Yongmun Kalbi Jip 용문갈비집 (Yongsan-gu, Seoul)

Established in 1973, Yongmun Kalbi Jip has catered mostly to locals looking for excellent barbecue in a uniquely smoky setting, reminiscent of another popular hotspot in Shinchon called Seo-seo Kalbi. Keeping things very old-school without modern conveniences (i.e. smoke vents), they instead rely on regular customers to prop open one of the many sliding doors when things get too unbearable. Although it does take some getting used to, you’ll love it if you’re a fan of BBQ smoke permeating everything in and around you (clothes included). And if the excess smoke doesn’t grab your attention, the retro garb (slightly resembling a traditional hanbok) worn by the hardworking ajummas will. Simply put, the restaurant exudes an old-school charm that’s hard to find in Seoul these days.

The food. Their signature dish is dweji kalbi (pork ribs) at 14,000 won per serving and their runner-up is samgyeopsal for 12,000 per person. We chose the dweji kalbi and it was fantastic. The meat stayed tender, juicy, and flavorful even when slightly overcooked – all good signs of properly marinated pork that’s been bathed and soaked in a sweet and garlicky infused soy sauce combination. With all the great BBQ joints in Seoul, serving quality meat is the most basic requirement. For me personally, the supporting cast (i.e. banchan) is just as important. Here you’ll get the following goodies (all refillable of course) to go with your gogi “meat”: lettuce varieties, carrot sticks n peppers, garlic, dongchimi (sweet water radish kimchi), pajeori (shaved leeks), mujeolim (pickled radish strips), and two different dipping sauces. If you get lucky, they’ll surprise you further with a palate cleansing kimchi mul naengmyeon (cold noodles w kimchi) and shikye (sweet rice punch) to round out the already fantastic meal. Unsurprisingly, we left the place feeling a few pounds heavier and happy knowing that we don’t have to travel far for good Korean barbecue.

Here are a few more thoughts that just popped into my head…

  • Fatefully ran into this restaurant after picking up a few things at nearby Yongmun Sijang, a local traditional market near the home, but totally misread the sign thinking it was a kalbi jjim (braised beef short ribs) place and not a kalbi jip (meaning “house” or “restaurant”).
  • Witnessed one of the workers (see pics below) meticulously butchering huge slabs of pork a few tables over during the meal. Most would shun such a sight, but I was impressed how skilled she was at filleting each piece while at the same time removing most of the fatty, sinewy, and tough pieces with great precision.
  • It’s very hard to find a barbecue place full of boisterous patrons on a sunny afternoon (that usually happens late at night) but this place was lively with older customers who looked right at home. And the absence of an audio system didn’t stop some of the patrons from singing their hearts out.

“Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us.” ~ Peter De Vries

Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars

Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars

Value: ★★★★ out of 5 stars

Yongmun Kalbi Jip

18-19 Yongmun-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

Phone: 02-712-3900

Hours: Open every day from 10am ~ 11pm

Click here for an interactive map: http://me2.do/GzHKOtcV

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