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I rarely write restaurant reviews as it seems that anyone can do it (how well or how ethically is something else, though); it’s far too reminiscent of the ‘cash for comment’ scandal from back home; and if it’s a terrible place then they don’t deserve mentions OR if it’s an awesome place I’d rather not have to fight the masses for a table. Though to be fair, this is more a review of one dish since only a glutton would “order” eight dishes (for some people, ‘order’ means “I’ll write only favourable reviews in exchange for free food”, see ‘cash for comment’ above or any of the food bloggers in Korea when they are called out for being shameless shills).
Years ago I’d have lunch with an old Guardian journalist where we’d chew the fat over a meal. His beat wasn’t restaurant reviews (he used to write about East/West Germany) but occasionally he’d be called upon to fill those shoes. I can see how being a shill can be appealing since the first thing I naively asked him was whether he would tell the restaurant he was reviewing that he was reviewing them. I’ll never forget the look of shock on his face. He said that the reviewer should not have been influenced by the restaurant to write positive reviews since the point of the review is that every customer, whether prince or pauper, food blogger (shudder…) or bon vivant, gets the exact same service. You could be the most saintly person on the planet (you aren’t) and claim that despite being invited to a restaurant your review is completely unbiased, but your readers will still think you were influenced to write only nice things about the restaurant. Besides, invite implies you will be given free food, so please don’t write that you “ordered” your several course meal, enough drinks to drown a whale, and desserts.
In Korea, some food bloggers used to (and possibly still do) threaten restaurants with negative reviews if they didn’t receive a freebie (called ‘service’ here). For more on food blogging and WHY????!!, here’s something from Huffington Post. My favourites are below. You’d be surprised how many food bloggers are guilty of No. 3 in the culinary and literary wasteland that is Seoul, even though all were at some point employed as English teachers.
3. You have poor/nonexistent grammar skills. Sorry, but you really need to hear this: if you don’t know how to construct a proper sentence, at least to an acceptable degree, it hurts to read your blog posts. Like, it causes me physical pain. I’m not asking you to become a semicolon ninja; rather — for the love of god — use whole words instead of abbreviations, read up on the proper use of punctuation, and memorize the difference between there/their/they’re.
4. You’re a shill… for just about everyone. As bloggers, a lot of us write the occasional sponsored post. That’s fine, but don’t let them take over your blog just so you can accept every invitation that comes your way. You may have killer recipes, but if I have to sift through a ton of “Here’s me on a farm with ten other bloggers!” “Here’s me in the Lara Bar test kitchen!” “Here’s the president of Jamba Juice handing me a box of branded aprons!” I’ll get bored and stop coming back. Why? Because no matter what PR people think, brand stories are incredibly boring and are easier to tolerate when posted only occasionally.
Now, dear reader, on to my meal.
I ordered the Hanger Steak on my old roommate’s recommendation. She was the first and probably the only roommate I’ll ever have because I always wanted to have a roommate. She was also most likely the best possible roommate to have; she’d be away most weekends so the cats and I had free rein over the apartment.
The steak is called hanger steak because it is the diaphragm of the animal so it just hangs there. I always knew it by its other name, Butcher’s Steak, since it is usually kept by the butcher as it is the best part (so they say). You’d be amazed at what butchers keep for themselves. After all, a good butcher would know the best cuts of meat.
The 24-hour slow-cooked steak was probably as tender as you could get a steak to be before it spontaneously falls apart. It came with fries (almost as ubiquitous as kimchi these days; can we not have have chips instead?), topped with parmesan and chimichurri. Parmesan on fries seems to be a trend in Korea. Thankfully these were not sprinkled with sugar and doused with sweet cream. For me, the chimichurri should have had more garlic; I’m a garlic fiend; and less vinegar. The gravy had hints of pepper to it, which always goes well with steak. Priced at 20,000 won, it was as far as I recall the most expensive dish on their lunch menu but definitely worth it.
I ordered a Moscow Mule as a palate cleanser between bites of tender steak. For 8000 won, it was rather small, barely larger than those mugs you see middle-aged men attach to their backpacks when they go hiking. But it was lunch time on a Saturday and I wouldn’t want to be tipsy on a weekend. The bar also had a much wider selection of whiskies than I would have thought.
How to get there
Here’s a map. The name in Korean is 더비이스트로. Here’s their Facebook page.
Korean address is 서울시 마포구 서교동 358-32 2층 121-838
Ph: 02 334 2500