Friday 14 August 2015

Palsaek Samgyeopsal (팔색삼겹살) ~ Mapo-gu

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Click the card to zoom in for directions!

Palsaek Samgyeopsal, one of the most popular samgyeopsal restaurants in Seoul is a must-go for it's special 8 colored pork. The ever-helpful receptionist at Cozybox provided us with a map when we asked for directions to Palsaek.

Here are some visual aides to help you get there easily.

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We walked into the Sinchon subway station to exit at Exit 7. There will be a huge roundabout when you exit the station.

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Across the road, you'll see KEB Bank. Cross the road towards KEB Bank.

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Walk up the sloping road until you see Kia Motors.

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The restaurant is right next to Kia Motors. You'll be greeted by this small entrance with a traditional roof.

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Palsaek Samgyeopsal has spread its wings beyond Korea to Japan, Malaysia, the US, Australia and China. Links to the Malaysian branches based in KL are available at the end of this post.

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Walk down the narrow stairs with walls covered in celebrity endorsements, celebrity photos and features from reality TV shows.

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For the day, they had been open for 2,813 days. All the people pictured here are actually in the waiting area. There is a register where you leave your name and number of diners and you hang around till you're called. We waited for a good 20 minutes till it was our turn.

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Before you even order, your table is laden with greens and condiments. The kimchi is constantly cooking on the hot plate so it has a slight stir-fry flavor which is quite nice. I also like the fact that their kimchi is a mixture of cabbage and beansprouts. The cabbage had too much acidity so I stuck to the beansprouts.

The dipping sauce is a salty bean sauce with hints of sesame oil. Lightly dip the pork slices in here. It's a nice condiment for the pork.

The shallow pot filled with vegetables, seafood, meat and tofu may be a little salty for the palette but there's good reason for that. There's some gochujang hidden at the bottom of the pot so watch the soup turn into a beautiful red when it starts boiling.

There's a wide variety of leaves but not all are refillable at their self-service salad bar. The kimchi and lettuce is refillable.

A bunch of mushrooms gives you a rest from the pork flavors. A lovely side dish that provides you some neutral flavors while you consume the hearty pork belly.

You start off with choosing a pork set. It's either the 3 color set (for 2 people). Zoom in for a clearer view!

8 color set for 3-4 people. Zoom in for a clearer view!

Or the premium set that comes with an additional side dish. Zoom in for a clearer view!

Most people are here for the 8 color set which comprises of Ginseng, Red Wine, Pine Leaves, Garlic, Herb, Curry, Miso paste and Spicy marinated pork. Pick your poison then sit back and watch the waiter do all the work. They will do the cooking, cutting and everything else except the eating. Oh, you have to fill up your own water bottle, as usual.

I missed a photo of the first 4 because the waitress worked too fast.

Indeed each roll of pork belly had a different color and it was an interesting visual affair.

Along with the 8 color set, we decided to try a 100g slab of unmarinated pork belly.

The waiter will place the pork in the same sequence as its position on the wooden plank so you can refer quickly and know what you're eating.

There's no oil used so they claim that the meat served is 'good for your health' and tasty.

Pictured here is the first 4 pork belly (ginseng, red wine, pine leaves and garlic) and the unmarinated pork belly on the hot plate. It cooks in its own fat giving you a 100% pork flavor.

My favorite among the first four was the ginseng. The ginseng gave the meat a nice herby taste. The red wine only had a hint of the citrusy alcoholic flavor after being cooked. The pine leaves had an interesting flavor. Fresh but mild, it still managed to cut through the 'porky smell' to give you a fragrant piece of pork. The garlic flavored pork had a surprisingly light aroma of garlic and was rather pleasant to the palette.

The marinades were infused very well into the meat, eliminating all potential 'porky smell'. The unmarinated pork belly however was quite painful to eat. The pork smell was very strong and I stopped eating it after the first piece.

The cube of radish has a special function - to clear all the burnt pork bits and oil into the little U-shaped hole of the hot plate. Quite ingenious.

See all the previous pork slices arranged at the other side of the hot plate while the new batch of pork cooks? Smart. The last 4 pork belly was herb, curry, miso paste and gochujang. The curry flavored pork was a little strange as we're used to heavily spiced curry. This one has strong notes of turmeric which also provides color to the meat. The miso paste flavored pork was collectively the favorite of the table. The salty bean paste marinade gave the meat a delicious salty, earthy flavor and seasoned the meat so well that pieces of this flavor was the first to disappear off the table. I liked the gochujang flavored pork as well but it lacked that spiciness that I craved for.

Greedy, we ordered a portion of cheese fried rice which comprised of cooked rice, roasted sesame seeds, fish eggs, some perilla leaves for aroma, shredded seaweed....

And of course, cheese.

We made a mistake when drinking the seafood soup at the beginning. A little DIY happened and the soup was diluted to make it more palatable. However, it resulted in a less tasty stock for the fried rice. When we explained this to the waiter, he said not to worry, it will still be alright.

In went the rice mixture, thoroughly mixed with the stock.

Flattened to maximize the cooking surface.

Then top with cheese.

The tasty cheese did help to add flavor to the fried rice but I found the leek flavors in the soup rather overwhelming so I didn't enjoy this fried rice very much.

We heared an 'oooh' from the next table as we scooped up the cheese fried rice - this was probably the reason.

Some reviews may say that the restaurant is gimmicky and a tourist trap but I beg to defer. The majority of its patrons were Korean (the hotel receptionist mentioned that Palsaek Samgyeopsal is her favorite food) and they serve good pork bbq. The atmosphere however leaves a lot to be desired and you'll leave smelling like the restaurant. The scent was still on us after the long walk back to the hotel.

Reviews for the Mapo-gu branch is available at pigpigscornerfreakzspeaks and hardtoplz.
Palsaik Samgyeopsal is available in KL as well, there's one branch in Solaris Mont Kiara (reviews are available here and here) and another in Scott Garden (review is available here). By the looks of it, it's very similar to the Korean one so you may not need to travel all the way to Seoul to try this.


Here's a summary of what we ate during our trip, click the image below for a larger view.

Kindly compiled by my extremely efficient travel finance manager, the excel sheet for the above image is available here.