Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Week of Fish Day Five

Week of Fish

This sneaky Blemy camouflages itself well amongst the rocks and weeds.

Mutton Beer Hope

Mutton Beer Hope HDR

If I had a mantra, I feel that this might be it. Found in the Russian quarter near Shanghai Street in Busan.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Week of Fish Day Four

Week of Fish

Rays at play. These cheeky little youngsters were having a whale of a time in their small tank.

Haeundae Beach Blues

Haeundae Beach Blues HDR

I remember the first time I went to Haeundae beach in Busan. I was stunned by the number of umbrellas. Hundreds, thousands of them. A sea of parasols.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Week of Fish Day Three

Week of Fish

This ferocious looking King Crab may look scary now, but if you head to one of the fantastic crab restaurants on the east coast you'll discover him to be as tasty a crustacean as you could wish for.

Moon Scrapers

Moon Scrapers HDR

The Arpina Youth Hostel has surprisingly good views of the many unfinished skyscrapers of Busan from its rooms...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Week of Fish Day Two

Week of Fish

Not to be confused with the Sea Horse, this is actually a Sea Dragon, though its fire breathing capabilities are limited.

The Best Damn Fried Dumplings in Korea

Down by Busan station at the entrance to Shanghai Street lies 홍성방. This rather ordinary looking Chinese restaurant is a secret dumpling paradise that is well worth a visit.

Dumplings in Busan

The menu has the usual Korean Chinese standards, but it's the 군만두 (fried dumplings) for 5,000 won that should be the highest priority.

Wait. There's something I have to confess: I have a passion for Chinese dumplings.

When I was a boy, heading to the Paddyfield's restaurant in Oxford for dimsum lunches on a Saturday was the ultimate foodie treat. The promise of crispy, chewy ginger filled meat parcels was almost too much for my young heart to bear.

My dumpling obsession continued with visits to Chinatown in Yokohama when I was a teenager and then Chinese restaurants in London when I was a student; but when I came to Korea things changed.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Korean Chinese dumplings. I love 찐만두 (steamed dumplings) and 물만두 (boiled dumplings) as much as the next man, but 군만두 are almost always disappointing. They look great, but the first bite belies their appearance. Over the years I've come to accept fried dumpling disappointment as par for the course, but things have changed thanks to 홍성방.

Dumplings in Busan

So, back to these delicious dumplings. They look exquisite, they're perfectly crispy on the outside, but when you bite into them something special happens. After the initial crunch there is the most satisfying of chews. Thanks to a very special recipe the dumpling skins provides an incredible sensation in your mouth: A brittle stickiness that is enhanced from the fragrant ginger coming from the meaty filling. 5,000 won buys you a little plate of Busan dumpling heaven and you'd be a fool to miss out.

Dumplings in Busan

The 찐만두 (5,000 won) are also very good, but they lack the satisfying crunch of the fried dumplings.

Dumplings in Busan

The 짜장면 (black bean noodles for 4,000 won) is better than most places, the black bean sauce tastes of home rather than a factory, with hints of honey lying in the dark noodle depths.

Dumplings in Busan

However, it is the fried dumplings that are the ultimate draw to this restaurant and thanks to the skills of their Taiwanese chef, they provide (in my opinion) the best damned fried dumplings in the whole of the peninsula.

Dumplings in Busan

Plus as an added bonus for Park Chan-wook fans, the restaurant was used as one of the locations for Oldboy. I'm sure Oh Dae-su would recognize these dumplings straight away.

Dumplings in Busan

To get to this delicious little place head down to Busan subway station exit 1 and make your way to the entrance of Shanghai street. The restaurant is on the left hand side of the gate. You can call them on 051 467 3682.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Week of Fish Day One

Hello and welcome to my rather inaccurately named "Week of Fish" (warning - some posts may contain crustaceans or other strange inverterbrates).

Whenever I go to Busan, I usually end up spending a couple of hours at the Haeundae aquarium. So over the next seven days I'd like to bring you my favourite photos of my fishy friends from this latest visit.

Week of Fish

First up the beautiful Zebra Moray Eel. Fairly cute compared to some of its cousins...

Anna Bini

The basement of "THE WORLD'S LARGEST DEPARTMENT STORE" may hold some cheap tasty treats, but it's the ninth floor where more serious eaters lurk. Alongside the Macaroni Market Grill and some pricey Korean restaurants is the Anna Bini Trattoria.

Anna Bini

It's a small square shaped restaurant with the Kitchen placed at the centre, so it feels as if you're eating in a delicate glass sided alleyway. It's not unpleasant, but the place does have a slightly odd feel.

