Leaders in Korean government and corporations have for years been trying to lure the Michelin Red Guide to Seoul. Just consider it another gold star for their sticker charts in their neverending quest for status, along with international sporting events, ads in Times Square, and putting hanboks on foreign celebrities.
The first list of “Bib Gourmand” restaurants has been announced, which are supposed to be known for “exceptional food at moderate prices.” As predicted, it’s quite ego stroking. A lot of old school restaurants (anything ending in “-Ok”), some touristy ones (Myeongdong Gyoja), and a few surprises. The only non-Korean ones are a few Thai and a Japanese place and an Italian joint in Bukchon. Tuk-Tuk made it, and it’s a favorite amongst the Restaurant Buzz crowd. Noodle and mandu places dominate the list.
As for exceptional food at moderate prices–this is truly from an outsider with an above moderate budget or a tight circle of Korean food bloggers and newspaper reviewers trying to showcase what they think should be showcased. What makes me think this is the high number of Kalguksu places on here. I like Kalguksu just fine, but it’s kinda like highlighting the best mashed potato restaurants in Boise. Jokbal (pigs trotters) places also made a surprisingly strong showing. I just had jokbal this weekend for Halloween. It’s fine, but it’s not on my top ten list. Doganitang (knee cartilage soup) and Chueotang (loach soup)–at this point, I think whoever is in charge of this list is genuflecting and kissing some restaurant godfather’s ring. Neither of those dishes are honestly any good, unless you grew up with them. Unless you like bouncy chewy knee cartilage and slimy mudfish. There are some excellent ones on this list, but some others sound like something put together by a government agency.
Here is a list of the restaurants with links to their locations.