enjoy a cosy pocket of personal space with your friends together. ^^ They bring in various kinds of sake in different range of price. Look at the gorgeous display of the different packet of sake at the izakaya, drooling already, no?
For those who know the least about sake, fret not. The menu comes with comprehensive introduction about the taste of the sake they carry for the season. More of a fan of dry and rich texture? Check the index box printed below each item. Prefer it sweet and light? No problem. Check the index and I am sure you’ll get something you like even if you are a total sake dummy! Do check their promotional sake as well. They come in good discounted price.
At the bar. The young boss was busy preparing our dishes at the back of the bar. Noticed they even have the legendary Kubota Sake here as well?
View from the inside. Now you can imagine how tiny the izakaya is? Anyway, I also noticed the nice little makgeolli (Korean Rice Wine) place right opposite izakaya Cho. I am definitely going to try it out very soon!
The atmosphere out there on the street feels a little like a movie scene. Relax, laid-back with the young and hip characteristics, this neighbourhood is definitely a place worth exploring if you are somewhere nearby.
Before we start the night, the boss came with this big plate of small, porcelain sake cups. It was for the customers to choose a cup that he/she would like to use for the night. Quite gimmicky but I like the idea. ; )
My pretty little porcelain sake cup for the night. Pardon my chipping nail polish kkkkkkkk. Our iced Junmai (pure rice) sake for the night, as the boss recommended it to be served cool. Here is how our sake was served. It has been a while since I see a glass bottle with a hole for ice to cool down the sake. It was 7 years back since I had drinks with this kind of bottle. Lol. Anyway, the night started off with this beautiful settings and a wonderful “I am in Japan” kind of atmosphere.
As this was my first time having a sake, from an amateur’s opinion, it is smooth and light, with a faint sweet scent. It leaves a quiet vanilla and rice fragrance after you swallow the cup down. A very pleasant drink with the sashimi and seafood udon hotpot I would suggest.
First dish of the day was chicken karagae. It was very crispy on the outside, with the juicy-tender meat on the inside. The chicken was well marinated in some sauce which taste similar to ngoh-hiang (Malaysian/ Singaporean 5 spices) sauce and deep fried. Somehow it tastes like home which is why made it a good dish? kkkkk I love the sesame sauce served together with the chicken as well. Although the serving size could be a little more generous, I was told izakaya do not serve big portion on their dishes as it is supposed to be a place to appreciate the wine.
The 2nd dish of the night was Tuna Tadaki (たたき). Tuna fish briefly marinated in vinegar and seared lightly on the outside. The generous peanut sauce was a perfect match with the tuna. As it was minimally cooked, the fish still remains its melt-in-your-mouth texture.
I was pretty delighted to see the freshly grated wasabi served with the palate. As most of Japanese restaurant normally served their faw fish with wasabi paste, you will definitely appreciate the dish more upon seeing the freshly grated one as you know the eatery that you’re currently visiting is willing to pay more attention to what they serve.
3rd and the last dish for the day: Beef salad. Tender grilled beef cubes with fresh vegetables in vinegar sauce. A simple and pleasant dish ( do not expect any surprise from the dish but it is pleasantly edible) to savour with the huge packet of good sake.
My Verdict: If you feel like having a fancy drinking night with friends, this little Izakaya is probably a good choice. The dishes are well designed and goes pretty well with the sake. I really like this stretch of shophouses with different kind of themed mini bars nearby the SNU subway station. If you are keen, check out the tastefully decorated outdoor seats! Each of this mini bars comes with cosy outdoor seats that are probably very popular especially in the Summer time.
4 of us spent KRW 20,000 each for this drinking session (Total bill was KRW 80,000) pretty sums up their prices is on the higher side. However I wish to clarify that the sake itself was KRW40,000 so the price of the dishes are actually pretty normal for an Izakaya.
Izakaya Cho.아자카야 초
1604-8, Naksongdae-dong, Gwanak-gu, Seoul.
Korean version of the address:
서울시 관악구 낙성대동 1604-8
How to Get There: (click map to enlarge)
1. Coming out from Seoul National University Station 서울대입구역 (Line No.2) Exit 2, walk straight.
2. You should pass by a few big brands at your left hand side like: ABC Mart, Paris Baguette, Subway, Nong Hyup Bank (NH Bank) and finally, Angel-in-Us coffee.
3. Turn left into the junction. Take note that this junction should be in between Angel in Us Coffee and Olive Young drug store.