The food is not cheap (you're looking at almost 20,000 won for a plate of pasta), but if you have a hankering for Italian nosh and your money is burning a hole in your wallet then you may as well head here.

I opted for the spaghetti alla gorgonzola con filetto di manzo grigliata (sauteed beef and cream spaghetti with gorgonzola cheese) for 19.500 won as well as a plate of fritti misto (deep fried seafood) for 15,800 won.

Anna Bini

While waiting for the dishes to arrive, we were served a rather odd bread hot plate. A selection of different breads with the addition of a small potato and a slice of purple corn. It's certainly not something I've seen before in an Italian restaurant, but the odd combination worked well and the parsley dipping oil provided was delicious.

Anna Bini

The crispy insects and inverterbrates of the sea came out first and were perfectly cooked and delightfully crispy on the outside. A modest portion for the price, but tasty enough.

Anna Bini

Next, the main event. Overcooked beef can often be a let down with this dish, but the bite sized morsels of steak were still beautifully bloody and the rich gorgonzola cream sauce was far better than most Korean Italian offerings. Plenty of mushrooms, plenty of steak, a well made plate of pasta that's bound to satisfy.

Anna Bini

Not everything about the restaurant is perfect, some of their english translations could lead to great confusion...

Anna Bini

To get the Anna Bini Trattoria head to the Shinsaegae Department Store at Centum City Station in Busan and go up to the ninth floor. You can call them on 051 745 1953 or visit their website here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Down by Centum City Subway Station in Busan is a building that is officially recognized by Guinness World Records as "THE WORLD'S LARGEST DEPARTMENT STORE". 신세계 샌텀시티 is massive, but the phrase "department store" may be a little misleading.

It is in fact a collection of shops, restaurants, perfume counters, alongside an ice rink, cinema, luxury spa and art gallery, shoved into a very large and rather ugly modern building. However, don't let that put you off, for in the basement of "THE WORLD'S LARGEST DEPARTMENT STORE" is a fabulous and reasonably priced food court that is worth visiting if you happen to be watching a film, looking for perfume or training to be the next Kim Yuna...


In one corner of the basement lies Vecchia & Nuovo, a tiny cafe dedicated to providing, pizzas, pastas and salads to hungry shoppers. If you look carefully at their counter you'll spot an extra special treat: Jambalaya Rice for 7,500 won per portion.


It's not haute cuisine, it's not pretty and it's certainly not Michelin starred, but the portions are large, the quality is good and you'll be treated to a spicy little mixture of sausage, shrimp and rice (with bacon, green beans and potatoes thrown in as a bonus). It's a hearty meal that will fill you up and get you ready for the hours of shopping/film watching/skating/sweating that you have planned.

To get to Vecchia & Nuovo head to the Shinsaegae Department Store at Centum City Station in Busan and go down to the first floor basement. You can call them on 051 745 2185.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lip Service

Lip Service

Well after a strange and sweaty summer our production of The Little Dragon is finished and I'm off on holiday. I'll be posting about my exploits in Busan (including baby hammerhead sharks, disco jellyfish and the best damn fried dumplings on the peninsula) once I'm back in the arms of dear old Blighty.

For now I leave you with a dear friend and her newspaper...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grilled Union Plate

Grilled Union Plate

It's certainly the most original translation for 파전 I've seen.


Cinderella HDR

The Cinderella Hair Salon in Itaewon. No glass slipper in sight.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Stretching HDR

Sometimes nothing beats a good stretch.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Look But Please Don't Touch

Busty HDR

In Itaewon the mannequins are of a different class...

Banana Performance Art

Whilst on tour we usually have some time on our hands between shows. Some might say we have too much time...

Welcome to the tragic world of Mr. Banana. Be warned, coarse language is used.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cheap Lamb Treats


Last Thursday I had a craving for lamb and found myself drawn to Itaewon's Samarkand. It's the sister restaurant of Dongdaemun's very own Uzbek palace of delights and it has pretty much the same menu.

If you're looking for inexpensive sheepy goodness then this authentic place is a good bet. For only 3,000 won you can sample a "Samsa" a delicious lamb pastry, with other dishes such as borsch and stewed lamb ranging from around 5,000 to 8,000 won.

To get to Samarkand head to Itaewon and walk up to the fire station; turn right, go up the hill and turn left just after the foreign food mart. Samarkand is a little further up on the left hand side. If you hit the mosque then you've gone too far.


Street HDR

It has been a very hectic summer and I've been doing far too many things so I'd like to apologize for the brevity of my posts.

