There’s always an interesting story when it comes to searching out these old-school restaurants, often hidden away in a back alleyway or crammed somewhere inside a traditional market. Jinju Okdol Jung is no exception. Despite the use of a navigation system, it had me riding in circles and second-guessing my food choice for the day. Now that I reflect back on that time, I can’t believe I almost gave up looking for this place because I would have missed out on one of the best dolsot baps.
After flagging down several halmonis nearby Jongro Sinjin Market, they pointed me in the right direction towards the grilled fish alley in Dongdaemun. Once I arrived, I could tell by signage and decor that the food would be good. And it sure was.
Recommended by the friendly owner, I was presented with a lovely and colorful spread of banchan and a main called Youngyang Dolsot Bap (11,000 won) — pretty much a healthier, heartier version of Dolsot Bibimbap. It’s seafood-heavy and, according to the owner, they use sagol yuksu (beef bone broth) to cook the rice in the stone pot, which is a common way to cook bibimbap in Jeonju (food capital of Korea). This little touch made a world of difference in taste and texture. The use of light soy sauce over gochujang (red pepper paste) was another plus, made even better with a healthy spread of banchan that, surprisingly, included the noble gulbi (yellow croaker/corvina) in the mix. All in all, it was a standout meal that left me feeling energized and satisfied.
Despite it being hard to find, I can understand why this hidden gem near Dongdaemun has been packing it in for over 45 years. There’s really no dish they don’t do well here, ranging from various types of bibimbap to nourishing soups and stews. If you’re around the Dongdaemun area for shopping or sightseeing, make sure to stop by this classic restaurant serving up traditional Korean fare.
Food: ★★★★½ out of 5 stars
Service: ★★★★ out of 5 stars
Ambiance: ★★★½ out of 5 stars
Value: ★★★★★ out of 5 stars
Jeonju Okdol Jung 전주옥돌정
Jongro 5ga 256, Jongro-gu (서울 종로구 종로5가 256)
Hours: Open every day 09:00 am ~10:00 pm, Sundays 9:00 am ~ 4:00 pm
Click here for an interactive map: http://naver.me/5s5jLq1a