Food Travel

A Desperate Moment in Mokdong – How I Spent My First Night of 2023 in Seoul

For someone who lives in the southwest of the Han River, Mokdong neighborhood is always on my radar when finding assorted matjib (맛집) which is a Korean made-up word for an eatery that provides delicious food. Last weekend, I, again, entrusted the area with hopes to celebrate the first night of the year with a fine piece of steak. Although I enjoyed exhaling foggy breaths, wandering through an area nearby Omogkyo Station (오목교역) looking for a steakhouse for dinner during the peak of Korea winter wasn’t a piece of cake. 

The restaurants on top of my list that serve thick slices of cooked beef with good reviews include Gentle Siktang (젠틀한식탁 목동본점), Yangsiktang Hodune (양식당호두네), and Omokyoi Haruilgwa (오목교의 하루일과). In case you are seeking for guaranteed western cuisines in Seoul, put a pin on these three – there are hundreds of Naver blog posts appraising them online. 

Despite going through Naver Smart Place, a platform for store owners to register their business information, to see if the dining spots of my choices were open that day, my evening plan was ruined from lacking such announcements of closing periods during special occasions; such as a New Year break. 

Tun and I arrived at the Gentle Siktang storefront located close to Exit 8 of the Omogkyo Station around 6:30PM, and were immediately disappointed to see the darkness looming out of the diner’s glassed walls. The similar sight of idleness applied for the Yangsiktang Hodune located only a few meters away. It was a sharply frosty evening as we ventured to the other side of the station under the temperature of 10 degrees celsius below zero. Proximately located around Exit 1, Omokyoi Haruilgwa, the last eatery on my list, too, wasn’t available. And so were most of the restaurants in the area. 

At that moment, my trembling limbs and squealing tummy protested the yearning for a chunk of beef – any food in any eating house with heating systems now would do. Forgot about the New Year treat I was looking forward to. Any warm corner now was what I needed so I could escape the torturing glacial gust before my frozen hands would get knocked out and shattered into million pieces of bloody confetti. It really was a bad day for not bringing winter gloves.

As we were about to give up and head home for some instant ramyeon, a warm ray of light caught my partner’s attention. A few seconds later, it caught mine too. It was the light shone from a Japanese diner named Kumakase. We stopped momentarily and saw that the place was partially occupied, and a couple of waitresses were roaming around with trays full of plates and bowls in their hands. And a minute later, we found ourselves sitting cozily on their tatami covered floor. Yes. We ended up commemorating our first night of the year in Korea with Japanese food which turned out to be a merit to make up for all the disappointments. Read about my experience at Kumakase in my upcoming entry.