Head to this busy Cheongdam Izakaya in central Seoul and smoke ‘em while you can.
Words and shots by Stephen Revere
10 Magazine reviews are not sponsored in any way and restaurants are not notified that they are being reviewed.
Cheongdam Izakaya Dining
The Izakaya is a Japanese style restaurant & bar. It’s a casual post-workday hangout where one can take in some drinks with friends as well as share a variety of dishes for dinner. Being in Korea, the menus may be slightly Koreanized and many are massive chains rather than the artistic sole proprietorships of Japan, but there are still a few gems to be discovered here. A good Japanese Izakaya eating and drinking experience should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Hasi (pronounced “hashi”) fits the bill. Located in the middle of the Seoul’s hottest district for both fancy restaurants and clubbing, situated just behind the Prima Hotel. The food is quite close to that of a real Japanese Izakaya menu and the atmosphere is spot on classic Japan. There are two more locations in Apgujeong (546-8889) and Nonhyun (540-8007) as well, but the information here is about the Cheongdam Izakaya location exclusively.
Smoke Away – For now
Here comes the big determining factor for most of you: smoking is allowed at Hashi. If you’re still a smoker who loves a cigarette with his sake and yakitori, then you’re going to be in heaven. If you’re a non-smoker who can’t take the burning sensation in your eyes, then wait until after January 1st to visit Hashi. That’s because after January 1st the government law will kick in making smoking illegal in every restaurant no matter what size they are.
On our trip we started out with two draft Suntori The Premium Malt’s (They put the apostrophe, not me. W11,000). “Wow, that’s a little steep for a draft beer,” you may say, and you’d be wrong. It’s stupid expensive considering that the beer a small one on top of that: probably only about 400 CC. A Cass will cost you W6,000. Hashi is not for the budget conscious.
As an appetizer, we started out by ordering the Shishamo (smelt, W12,000), a fish loaded with eggs which is grilled. Then it looked like the kitchen was a little busy so we ordered the Saengseonhwae dopbab (생선회 덥밥, a raw fish bibimbap, W11,000) as a main dish a few minutes later.
It took a long time for the dishes to arrive, but fortunately they brought us out some delicious side dishes (반찬) right away to snack on as we had arrived quite hungry. The food then arrived out of order, with the main arriving before the shishamo. We weren’t crazy about that, but it’s typical of busy kitchens domestically, where people aren’t too picky about what order they eat in. On this particular evening our hunger prevented us from caring as much as we normally would too.
The shishamo was served with the soy sauce and wasabi, but the Japanese usually enjoy it with a mayonnaise and soy sauce mixture. The staff weren’t phased when we asked for some of the white stuff and we were on our way to eating authentic Japanese style. Some people rip the heads off, but a true aficionado will eat the whole fish, head, tail and all.
We followed that up with one dish you can almost never go wrong with at any Izakaya: the Grilled Mero (메로구이, W25,000). Similar to Chilean seabass, when mero is grilled right the result is a buttery white fish like no other, and its always reasonably priced compared to tuna or salmon. The portion we were served at Hashi was massive and grilled to perfection, maintaining all of the fish’s inherent creamy goodness.
At this point we were stuffed and over our normal budget for a review, but after our third Suntory the conversation was just too much fun, and my cohort for the evening offered to help with the bill and off we were on one more final round at this Cheongdam Izakaya. Too full to enjoy beer anymore, we switched to a small pot of sake (사케 도꾸리, W15,000) and ordered up a set of 6 classic skewers (꼬치, W23,000). Bacon-wrapped asparagus, stuffed peppers, bacon-wrapped tomatoes, chicken breast, bacon-wrapped scallop & bacon-wrapped mushrooms – proving you can wrap bacon around just about anything and make it delicious. The scallop was way overcooked, making it quite tough, but the rest of them were spot on. But then at almost W3,000 each skewer – or W1,000 per bite – they’d better be.
The Verdict on Hasi
Will I return to the Cheongdam Izakaya, Hashi? Definitely. But I’ll probably have already had a dinner, and I’ll be there with a couple more friends and split a bottle of reasonably-priced sake or “shoju” (Japanese soju). It’s the perfect “second place” (2차), with delicious side dishes and a hopping atmosphere.
*10 reviews are not sponsored in any way and the restaurants are never notified that they are being reviewed.