I have been staying in Gwanak-gu (冠岳區) for almost a year. My life in Korea revolves around this area. Be it grocery, daily necessities, beauty products shopping or even settling my meals. Located just a few subways stops away from the posh and stylish Gangnam Station, my neighbourhood, Gwanak-gu (Seoul National University Station 서울대입구역) has its old-world charm that never fails to impress.
You can see low-rise shophouses, traditional markets that ooze historic charm in the alley that you least expected, and the little carts selling delicious street food around the area. It just looks straight out of a Korean drama from a foreigner’s lens. Famous for its majestic autumn scenery at the nearby Gwanak Mountain and also the fact that it houses the prestigious Seoul National University, the area consist of some really quiet cafes, popular brands and some quality eateries.
This quaint neighbourhood has developed into a hip and trendy 샤로수길 (Sya-rosugil) as of the year 2020. The surrounding described in the blog and this particular store may not be available. However, you’ll still find a lot of cute cafes, mat-jibs or pubs around the area as it is where students from the Seoul National University hang out after class.
I came to notice that despite staying for a considerably long time here, I didn’t write any review/ blog post about my area yet. So I decided to come up with a series of “SNU Station Gourmet” introducing good eateries around the school area. The first post for this series will be a cosy little Japanese Izakaya nearby the Seoul Nat’l University Station. To be precise, it is just 6 minute walk away from the station.
Izakaya Cho (아자카야 초) is located down in the alley between Angel-in-Us Coffee and Olive Young at SNU Station Exit No.2. People have been raving about this whole stretch of shophouses because of its unique charm. Stepping into the alley, you will find all kinds of different little bars/ restaurants along the way, just like a mini Itaewon. Although less polished than Itaewon ones could be, this stretch of mini shophouses (each could only accommodate 4 to 5 four-seater tables) is more localized with an exotic touch.
Interior of Izakaya Cho. As a mini izakaya, it sits very limited guests. A little squeezy as it can be, especially when it is a full house. However, if you come slightly earlier (about 6 pm in my case), you can pretty much enjoy a cosy pocket of personal space with your friends together. ^^ They bring in various kinds of sake in a different range of price. Look at the gorgeous display of the colourful boxes of sake at the izakaya!
For those who know the least about sake, fret not. The menu comes with a comprehensive introduction about the taste of the sake they carry for the season. More of a fan of dry and rich texture? Check the index box printed below each item. Prefer it sweet and light? No problem. Check the index and I am sure you’ll get something you like even if you are a total sake dummy! Do check their promotional sake as well!
View from the inside. Now you can imagine how tiny the izakaya is? Anyway, I also noticed the nice little makgeolli (Korean Rice Wine) place right opposite Izakaya Cho. I am definitely going to try it out very soon!
The atmosphere out there on the street feels a little like a movie scene. Relax, laid-back with the young and hip characteristics, this neighbourhood is definitely a place worth exploring if you happen to be somewhere nearby.
Before we start the night, the boss came with this big tray of a variety of porcelain sake cups. It was for the customers to choose a cup that he/she would like to use for the night. Quite gimmicky but I like the idea. ; )
My pretty little porcelain sake cup for the night. Pardon my chipping nail colour ><
Our iced Junmai sake for the night, as the boss recommended it to be served cool.
The sake tasted smooth and light, with a faint sweet scent. It leaves a light vanilla and rice fragrance after you swallow the cup down. A very pleasant drink with the sashimi and seafood udon hotpot I would suggest.
Chicken Karaage. It was very crispy on the outside, with the juicy-tender meat on the inside. The chicken was well marinated in some sauce which taste similar to ngoh-hiang (Malaysian/ Singaporean 5 spices). Somehow it tastes like home so it is good?
The 2nd dish of the night was Tuna Tadaki (たたき). Tuna fish is briefly marinated in vinegar and seared lightly on the outside. The generous peanut sauce was a nice match with the tuna. As it was minimally cooked, the fish still retains its melt-in-your-mouth texture.
I was pretty delighted to see the freshly grated wasabi served together with the dish. As more and more Japanese restaurants are serving their sashimi with processed, bulk-produced wasabi paste, you will definitely appreciate the effort put in there by the chef upon seeing the freshly grated wasabi here.
Beef salad. Tender grilled beef cubes with fresh vegetables in vinegar sauce. A simple and pleasant dish to savour with this huge packet of sake.
If you feel like having a night out with a small group of friends, this little Izakaya is probably a good choice. The dishes go pretty well with the sake. I really like this stretch of shophouses with a variety of themed minibars and cafes nearby the SNU subway station. For some reason, the minibars along this street have cosy outdoor seats that are really photogenic too!
Pricing is on the higher side considering it is around the campus area. The 4 of us spent KRW 20,000 each for the night (The total bill was KRW 80,000). The sake itself was KRW 40,000.
Izakaya Cho.아자카야 초
1604-8, Naksongdae-dong, Gwanak-gu, Seoul.
Korean version of the address:
서울시 관악구 낙성대동 1604-8
How to Get There: (click map to enlarge)
1. Coming out from Seoul National University Station 서울대입구역 (Line No.2) Exit 2, walk straight.
2. You should pass by a few big brands at your left hand side like: ABC Mart, Paris Baguette, Subway, Nong Hyup Bank (NH Bank) and finally, Angel-in-Us coffee.
3. Turn left into the junction. Take note that this junction should be in between Angel in Us Coffee and Olive Young drug store.