Yangkkochi (양꼬치) are lamb skewers that are eaten often in China, according to the owners of this restaurant located in Yongdeung-po. Being accustomed to flipping flat pieces of gogi on a grill, Koreans have found this skewer and kabob culture to be quite unique, which has ignited its growing popularity. Rather than it being eaten under a sophisticated atmosphere under dimmed lights and comfortable chairs, lamb skewers are often eaten as "an-joos", which are appetizers that are eaten with alcoholic drinks, most often soju and beer in Korea. Ho-woo Yangkkochi, which also specializes in lamb skewers, is the same with a very pojangmacha (small tented restaurants) feel, but it's not necessary to drink alcohol to enjoy the delicious food they offer.
With an intriguing way of eating and customer service that truly made the meal experience as well as the food itself much better, this joseon-jok (Koreans in China) owned restaurant will open your eyes to some delectable Chinese dishes that are much different than the trite Koreanized Chinese food that can be attained anywhere and at any time in this peninsula.
Being in the midst of shiny restaurant signs that advertise their latest food offer, Ho-woo is unfortunately a very passable restaurant. Unlike many other restaurants in that neighborhood, Ho-woo doesn't try to be conspicuous -- instead, it seems to trust the quality of its food as its main advertisement. In terms of decoration, there's nothing much outside the doors except some portable chairs, in which my sisters actually sat on as we waited for seats to be emptied inside the restaurant. Quite a few were stacked, which probably means that having a line of waiting customers is quite common at this location.
This is the only banner that the restaurant had out and it just showcased their primary delicacies, which are all different parts of sheep meat -- half of them on skewers and the other half on bones.
You can see that Ho-woo is primarily a night restaurant where alcohol is frequently visible among customers simply by their closing time. Closing past midnight at 2:30 am daily, this restaurant is open to people who are in for a drink after enjoying themselves with friends or coworkers at clubs, norae-bangs, etc.
Something I've mentioned in previous posts about Korean "mat-jibs" or "delicious restaurants" is that a restaurant's popularity is gauged significantly by its popularity. By this I mean, if people are waiting in line to eat at a certain restaurant or if celebrities have visited that restaurant from word of mouth, then that restaurant becomes that much more popular, thus perpetuating the vicious circle of popularity.
Like many famous mat-jibs in Korea, this restaurant is also decorated completely with signatures and pictures of popular celebrities. To think that at one point, a nationwide popular celebrity ate at this restaurant being surrounded by fans asking him or her for a signature might seem strange to us, but to the owners of this restaurant it's no reason to create a commotion.
Since there were too many people at the restaurant, it was difficult for us to get clear photographs of how the interior design looked, including the tables and chairs, but overall, it was nothing too significantly unique. The set up of each table was quite distinct, but more information about the tables and the way the food is eaten will be described on the "How does it taste?" section.
Overall, the atmosphere of the restaurant was very busy and it was not the quietest atmosphere since it was bustling with people having incessant conversations while drinking some beer. It wasn't so loud as to prevent us from hearing each other, but if you're looking to find a serene restaurant with soothing music playing in the background, you'll either have to visit this place when not too many people are around or go some place else. If the atmosphere is not anywhere in your priorities, however, continue reading as the restaurant places the food, not the atmosphere, as its most important priority.
After waiting a few minutes as employees ran back and forth trying to accommodate a table for five, one of the employees handed my sisters and my father an apron that only covered the waist down. At first, we thought it was a bit obscure, but soon we realized that they were the only ones wearing shorts. The aprons were used to prevent the heat from the burning coals on the table from being too close to my sisters and father's bare legs underneath the table. I was personally wearing jeans and to be honest, it didn't feel hot at all, so the heat from the coals wasn't at all distracting while we ate our food.
Nevertheless, as soon as we sat on our table, we realized that instead of having the usual flat grill on the center of the table, there was a rectangular space where the burning coals were placed. It was completely open, as in it was not covered with a grill, so initially it seemed quite dangerous. Although it's not seen specifically in the following photograph, there are two floors with only two thin metal bars placed vertically on each floor. Later we would realize that the skewers are placed atop those bars for the meat to cook right above the flaming coal.
Each person also had a plate with what seemed to be a mixture of spices sprinkled on one side. At first, it was a mystery trying to find out what it was going to be used for, but again, we soon realized that it wasn't there just for decoration.
Each one of us also received some warm egg soup (계란국) to get our taste buds started. Apart from that, there were four different types of banchan, which were all actually really good. Although I didn't like the onions very much, the buchu-kimchi, kkakdugi kimchi and salted roasted peanuts were amazing. Each had its own charm and although it may not seem like it, they were packed with flavor. I personally rotated among the two kimchis and peanuts constantly, so we ended up needing to get refills for these three quite often. The waiters here actually catch that these banchan plates are empty quickly and refill them before you can ask them for more.
The restaurant's original specialty is the Lamb Skewer, so that's the first food item we ordered. Each order contained a cluster of 10 skewers, so seeing that our entire family was here, we ordered 3 orders; therefore, we received 30 lamb skewers on a plate.
At first, we didn't know exactly what to do so an employee came and helped us get started. We layered about a dozen of the skewers on the bottom floor and waited for the meat to start cooking. It didn't take long for the meat to start softening and turning into its hazel-colored cooked form.
After a few minutes, the first dozen we layered on the grill was completely cooked. In order to prevent any of the skewers from burning, we placed the cooked skewers on the top floor, where we freely began to grab the skewers to finally have a taste of the meat.
