Friday, February 12, 2010
Raw Horse meat: basashi, and yakitori at Buntaro, Itaewon 분타로, 이태원
Last night's attempt to go to Teppen in Kangnam failed, so we went to the Japanese end of Itaewon for some izakaya-ing.
This place, Buntaro (I can't remember if they call it 'Muntaro' as in Korean or 'Buntaro' as it would be in Japanese, but that's what the little chinese chicken scratch letters on the sign out front read.
I knew it to be a yakitori place, but we sat down for some beers and chicken, and I noticed that they had raw horse meat on the menu. I had to order it, not so much for the eating experience, but just to get a snap for this blog. Luckily, it didn't taste too bad, and we finished the whole plate.
We also got the typical array of yakitori, some grilled prawns, a plate of gyoza, and we got a couple rounds of edamame. I gotta get my edamame on if I'm doing an izakaya, I love those things.
The verdict though: the food wasn't that great. The aspara buta bara maki (asparagus rolled in pork belly) came out; it was a single stalk of asparagus cut into four little pieces, wrapped in razor thin pork belly. The biggest crime was that it was the frozen asparagus from China that they have here, so when grilled it just became soggy and water-logged. Clearly this place does not care too much about the quality of their food.
The gyoza were pretty lackluster. I think I've had better frozen gyoza. The edamame were, well, edamame, and those were luckily from fresh. They could go a little lighter on the salt, they were caked in it. I prefer my edamame blanched in heavily salted water with no additional salt after draining, so I had to pick these out by hand.
I didn't eat the seafood portion, and everyone else ate the scallops and prawns and said they were pretty good, but I tried the horse sashimi. It was a bit fattier than basashi is supposed to be, looking like beef. The overall taste was not dissimilar to raw beef, and we ate it with soy, grated daikon, and wasabi, which further obscured the taste. Luckily they didn't drown it in sesame seed oil and egg like I thought they were going to do. They did garnish absolutely everything with lemon slices, which was pretty unnecessary. Gyoza don't really call for a sprinkle of lemon. Chicken breast does, so that was nice, but I'd prefer yuzu or yuzugoshou on my chicken breast.
On the decor side of things; it was dressed up just like any other izakaya in Korea; tons of Japan kitsch, empty sake bottles and cartons, and lots of wood everywhere. The seating was mega uncomfortable and it was packed last night, so it was really loud inside. The wait staff don't speak very good Japanese, but none of this really affects the Korean patronage. For me though, the seats were killing my back and I wanted to leave pretty soon after arriving.
Total bill was 187,000W for four people, a few beers for each us and not much food really, so not a great value in the end.