After this weekend I'll have a little bit of a break, so there'll hopefully be some interesting stuff coming (boribap in Gwangju and strange animal sculptures at the Sejong Cultural Centre; along with raw fish, seasides and other things from Busan), plus I'm heading off to the UK for three weeks with a short sojourn in Paris. So you should expect Paul Ajosshi to be taking on a slightly stiffer upper lip with a side of Camembert in September...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Burrito Madness

Dos Tacos Burrito

Not the prettiest of burritos, but at 6,500 won for one of these plus a soft drink, Dos Tacos offers a good lunch deal.

You can find them in Gangnam, Apgujeong, Hongdae and Seoul Square. Visit their website here.

Expensive Addiction

Expensive Addiction

There are some things in the world I can't live without and for lasagna I'm willing to pay the price (5,000 won per pack at the Foreign Food Mart).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Baked Pasta Porn

Baked Pasta Porn

Leftover pasta sauce and an urge for cheesy goodness forced me to make a baked rigatoni pasta dish last week.

So bad for the arteries, so good for the soul.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Old School Graffitti

Wild Style HDR

Down in the back alleys of Itaewon the Hip Hop Nation carries on in a rather wild style...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ragu Bianco

Ragu Bianco

A rather tasty bowl of "spaghetti al ragu bianco": minced pork and chicken in a cream sauce. 18,000 won at CasAntonio in Itaewon. Visit their website here or head down to Itaewon and take the road opposite the fire station. CasAntontio is on the right hand side next to Helios.

Notalial. Act

Translation HDR

If you're going to offer translation then you should probably check the spelling on your signs. Nobody wants to hire a Notaly.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Punishment HDR

Found by some steps in the back alleys of Itaewon near McDonalds the sign reads "햄버거 버리면" which roughly translates as "if you throw your hamburger away..."

The citizens of Itaewon deal with litter bugs in the harshest of ways.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Neighbourhood Development

Rubble HDR

Down near our apartment they're making way for a new road and are in the process of tearing down a number of buildings.

Rubble HDR

I thought the destruction made for some interesting shots.

Rubble HDR

Staircases starting in mid-air and leading to nowhere hold a certain tragic romance for me.

Rubble HDR

To see structures ripped bare, their guts on diplay seems almost pornographic in an architectural sort of a way.

Rubble HDR

The familiar becomes strange and the memory of what once was is somehow tainted.


Itaewon is changing rapidly and I worry that some of its crumbly rugged old charms will be lost.

Traditional Alcoholic Delights

I was contacted by Susubori Academy (along with a number of other bloggers I suspect) to see if I would help them get the word out about their new English language booze making program.

They're sponsored by Kyunggi University and FACT (농업기술실용화재단) and are offering a two week mini course in English for those who want to learn how to make a traditional Korean liquor called Samyangju.

You can find info on dates, location and what to expect here, and you can email them at info@susubori.ac.kr. 4 classes cost 50,00o won and you'll get to take your own booze home.

I'd take the classes if I had the time, but instead I'm off to the UK where I shall be sampling the traditional alcohols of my home country...

Care to Shop Here?

School Girl Ajosshi HDR

This rather scary looking ajosshi is advertising second hand clothes in Itaewon. It seems like an innocent case of transvestism at first glance, but then you notice where his left hand is going...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alleyway Pizzas

The Pizza Peel

I have been hearing about The Pizza Peel for a while now. They opened back in May and the idea of reasonably priced well made pizza is always appealing. I knew that they were somewhere around McDonalds in Itaewon, but had never stumbled upon them until today.

The Pizza Peel

The restaurant is small and simple. No frills, no whistles, no bells, just a beautiful looking pizza oven and a Canadian chef waiting to take your order. The menu is straightforward: a variety of pizzas with the option to choose your own toppings if you wish. I decided to go for the Supreme at 15,000 won.

The Pizza Peel

The small open kitchen allows you to watch chef David Laukner at work and the gas fired pizza oven cooks your meal very quickly. Exactly two minutes in the extreme heat and your dough based dish is ready to be served.

The food, like the decor, is not fancy, but it does taste good. A crispy thin crust with plenty of flavourful toppings, this is good pizza and unlike most franchises in Korea you won't find rivers of grease left on your plate.

The Pizza Peel

The Pizza Peel offers a great alternative to expensive Italian joints and greasy franchises like Pizza School. To get there head towards Noksapyeong from Itaewon station and turn left just past Rotiboy. The restaurant is on the right hand side of the alley. You can visit their facebook page here or call them on 02 795 3283.

A Rare Sight

No Queue HDR

Something you don't see too often these days. Taco Bell without a queue.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pretty Banner... Shame About The Words

Welcome to the Itaewon HDR

A little piece of me dies inside each time I see this slogan. If Visit Korea can get it right on their website, then why can't Itaewon print some grammatically correct signs?