CJ Lunch Bar | Seoul Metro | Mook Ji Bar
I find that my lifestyle has changed a fair bit since I’ve been with Fatbee. Frequent alternating stay-overs, roster waltzing and synchronisation, plus the occasional fun homecooking project. We’re also exploring a fair segment of the CBD’s cheap eats. This post will cover some of the Korean spots along Lonsdale St and Little Lonsdale St.
CJ Lunch Bar
This little nook residing right next to Gypsy & Pig (and opposite The Hardware Societe) is almost consistently busy, especially during work lunch hour. But thankfully, turnover’s very quick and if you haven’t got a big group, a table frees up pretty quick.
And the premise is simple, order at the counter. Point out where you’re sitting, then grab your water, cutlery and napkins from the self-serve station right next to the counter. With your meal, you’ll also automatically get a serve of kim chi side dishes and a few slices of fruit.
Pork Bulgogi $15
Wok-fried Marinated Pork with Spicy Sauce on the sizzling plate
Don’t worry about the chaos and noise, within a few minutes nothing will matter anymore. First you’ll hear a delightful sizzle, then a chirpy “ess-kew meeee!!”… and **BAM**… your food’s in front of you.
This was a good dish… sizzling hot, spicy-sweet and flavoursome.
Silken Tofu with Calms, Egg and Enoki Mushroom served boiling hot in a stew
Looking at the menu, we wanted a non-spicy stew to go with spicy pork bulgogi. But of course, what we picked turned out to be another spicy number. This is what happens when you’re not familiar with Korean dish names. =)
But it was still quite an enjoyable dish, almost reminiscent of a kimchi stew with a seafood slant. The silken tofu’s texture was lovely, but I thought the clams could’ve tasted less ‘clammy’ (ie. fresher).
It’s an incredibly no-frills place with swift service and pretty good food. Fatbee loves the ambience here because it really reminds him of the messy, chaotic hole-in-the-wall eateries in Asia. Funnily, that’s the exact reason why I wasn’t as keen on this place, preferring someplace a touch more… civilised. Such a princess, me… ha ha ha!
The next eatery ventures into the realm of quirky, with this Korean joint that’s situated INSIDE A CARPARK!
This place was recommended by one of Fatbee’s friends and compared to CJ Lunch Bar, it was very quiet the weeknight that we’d visited. The fitout was simple, with one side of the eatery featuring a large map of the Metro system in Seoul, hence its name.
Korean Galbi (beef ribs) hot pot stew $35
with carrot, potato, sweet potato noodles in a sweet soy sauce broth
We were feeling adventurous… so rather than sticking with the usual suspects of bibimbaps / samgyetangs / bulgogis, since it was one of those cooler evenings this summer, we picked a hot pot stew to share.
Fatbee really liked it…. fall-off-the-bone tender beef ribs, and a very comforting sweet broth.
Indonesian stews tend to have some presence of kecap manis (sweet black sauce), so I think there were familiar parallels here which made it more accessible for Fatbee. For me, the broth was too sweet for my liking, but I’ll concede that all the ingredients simmering in there were good.
Hard to make a call with a place just from one dish. There are so many other dishes in this eatery, so there’s scope to explore more of the menu!
Update: we revisited in winter and had the Budae Jjigae (army stew) there:
Budae tchigae $29
ham, sausage, pork, vegetables, tofu, sweet potato starch noodle, kimchi and ricecake in hot pot with 2 bowls of rice
It’s a very odd sounding combination indeed, with SPAM, corned beef, bacon, cocktail sausages, stretchy cheese, baked beans et al. in the mix alongside with more Korean components like spicy sauce, kimchi and sweet potato noodle.
My initial instinct would be to say “ewwww”… but to be honest, I’ve grown to like these army stews. They contained all the unhealthy but umami-laden tinned stuff that I’d grown up eating in Singapore in a unique stew. And best of all, it wasn’t sweet!
And the history behind this dish is interesting too – Budae Jjigae was created after the Korean War when food was scarce, and people had to make use of surplus supplies from the US Forces’ Korean bases to survive.
Mook Ji Bar
The final place we’re covering is just a short stroll away from ‘Carpark Korean’. And for some reason, we’d continued on our adventurous eating pathway and ordered some rather unusual dishes here.
Real Hot Chicken (Small Size – Very Spicy) $17
First up were these spicy fried chicken. They had different grades of spiciness that you can ask for… from Very Spicy to Little Spicy. Our waiter looked alarmed when we decided to challenge ourselves with ‘Very Spicy’, telling us how a group of girls the day before couldn’t go beyond one piece of before giving up. But we stood to our guns and said ‘bring it on!’.
But ahem… let’s just say that we also couldn’t finish this dish. The sauce was CRAZY SPICY indeed, and it was that kind of instant, smack-in-yer-face type of chilli hotness rather than the slow-but-steady creeping hotness that you get with Thai dishes. Fatbee managed three pieces while I had to stop at five.
Mul-naengmyeon – Cold Noodle Soup $12
Ice cold beef broth with steamed sliced beef, sliced vegetables on chewy noodles
To accompany the spicy wings, we once again looked for something non-spicy. This time we got more than we’d bargained for, with a buckwheat noodle soup floating in… crushed ice!
This dish… was also a struggle to finish, probably because it was like eating an iced dessert that’s savoury and it messed with our brains entirely. Ice cold boiled eggs and refrigerated sliced beef, anyone? The broth and sliced vegetables came quite pickly / vinegary (that is the style of the dish), which also wasn’t appetising. And that acidity didn’t settle well in the stomach alongside with the incredibly spicy chicken wings.
We walked out of this restaurant with with both dishes unfinished and our tummies rumbling in pain. But let me make it clear that this was entirely our fault for trying to be adventurous! This is the reason why I sometimes stick with old familiar dishes, and only venture out rarely, or only when I have a food guide who’s familiar with what’s good. Still, it makes for some pretty hilarious eating memories…!