After hours: Seoul Hoe Chip
Stars and Stripes August 21, 2009
Cosmopolitan but salty Pusan, South Korea’s second-largest city, is famous for two things: Its beaches and its raw-fish, or hoe, restaurants.
There are literally thousands of them, from tiny mom-and-pop shops crammed in the city’s alleys to warehouse-like buildings with dozens of tanks of live fish waiting to be turned into your dinner.
So, there wasn’t much about the oddly named Seoul Hoe Chip — or the Seoul Raw Fish House, named for the hometown of the owner’s wife — that set it apart from the others, aside from its location on bustling Haeundae beach.
We spotted the open-air restaurant as we strolled on the sidewalk separating the beach from a wall of restaurants and hotels. Its décor was spartan — just wooden tables and a view of the ocean and hundreds of beach umbrellas. A server stood at the entrance and tried to lure in customers, particularly the leggy bikini-clad young women who walked by.
We ordered scallops because we didn’t recognize anything else on the menu, which had only a few items listed in English.
Our server prepared our meal by scooping some scallops from a row of aquariums and prying them open with a knife. He showed us how to cook them by placing each shell on the grill in the middle of our table, then dumping the contents of the shell a few minutes later into a small aluminum pan filled with chopped raw onions and pats of butter.
We ate the scallops straight from the pan. They were tender and juicy, nothing like the chewy ones you’re likely to find in an American restaurant. And the longer they simmered with the onions and butter, they better they tasted.
The meal, like the décor, was simple (and punctuated by an occasional yelp from my dining partner as he hit his leg against the hot grill underneath the table). The scallops came with three sauces — soy mixed with a dab of wasabi, a spicy red pepper, and a soybean paste. All were equally good. We were also served a few side dishes and a clear broth made of scallions and shellfish, which tasted — not surprisingly — like seawater.
By the end of the meal, we were stuffed. In all, it was a perfect meal at a great value.
Stars and Stripes reporter Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this story.
Seoul Hoe Chip
Location: Haeundae beach in Pusan, South Korea.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Prices: From 50,000 won for a medium plate of scallops for two to 150,000 won for a kilogram of stripy. If you don’t like raw fish, you can order roasted blue crab, roasted shellfish or clam, seafood soup or blue crab soup from 35,000 to 45,000 won. Beer and soju cost 3,000 to 4,000 won.
Specialties: Fish straight out of the tank. All the fish are caught near a local beach, and are eaten within a day of landing in the restaurant’s aquarium.
English menu: Several items are listed in English. Or, you can just point at a tank if you want to eat what’s swimming inside.
Clientele: Mostly South Koreans on vacation.
Directions: Head toward the end of Haeundae beach that’s crowded with Korean restaurants. It’s located in a row of raw-fish restaurants across from the beach.
Web site: None