There’s not many BBQ places in Seoul that have really stood out despite my love for anything meat. This is not to say there aren’t any great places out there, but rather there are too many solid places because, by most accounts, they usually have the same setup that never disappoints: meat grilled over charcoals (or a gas burner), a hefty amount of banchan and greens, and plenty of cold beer and soju on hand. These are the basics for me at any decent gogi jip (“meat house”). However, this next place is an anomaly that does things a little differently.
Seo-Seo Galbi is an institute in the Korean BBQ realm that’s been around for over 50 years. They serve only one dish and one dish only: hanwoo sogalbi (domestic beef marinated in soy sauce) @ 150 grams for a very respectable 15,000 won. I’ve always been a big proponent of restaurants that specialize in a few main dishes, but for a restaurant to serve only one item is on another level. And that they are. With everything else being bare bones – the only banchan is green chili peppers and dipping sauce – the only thing that matters here is the meat. Juicy, flavorful, tender, moist, and simply irresistible. It’s made even more addicting with the sweet, garlicky sauce that’s loaded with chopped scallions n onions, providing a welcome texture to the already succulent pieces of meat. My friend and I got there just before opening at 12pm but the place was already packed with hungry patrons eating without a care in the world (good food will do that to you). When we left the restaurant 45 minutes later, a line stretched out to the adjacent corner street. In a nutshell, the food is that awesome to justify the long lines. FYI, no reservations are taken, meaning it’s on a first come, first serve basis for serious meat-lovers.
Prior to the visit, I saw a special feature on TV covering this iconic restaurant and its impressive operations. First, they obtain the entire rib section of the cow, meticulously trim off excess fatty tissue, and then carefully cut the ribs and meat into “fillets.” The ribs – exactly 1,000 servings of beef shorts ribs to be exact – are then bathed in a sweet and aromatic soy sauce marinade that sits for hours to maximize flavors. Lastly, the short ribs are cooked over hardwood charcoals on an oil drum-like container where customers stand throughout the entire meal. That’s right, standing room only here, just as the restaurant name implies.
Disclaimer: Just some things to keep in mind. The place gets quite smoky with very limited ventilation and smoke vents, so I wouldn’t recommend for those who can’t stand their clothes from smelling like meat. Also, the place serves no rice and kimchi, but customers have the option to buy them at the local mom n pop convenient store located just down the street. Instant rice (햇반) and kimchi are ready for purchase.
Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Seo Seo Galbi (연남서서갈비)
109-69 Nogosan-dong, Mapo-gu (서울 마포구 노고산동 109-69번지)
Hours: 12pm ~ 2am, closed on 2nd Monday of the month
Click here for an interactive map: http://me2.do/FxZLAulz