It was finally time to taste the meat, and I personally used my chopsticks to push the meat off the metal skewers. In terms of quantity, it amounted to not being too much, but the quality and flavor of this lamb meat was fantastic. The lamb meat was extremely tender and my mouth never got tired of the taste. It got better by the skewer -- perhaps it was because there was a limited amount, which naturally forced me to savor each piece of meat more. Since it was cooked right above burning coals, the meat was juicy and every bit of the meat was cooked, both inside and out.
Remember the spices that we were given when we first arrived at our table? We realized that this was when these spices were used. Each meat skewer, if you hadn't caught it yet, was layered with a light coating of these spices when the meat was raw, but it seems like customers wanted more of these spices coating the cooked meat to give it even more of that strong aromatic flavor. I personally couldn't agree more. I couldn't stop rolling my meat on these spices and covering them up, not to mask the taste of the meat but to allow the two tastes to fuse with one another. Overall the spice wasn't spicy, but it did offer a slight kick that made cloaking the meat with this spice very addicting.
This is the tray that employees carry with the different spices that can be used to dip the lamb meat. At times, they went around and refilled our spices when we used most of it on our plates.
This employee was one of the primary reasons why our meal was so enjoyable here. He seemed to be in charge of our table, seeing that he was walking around our table the most and helping us out when we were confused by this different culinary culture. What stood out the most about him was that he had a great sense of humor mixed with a desire to make his customers feel relaxed and comfortable. In Korea, he would be considered a sense-jaeng-ee (샌스쟁이), which literally means "someone with good sense," because he was always open to interact with us and make us laugh while we enjoyed our meal. He actually posed to help my father take some pictures even though my father had never asked him to do so, which most employees at most restaurants wouldn't dare do out of sheer embarrassment. He did his job with excellence and with a heart for the customer, not only his paycheck.
We asked this employee if it was okay if he could take pictures around the restaurant for our blog, and after wholeheartedly allowing our request, he actually gave us a dish of steamed clams as service as a sign of gratitude to us for promoting their restaurant. Jokingly, he asked my dad to promote and review them in a good way by taking good pictures of the restaurant, and we would have done that even if he hadn't asked us to do so.
In terms of the taste, each steamed clam was quite small but it really filled your mouth with a powerful taste of fresh clam as I sucked the clam out of the shell. There was no added taste to the clam so it was very original and genuine. Although it may not be the best choice to order as a meal, getting it to accompany your soju or beer might be a more appealing choice.
After savoring every bit of the delicious and savory lamb skewers, we ordered one order of Lamb Ribs, just to give it a try.
For five people to eat, it really didn't amount to much, but I enjoyed my two pieces of lamb rib. They were cooked well and despite being ribs, the meat slipped out of the bone quite smoothly. Personally, I didn't think it was anything extraordinary, but it was delicious nonetheless. Instead of dipping this meat on the spices, however, our aforementioned employee suggested we dip it on some salt to liven its flavor.
After filling half of our stomachs with meat, we decided to taste some non-meat Chinese delicacies that this restaurant famously served. There were quite a few options, but we ordered a dish of Mapa Tofu Rice and the famous Corn Noodles, which were among the most traditional Chinese cuisine options on the menu.
The Mapa Tofu Rice was essentially some mapo tofu covering some white rice that was waiting to be mixed together with the spicy sauce. All sorts of ingredients were inside the sauce, ranging from nuts to vegetables, but the most significant and important ingredient was undoubtedly the tofu itself. The tofu was solid yet very soft and the spiciness of the sauce really added a ton of flavor to the entire dish. It was indeed quite spicy so I needed to drink some water while tasting this dish but I did find myself trying to get another spoonful frequently.
Last but not least, the Corn Noodles. Oh the corn noodles. The corn noodles are called that way not because the broth is made out of corn or because it contains corn, but rather because the noodles are presumably made out of corn. While tasting the noodles, I wouldn't have thought that they were made of corn because it was virtually untasteable, which might be a delight to corn-haters or a disappointment to corn-maniacs. All that to say that despite being called corn noodles, the corn was almost nowhere to be seen in this specialty, which to me actually came as a relief.
Nevertheless, these noodles were plain out amazing. It was probably one of the best noodles I've ever tasted and a dish that I will be craving for a while. The noodle itself doesn't taste like anything special, but the broth's eerie spicy taste was exceptional. The broth taste reminded me a bit of jjampong, which is a spicy Chinese noodle dish, except the corn noodles didn't have the heaviness of the oiliness or spiciness of the jjampong broth. For me, everything was just right about these noodles that automatically released exclamations of awe every time I tasted a spoonful of the broth. It's actually a really simple dish that doesn't require too many ingredients, but from the mixture of flavors you get while eating this, you'll find that difficult to believe.
We actually ended up eating quite a bit of food and it was filling and enlightening. I really enjoyed the food as well as the atmosphere and it was great tasting a very diverse plethora of flavors under one specific historic culture. Although it was a bit pricey, the food was phenomenal here, so if you're in for some skewers, this is one restaurant you have to visit.
The meal menus, in Korean known as "shik-sa", are cheaper and therefore more affordable. Starting with 6,000 won corn noodles to the most expensive meals being 10,000 won, these dishes and bowls are really worth your money.
I'd say the more expensive menu items are the drinks, with prices ranging from 2,000 won for soft drinks and 5,000 won for this restaurant's famous Tsing-Tao Beer to a mere 75,000 won for some of their most expensive Chinese traditional drinks. Seeing how prevalent alcohol is in this restaurant, I'm sure that one of their main venues of profit come from their sale of the incredibly diverse drinks available at this restaurant.
Overall, our family of five ate 50,000 won worth of food, only to be completely full as we left the restaurant. So if you're with a group of people, you might only have to pay a fraction of the total expensive cost for this food.
Location : Seoul Yeongdungpo Yeongdungpo dong 3ga 7-25(Yeonjungro10gil 6)