35-36 Greek Street

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What’s the vibe?

Chungdam, named after Cheongdam-dong, an affluent foodie district of Gangnam in Seoul, is the latest project of restauranter Jay Choi (the brains behind Shibuya Soho and Hongdae Pocha). It’s a clean-lined, porcelain-hued Korean restaurant specialising in barbecue, hotpot and Pyeonbaek steam boxes, located at the convergence of Romilly and Greek Street in Soho.

We’re not saying there’s a right way of doing Chungdam, but to leave here without trying the Korean barbecue is like brushing your teeth without toothpaste. It’s one of the best you will find in the capital, and there’s a set menu that’s perfect for those new to the joys of tabletop grilling. A venture designed for the carnivore-inclined, you’ll leave with seven kinds of beef in your belly, swaddled in a deep, bovine drowsiness that can only be amplified by a late-night pitstop to Chinatown Bakery for pandan cake. And we recommend doing so.

What to eat?

The chef's special menu for two should be your first port of call upon a Chungdam debut. The four-course menu kicks off with a selection of appetisers like beef jeon, thin slices of fatless beef pan-fried with soy sauce, japchae, elastic vermicelli noodles tangled between beef and vegetables, and beef tartare – all accompanied by the cold crunch of banchan (Korean side dishes), including gochujang-stained kimchi, pickled beansprouts and radishes.

Then, onto the headline act – the Korean barbecue. The waiter brings plates piled high with marinated short ribs, filet mignon and cylinders of beef brisket to the table before unveiling a tabletop grill from its lid and cranking up the heat. You watch with bated breath as the meat’s surface makes contact with the searing hot plate, the tributaries of fat melting into the grill as it turns from red to a caramelised brown. The meal ends with a thick slice of matcha cake, but not before tucking into a cold, glossy bowl of kimchi noodles – this acts like a kind of cucumber-punctuated pressure washer, erasing the film of beef fat lining your mouth.

Throughout the meal, the staff provide firm instructions on what goes with what, and there’s a kind of enjoyment that comes from being told how to eat your dinner – down to the last lick of dipping sauce or frond of spring onion. For example, you must eat the beef brisket on a ball of vinegared rice and dredge it through a pool of sweet, spring onion soy. You should also lay the hunks of filet mignon into a cradle of lettuce and top with a fine cluster of pickled spring onions and a lick of fermented soybean paste. And, importantly, you must consume the noodle-like threads of steak tartare with matchsticks of tart pear and a kiss of wasabi.

What to drink?

At Chungdam, the food is the main affair, while drinks serve the purpose of quelling the thirst engendered by the salty, savoury plates of mandoo, pajeon and bulgogi that fly out of the kitchen. There’s a concise menu of red, rose or white wine, cold beer, tea and soft drinks to choose from. For anyone looking to make use of the many nearby nightlife options, we’d be neglectful not to mention the soju selection, ideal for hitting Soho full steam ahead.

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