You find this chain of restaurants everywhere in Korea.  Their specialty is grilled fish–and it’s lovely grilled fish.  I wasn’t much of a fish lover before Korea, and some food snobs love to snipe about Korean fish–but come on!  It’s freakin’ grilled fish!  Crispy skin.  Moist meat.  Good and salty without being too fishy.

I think that’s what turns off a lot of folks to Korean style fish.  It’s highly seasoned (read: salty), and that’s really a holdover from the traditional way the entire world preserved its fish.  Refrigeration technology is only a few decades in adoption on the peninsula, even though it has really become advanced here.  Yet tastes are slow to change.  Korean style fish is a bit on the salty side, and I like it.  Deal with it.

Actually, this restaurant is a great lunch stop.  They have convenient specials and filling lunches.  Their side dishes were clean tasting and had a decent variety of flavors.

See? Everything isn’t covered in red, which is a sign of a good Korean restaurant.  Lazy restaurants tend to slather everything in gochujang as a crutch without respect to the individual ingredients.  It’s like the kid who has to put ketchup on everything he eats.

Gumteo’s side dishes each had distinct flavors and colors.  This is the traditional philosophy of Korean cooking, which strives to balance flavors and colors.

We’ve eaten here a few times for dinner.  This was our first lunch stop.  Eun Jeong ordered the Ggongchi Gwi 꽁치구이 (Grilled Pacific Saury).

Check out these guys.  The gorgeous scoring.  The crispy caramelized skin.  Served sizzling on a platter with a little lemon.  It smelled like the sea.  The deep ocean.

Every bite was juicy.  My only disappointment was that they clipped the tail, which is my favorite part.  It’s like a fish potato chip.

I got the Samchi Yangnyeom Gwi 삼치영념구이 (Yangnyeom-style Grilled Japanese Spanish Mackerel).  “Yangnyeom” is a Korean catch-all word that means it’s dressed up a certain way, either through marinating, glazing, seasoning–I’d almost say this is a gratin style without the cheese.  It was a creamy crunchy coating aided by Japanese bread crumbs and herbs.  Loved this one.  I could eat this again and again.  It’s a fish for people who hate fish.

This was a highly satisfying lunch for two and totaled just 13,000 won.

Now, I believe foreigners–even fish loving foreigners–don’t enter these restaurants because they’re intimidating.  There’s nothing in English, and even if you can read Korean and have a Korean/English dictionary, most every fish is translated as “a sort of mackerel.”

Yeah, that’s helpful.

So what I’ve done is translate the menu by googling each fish in Korean, tracking down a Latin name, and using the Latin name to find the common English name.  In the future, I want to make a comprehensive seafood and vegetable/herb dictionary this way to help you guys out because, really, the makers of translation dictionaries don’t have foodies in mind.  I’ve also included pictures of a few of them.

고등어구이 Godeung-eo Gwi – Grilled Chub Mackerel

꽁치구이 Ggongchi Gwi – Grilled Pacific Saury

삼치구이 Samchi Gwi – Grilled Japanese Spanish Mackerel

노르웨이고등어 Norway Godeung-eo – Grilled Norwegian Mackerel/ Atlantic Mackerel

고등어양념구이 Godeungeo Yangnyeom Gwi – Yangnyeom-style Grilled Chub Mackerel

삼치영념구이 Samchi Yangnyeom Gwi – Yangnyeom-style Grilled Japanese Spanish Mackerel

연어구이 Yeon-eo Gwi – Grilled Salmon

장어구이 Jang-eo Gwi – Grilled Eel

메로구이 Meiro Gwi – Grilled Patagonian Toothfish (otherwise known as “Chilean sea bass”)


고등어김치조김 Godeung-eo Kimchi Jorim – Braised Chub Mackerel and Kimchi

삼치김치조림 Samchi Kimchi Jorim – Braised Japanese Spanish Mackerel and Kimchi

어묵탕 EomukTang – Fish Cake Soup

올갱이해장국 Olgaeng-i Haejangguk – Korean Freshwater Snail Hangover Stew

대구탕 DaeguTang – Pacific Cod Soup

생선까스 – SaengseonGga-seu – Fried Fish Fillet

고삼구이 Gosam Gwi – Yangnyeom-style Grilled Chub Mackerel, Grilled Japanese Spanish Mackerel, Fish Cake Soup

모듬구이 Modeum Gwi – Grilled Chub Mackerel, Yangnyeom-style Grilled Japanese Spanish Mackerel, Fish Cake Soup

낙지돌판볶음 Nakji Dolpan Bokkeum – Spicy Stir-fried Baby Octopus served in a sizzling pan

알탕 AlTang – Fish Roe Soup

스페샬A Special A – Fish Roe Soup, Grilled Eel, Grilled Patagonian Toothfish

스페샬B Special B – Stir-fried Octopus, Grilled Chub Mackerel, Yangnyeom-style Grilled Japanese Spanish Mackerel, Fish Cake Soup

스페샬C Special C – Fish Roe Soup, Stir-fried Octopus, Grilled Japanese Spanish Mackerel, Grilled Patagonian Toothfish

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