Thursday, November 1, 2012

Konnichiwa, Korea Town!

Somehow I lived in Japan for over two and a half years before learning that Tokyo has a Korea Town.  Thank-goodness one of my English students finally clued me in...I've been missing out on delicious Korean food all this time!  

Two weekends ago, this same student took us to one of her favorite restaurants in Korea Town, an area which is clustered around Shinjuku's Shin-Okubo Station.  She is studying Korean in addition to English (the United States really needs to step up its foreign language study game) and just returned from a trip to Korea, so I was excited to let her take charge of our day.  Little TF wore a princess dress and giant sequined Minnie Mouse bow.  I apologize to the train companies for the trail of glitter we left in our wake.

(I forgot to charge my camera battery, so I had to use my smartphone.  Sorry for the poor picture phone is a dinosaur at almost three years old!)

Yummy appetizers

The restaurant was just outside Shin-Okubo Station and around the corner.  The interior had just been redone and there was plenty of seating.  We snagged a corner booth and perused the menu that had both Japanese and English.  Everything looked so good that it was hard to choose!  My student and I both chose beef soups; while mine had a savory, clear-ish broth, my student's soup was bright red with spices.  Koreans eat soup or stew at almost every meal, so making a decision was hard.  It all looked so delicious!

Since I had memories of eating delicious soup during last year's trip to Seoul, I was excited to repeat the experience. When our soup came to our table, it was VERY HOT.  It was almost dangerously hot and took forever to cool.  I learned that the soup bowls are oven-safe and heated to keep the soup hot for as long as possible.  Genius!

My soup with beef, mushrooms, and plenty of veggies.  SO GOOD.

After our appetizers and soup, we moved on to the next course- a Korean vegetable pancake.  Called pajeon in Korean, this dish is Korea's answer to Japan's vegetable pancake, okonomiyaki.  Our pancake  included seafood and was wrapped in a crust of toasted cheese.  Yum. It even passed the Little TF taste test. In between watching K-Pop music videos on the restaurant's four televisions, she had two slices!

During deployment, I bribe Little TF for good behavior like it's my job (uh...I guess ensuring good behavior is my job?).  Please please please let Mommy eat a lunch that is not completely insane and then you will earn a dessert.  Ok?  Deal? Using the word "earn" makes me feel better, as if we are engaging in a perfectly acceptable transaction between two rational human beings.  Since only one member of our transaction is a rational human being, our Korean lunch was peppered with trips to the potty, repeated smacking of the buzzer that called the waiter to our table, and a growing graveyard of chopsticks on the floor.  Lunch did end without any meltdowns, so I declared it a success and let Little TF choose a dessert.  She chose the ice cream-filled frozen strawberries.  An excellent choice.

Next time, we need to order the strawberries with our meal.  They took FOREVER to defrost.

I cannot find the restaurant's business card for the life of me, but I can tell you how to get there. Read to the bottom of the post for directions!

This is where we ate!  So good!

Delicious food isn't the only reason to visit Korean Town!  There are plenty of souvenir shops...

Looking for Gangnam Style?  Korea Town's got you covered.  Gangnam is Seoul's ritziest residential district.

...and cosmetic shops.  Korean cosmetics are famous in Japan, and Japanese tourists will visit Korea just to take in the spa treatments.  Snail face cream, in particular, is popular.  If you're dying to smear snail slime on your face, Shin-Okubo has got you covered.

I took a pass on the snail face masks and we stopped at a Korean grocery store, instead.  I love learning how other cultures eat! 

Fun new tea flavors...
Mixes for making Korean vegetable pancakes...
New kinds of alcohol.... (I got a pomegranate-flavored rice wine.  It disappointed.)
And cases of kimchi!

The grocery store also had those oven-safe soup bowls for sale! Once I find a good Korean cookbook, I'll have to go back and pick some up.

Korea Town isn't just for food and snail cream. Young people like to visit Shin-Okubo, too.  Colorful shops stock the latest K-Pop idol posters, keychains, and t shirts.  These stores were very noisy and very busy.  We gave the crowds of teens a wide berth.  I think I am getting old.

Shin-Okubo Station is located on the Yamanote Line, one stop from Shinjuku Station.  Shin-Okubo Station has NO ELEVATORS, which makes it another teeth-grittingly frustrating train station for stroller-pushing mommies.  However, all is not lost!  Just take the train to Shinjuku and then take a cab to Shin-Okubo.  It's only one stop away!  

To get to the restaurant at which we ate, exit Shin-Okubo Station and turn left.  Take another left on the side street immediately next to the station and walk down the road for about a minute.  The restaurant is on the left.  Eat some delicious beef soup for me!

Disclaimer:  I do my best to make sure all my information is accurate.  However, details may change or I may just be flat-out wrong.  Please let me know if something needs a correction.  Thank-you! 

1 comment:

  1. So many thoughts!

    1. The "graveyard of chopsticks" had me laughing for at least a good 5 minutes.

    2. I really want a cheesy seafood pancake. I've never had one, but I want one now.

    3. I got a little depressed reading about your dangerously hot soup. That could never happen here because apparently it isn't common knowledge that soup is hot, and therefore a law suit waiting to happen. Sigh.