I have been in a state of perpetual hunger & poverty lately. I kid you not, what I have been eating as of recently mainly consist of tofu soup & more tofu soup. Although tofu is rich in protein, I still find my diet seriously in need of more of those organic compounds in their purer, better form (read: meat). So what do you do when you want meat but you have liquidity problem? Stick with (generous) friends, of course. I consider myself a lone wolf, but when my appetite calls, I suddenly become the richest man in the world surrounded by altruistic, big-hearted, noble and charitable souls.
Okay, long story short: I just had a terrific Korean BBQ meal for free. Guys, if you are reading this post: I am very grateful. My gratitude, though, does not necessarily compel me to treat you folks better.
Now let’s move on to the review.
This late afternoon, as we were walking around in Sinchon, I was mesmerized by the insanely gorg sunset. My friends, however, were feeling less poetic and surrendered to their rumbling stomaches. Grumpily I had to abandon my artistic side and led them walking the crisscross narrow smelly paths of Sinchon to find a Korean BBQ resto. I was feeling adventurous and decided that we would just pop by a random place. Somehow, 자연담은화로 (http://ja-dam.co.kr) caught our eyes: wooden interior, open space with outside seatings, and full of beautiful young people happily chatting over ruby-red beef sizzling on burning charcoal. The sheer sight of this communality touched my sentimental heart and in we went, mentally preparing for a feast.
The menu looks reasonable, I mean, 5900 to 14900 KRW for a portion of meat is not bad right? Pumped up, we ordered Samgyeopsal (pork belly), Galmaegi sal (skirtmeat), Heukdwaeji (black pig belly) and Dwaeji galbi (pork ribs).
So imagine how astonished we were when our meat came. The portions were excessively small :( yet we told ourselves that cheap = bad quality so in this case small quantity implies excellence meaning we should suck it up and enjoy what we can enjoy. Here are the skirtmeat (right) and samgyeopsal (left). They at least look fancy-ish:
Of all the four kinds we ordered, the samgyeopsal was everyone’s favorite. Very, very fresh, naturally sweet, and not at all gamey. Only lightly marinated, the meat still retained its natural flavors. I did not need to dip each morsel in any kind of sauce and wrap them with additional leaves or kimchi to enhance the taste. Each bite was perfect on its own. Perhaps that’s why 자연담은화로 did not give us any kind of wrapping leaves or a lot of sauce, they must be confident in their stuffs.
Skirtmeat is usually the cheap part of a pig/cow, but it was quite delicious here as well. The meat was marinated, I think, with the same sauce for the samgyeopsal, but for longer time. The result is a very tender morsel which actually had the melt-in-your-mouth quality when properly grilled. Kudos to the marinating sauce, though. I believe that it is a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic and pepper–the winning combination, period.
The black pork tasted almost as good as its counterpart I had in Jeju: very fatty, but not gamey. The pork fat did not feel gross and, for a lack of better word, oleaginous, but rather indulgent and richly satisfying. Makes sense? No? Yeah whatevs :P
The dwaji galbi was good, but not on the same par with the three previously mentioned stuffs. Usually I like dwaeji galbi, but at 자연담은화로, the meat is so fresh and delish that it tastes great just on its own. Marinated for too long, it simply loses the charm.
I should also mention the smart brazier here: the kimchi, garlic and onions were grilled along side with the meat just by leaving them in their designated ‘compartments’. I have a thing for grilled kimchi and garlic, so I was ecstatic to see them grill themselves beautifully there :)
This super cool free jumeokbab (rice balls; in this case: rice for you to roll into balls) consists of rice, fish roe, gim, and sesame oil. You are supposed to roll them into small balls and put them on the brazier to make them nice and crispy. Idiots we were, so we just ate them without grilling. Still very delish though.
I must say I was very impressed by 자연담은화로 and I think I have found myself a new favorite. Definitely a thousand times better than the numerous cheap, gross, greasy, smelly BBQ houses all over Sinchon. 자연담은화로 has 4 branches (Sinchon, Dongdaemun, Konkuk Univ area, and Gimpo-si). This is the review for 자연담은화로 in Sinchon.
자연담은화로 is easily reachable from Sinchon station: