Saturday, April 29, 2017
Last night Brian and I went to a Korean restaurant called Dae Gee. It really does remind me of Korea with its glass garage door and posters for Korean beer, as well as the general design of the restaurant. It brought back memories of eating barbecue on the sidewalk outside of a restaurant, sitting on plastic stools around a plastic table with the grill on top. I've been feeling very nostalgic for Seoul lately and would love to fly back for a week of eating and sightseeing. There were so many good nights gathered around a table with a dozen good friends and countless bottles of makgeolli, soju, and Cass.
When we went to Dae Gee for the first time last summer, I was happy with the atmosphere and Korean alcohol, but disappointed with the food. We ordered the all-you-can-eat meat dinner. It came with marinated chicken, thinly sliced beef, and other kinds of barbecue. I had a hunch that it just wasn't the type of meat that I was looking for. Maybe if we came back again and ordered something different, we would satisfy our craving for the food that was so readily available to us during our time in Korea. We knew that it was unlikely that Korean food in Colorado would live up to our favorite restaurants in Seoul, but I was hoping for more.
I decided to give Dae Gee another chance, this time with lower expectations. We ordered just one type of meat that we knew would be closer to what we usually ordered in Seoul. The L.A. Galbee was thicker and more like the BBQ I was craving. The fish cakes, cucumber kimchi, pickled radishes, seaweed crumbles, and other side dishes really hit the spot. They give you unlimited refills on side dishes when you order two entrees. We also ordered a bottle of magkeolli to go with the meal, although it pained us to pay $13 for what would've cost about $4 in Seoul. It was served in a big black bowl with a ladle and we were given traditional metal cups to drink from.
Sitting and sipping our makgeolli as we waited for the meat to cook, we reminisced about our time in Korea. We talked about our trip to Seoraksan and the little cafe where we stopped after the hike on the side of the mountain. I thought about meals with friends in Korea and how much more of a community I had there than I have here in Denver. It's easy to relate to people when you are all going through the same things and living in the same type of situation. We all had a lot in common in the expat teaching community. After years of becoming comfortable in Korea, I now feel like I am in a new foreign country. I miss the restaurant culture of Seoul. I miss walking down a busy thoroughfare lined with restaurants and people eating and having a good time. Everything seems more spread out in Denver and less connected. Even on the 16th Street Mall, the atmosphere just isn't the same.
Although this meal at Dae Gee was more enjoyable than the last, it still pales in comparison to the two-story samgyeopsal restaurant on that one side street off the parking lot street in Hongdae. It was a traditional-looking wooden Korean building with the most delicious Korean pork belly I've ever had. If you've ever been there, you might know the one I'm talking about, or you might have your own favorite Korean restaurant tucked away down a side street that was just as good. I'm sure we'll go back to Dae Gee sometime and try their kimchi jjigae and bibimbap. We'll probably even give Seoul BBQ in Aurora another chance, but for now I plan on making a trip to H-mart for high-quality samgyeopsal to cook at home, side dishes galore, and a few bottles of makgeolli to wash it all down.