I don’t have a pic of this. Didn’t expect it to be picture worthy. I thought I’d try this place near my office in Insa-dong advertising “Wang Donkaseu,” which is a king-sized pork cutlet. It had been on my list of things to try for lunch.

The first sign of bad things to come was that this was on the fourth floor with no elevator. The trek doesn’t bother me, personally. Yet restaurant customers usually don’t go that far up stairs. Bars and hair salons usually go above the third floor.

I entered and sat down by the window at a place with only two tables taken during peak lunch hour in a place that takes up two stories. I waited for the server, but she ignored me. When I caught her eye, she told me I had to pay for everything at the register upfront. So, it was one of those kinds of places. They make their food cheaper by making everything self service. There were hotel pans of kimchi, nuclear pickled radish, and sweet pickles, along with a pot of soup that obviously came from a powder.

Nonetheless the menu looked intriguing. A cheese covered chicken cutlet with Indian curry sauce sounded promising. I ordered that and ventured up to the bathroom. The state of a bathroom echoes the state of a kitchen. It was nasty. There was toilet paper stuck and crusted to the lip, meaning that no one even tried to clean it.

I got a bowl of imported kimchi, making sure to reach for the stuff closest to the bottom. That way I avoided any chance of having saliva or whatever riddled kimchi from the top of the exposed pan. I also got a bowl of the powdered soup, which was really salt, starch, and water.

The food came out. Two cutlets covered in sauce, a scoop of rice covered in dried seaweed shavings, and shredded cabbage with a cream dressing I knew I would not touch. I tried the rice first, and immediately something hard busted my teeth.

This rice has bones in it?

I picked it out, and it was a hard kernel of rice. This rice was refrigerated with poor covering overnight and reheated. That’s the only way it could get that dried out and bone hard. I tried the meat. I understand that a restaurant that advertises a cheap large portioned dish will have to cut corners somewhere. I didn’t know that they were cutting corners on salt. The sauce was curry mixed with water. I started dreaming of the KFC Zinger Burger that I could get downstairs. I plodded through the rest of my lunch, hoping against hope that this bland astronaut food would get better. Thankfully a phone call interrupted this masochistic exercise.

I truly wonder what the mental process is for people who open places like this. Why go through the trouble when you don’t care at all about your food? And it really wasn’t THAT much cheaper than really good donkaseu. I could tell that this place had been for a while or never cleaned in all its existence. Probably both. It’s places like this that make me scared to try new restaurants. There’s so much lazy mediocrity in the Seoul restaurant scene. What’s sad is that I see lines form outside the door for some of these places while some of the really good places sit there empty and go out of business.

This Wang Donkaseu place didn’t have that line out the door. How could it when it was on the fourth floor of a building with no elevator? I’m not even angry at this food. I’m depressed. Why do the good ones die and the bad ones survive?

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