In Seoul, samgyeopsal (pork belly) restaurants are as common as lamp posts and the world is better for it. There’s nothing that makes me smile more than the scent of grilled pork belly carried on the wind. And there’s nothing that makes me look forward to the weekend more.
Lexi and I have a few choices for samgyeopsal, but our current star is 2 Billion Pork Rind (이억만 껍데기) in Yeonnam-dong. The big draw here are the gas-charcoal hybrid grills. They allow for the smokiness of charcoal with the even heat of a gas grill. In theory, you can cook the perfect samgyeopsal. On the other hand, it’s impressively easy to overheat your pan and burn all your meat.
But if you can take on the semi-steep learning curve you can’t argue with the “chef’s kiss” results. The signs of a perfectly grilled pork belly are browned (but not blackened) edges with the pork fat layer being crispy but not dry. It’s easier on gas stoves where you can sear the pork on high, then turn it low to prevent the cuts from drying out. Charcoal is harder because the pan starts off searing hot and cools down as the coals die out.
I’ve never hit the bull’s eye on cooking samgyeopsal as often as I do here at this restaurant. The grills heats evenly and hot, giving the pork belly a nice golden glow while adding a bit of smokiness from the coals under the pan.
And while you might think a samgyeopsal restaurant lives and dies on the quality of their meat, you’d only be half right. The quality of soups and sides is a huge part of what makes a Korean grill great. 2BPR’s menu features pork rind collagen scored with a honeycomb pattern for even cooking. You grill it with a weighted press on top which gives it an even crisp on the outer skin layer and a nice chewiness on the collagen layer.
Last, but certainly not least, the kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew) is not to be missed. You know what always makes me smile? The sight of a black stone pot with scalding hot kimchi jjigae on its way to my table. And, since we’re at a grill, the chef is generous with huge helpings of pork in the stew.
Depending on the night, we might opt for beer or soju. It’s really dealer’s choice, but we tend to lean toward beer more often than not. Two orders of samgyeopsal, one order of pork rind, and a kimchi jjigae is enough for a couple. But, if you’re still not satisfied, a quick bowl of naengmyun (cold noodles) makes for a great finisher.
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Q: Is this restaurant expensive?
A: It’s mid-priced. Each serving of samgyeopsal will run 12,000 KRW (9.23 USD). A full meal for two without alcohol is usually around 35,000 KRW (27 USD).
Q: I’ve never cooked samgyeopsal before. Is that okay?
A: I’d ask the staff for help, or maybe build up some experience at a different restaurant. The food here is great, but the gas-charcoal hybrid grill isn’t easy for beginners.
Q: Is there any English on the menu?
A: No. Not a lot of foreigners come here, so come with your Google Translate ready.
Q: Is the subway station nearby?
A: It’s about 10 minutes away by foot. The closest station is Hongdae station.
Q: What kind of alcoholic drinks to they serve?
A: Beer and soju. That’s it.