My first trip to Seoul, Korea and one of the things I wanted try was jogae-gui, grilling clams. Yeah, sure, we all know about the grilling fun at your favorite Korean BBQ restaurant. Plates of beef, pork, chicken, and any other land animal you can think of. But this was with shellfish. And on a cold rainy day, this was utterly perfect.
Jogae-Gui Alley is in Nonhyeon-Dong. As the name suggests, it’s an area popular for grilling clams. Though there’s shops serving steamed clams and other types of seafood creations. This was an area for those who wanted fresh seafood without traveling to the ocean front. We walked around looking for a specific shop in the rain. It was difficult passing up all the shops offering their specialties. However, I wasn’t sure how foreigner friendly they would be. None of us could speak Korean and we’d only waste aggregate people pointing and playing charades all night. Yeah, it was a travel noob mistake not to even bring a phrase book or study up. Too occupied researching places to eat.
Once we finally found the place, we got seated right away. I think the rain held off the crowds, because the lines started forming after we started to eat. Inside, it was lively. The staff was busy running around helping out loud tables. The crowd was more of your happy hour types, friends laughing and offering up cheers for the horrid rain soaked day it was. I liked the vibe here. We ordered our food along with drinks, beer and soju. When in Rome! It was easy to order, not because they spoke English, but Mandarin. This was going to be a revelation to me on this trip. We soon found ourselves with the VIP set and we feasted for over an hour. It was more then we could finish.
Verdict: I do know there are better places, but I recommend the whole experience here.
₩49,000KRW (Business VIP Set for 2)
I'll be honest, when I first saw these I was skeptical. Cheese on my scallops? How's that going to taste off the grill. And the glop on top of the crab meat served in the shell? Man, I had some serious doubts.
Our spread came out with barely enough room for the two of us to eat. And we were at a table for four! Time to roll up our sleeves and dive right in. Oh look at all the things to try. That giant mussel looking thing caught my eye. Though it wasn't the star of the show. And yeah, there's sausage and bacon in there. Fillers. I don't think we got that far.
So off the grill my doubts turned into "What awesomeness!!". This turned out great. The delightful taste of the scallops with the melted cheese made a fantastic couple with the bits of onion. I need to come back here and order stacks upon stack of this.
The glop you saw earlier gets melted down into the shell head. It's the tomalley and after you mix it with the meat, it comes out tasty!
We also had this Seoul specialty, raw shrimp in soy sauce. Maybe it was the fact that we were grilling, having cooked seafood or the fact that this restaurant doesn't specialized in these dishes, but I didn't find this appealing. Many Asian countries have a raw shrimp dish and I love them all, except for this one. I wouldn't mind giving it another try though... later in life... at a place known for it.
Here's something new I learned. This isn't meant to be an appetizer. Even though they bring it out first, you're suppose to add it too you rice. Good thing because it was a little on the salty side.
As you can see, they don't give you much rice. But it's all about the seafood and you add that broth/soup to it.
Here's the end result. Not quite a porridge but enjoyable with the grilled food.
So that huge shell contained the meat with a mixture of sauce and ingredients. You don't grill it. In fact you don't do anything but watch them prepare it. It's Korea. Service was always included in the experience. The contents were cut and put into this bowl where it simmered until it was ready. You're tortured with the fragrance until it was time. The outcome? Well, it's like sautéed in a semi sweet mixture. I think the taste of the mollusk gets lost in it. Wasn't too bad though.
Off to the grilling fresh seafood and let the natural tastes come through without any distractions. This was all I really wanted... well, grilling with natural briquettes would be better, but this works just fine. Notice how the clams still have that glisten, that's a good sign.
This place has been graced by... a lot of people I'll assume are famous.
It took us forever to find this place. It was on the second floor. We must have walked by the place several times in the rain, which of course, lightened up when we were done with dinner. What we also found out was that there were four of these restaurants on this street, which consolidated into one. This one. Look for that unsettling happy little kid holding a clamshell.