I won’t give out names, but there are some eating establishments that shun picture-taking, which leaves me baffled and sometimes stressed because that means I need to do another online search. However, on this day it worked out in my favor as initial rejection led me to Hanil Sikdang, situated in the back alley maze known as saengsun-gui golmok “grilled fish alley” out of Jongro 3ga. This is not the more notable Dongdaemun Grilled Fish Street, but it’s pretty much the same concept, albeit downsized and less crowded. One thing that was clearly noticeable was the warm, friendly staff, who greeted me with a smile and had no qualms about taking as many pictures as I wanted. Furthermore, they kindly answered the countless questions I had about their 40+ year old restaurant and their main offering of saengsun gui and dolsot bap.
Not surprisingly, the meal was fantastic. The godeungeo gui (grilled mackerel) was smokey, fleshy, and juicy. There’s a considerable difference when food is grilled over charcoals — in this case, yeontan aka briquettes — because the intense heat sears the meat on the outside and traps in more juices. Absolutely delicious. I also love the dipping sauce consisting of wasabi and soy sauce, which adds even more flavor and heat. To round out the meal, you have dolsot bap to go along with the grilled fish. It’s rice cooked in a metal vessel (a traditional method of cooking rice dating back centuries) and it puts regular rice to shame. The rice has more texture and taste — not the mushy, plain variety that sits in the cooker all day, maybe all night.
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a more filling and satisfying meal with even better customer service, which is sometimes lacking when you eat at these old-school restaurants. Pictured is godeungeo gui (grilled mackerel) served with dolsot bap for 9,000 won — but I’ll be back to sample their other varieties that are supposed to be even more delectable.
Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★★ out of 5 stars
Hanil Sikdang 한일식당
Gwansu-dong 43-2, Jongro-gu (서울 종로구 관수동 43-2)
Hours: Open every day 7 am ~ 10 pm, closed 2nd & 4th Sunday of month
Click here for an interactive map: http://naver.me/FvGywU1w