Sinchon is the heart of the extravagant social scene for Yonsei University students. Yonsei University, being considered among the triumvirate of the elite tertiary education institutions in Korea, is filled with the brightest and most inventive young minds of the nation, but they are also considered one of the wildest as Sinchon is infamous for its hectic party scene. In the midst of this exuberance of youth, however, numerous restaurants are established throughout the social hub that drunk and sober (mostly sober) people visit to quench their cravings.
Today, we visited a famous grilled fish restaurant located in the heart of Sinchon, known as Gosami (고사미), which most Sinchon regulars and Yonsei students are familiar with. Serving considerably hefty quality grilled fish and other seafood dishes for an affordable price, it's famous for its taste, price and simply, it's popularity. If you're in the mood to eat some delicious grilled fish, also known as "saeng-sun-goo-ee," this restaurant is one place you will not regret visiting.
Judging based on the sign that's hung over the restaurant, it may seem as if the restaurant is quite large but it really isn't. It fits quite a bit of people, but it's overall quite small and usually packed, so it's not the best combination. The restaurant does have a second floor reserved for larger groups, so that's something to keep in mind.
From the outside, you can tell that the main grill is on the outside, which is a unique aspect of this restaurant. The fish grilling occurs where everyone can see while waiting outside the door for available seats.
This is the sign that welcomes you as you approach the door. The dog on this sign is completely random, which is exactly why I remember it. On the checked bullet points, it says:
1) Outwardly crunchy and inwardly moist chewy grilled fish.
2) If you're with your friend or date, eating some jjigae (stew) as a set would be a good option.
Both statements, as far as I'm concerned, are true -- except, you don't need or should I say, you don't WANT someone else eating the jjigaes with you.
Something else that is quite significant and perhaps even random about the entrance of this restaurant is that on the door there are several quotes or sayings that are seemingly aimed towards the Yonsei college students.
The very left vertical sign says, "We like people more than money," which seems to express their priorities in terms of food and service. The sign on the very top says, "Happiness is for the one who strives for another person's happiness." Lastly, the bottom sign says the following:
"Dream the unattainable,
Experience unattainable love,
Fight undefeatable enemies,
Endure intolerable pain, and
let's catch the uncatchable stars on that sky."
Quite inspirational quotes, but again, also quite random. These would be good quotes to read when it's time for finals for these college students and they've come to stress eat. Obviously, it'd be the food that would free them from their stress, if anything.
Gosami is what Koreans would consider a genuine "mat-jib" (맛집), which basically means "delicious restaurant" in Korean. One of the most important qualities of such "mat-jibs" is popularity (as I've aforementioned) whether it be through long waiting lines or pictures with famous or well-known people who have visited the restaurant. Gosami practically has both, but the amount of pictures that are stuck across the walls are used almost entirely as the wall decorations. It's fun recognizing a celebrity you know while skimming through the pictures and acknowledging that they actually visited this restaurant most likely knowing what it was famous for.
On one side of the restaurant, there were also some bills from around the world, which may show the diverse customers that this restaurant has welcomed in the past. In terms of popularity, this restaurant overflows with it, even completely overtaking the interior design, but it's definitely not empty popularity.
Gosami's specialty dish is grilled fish, so that's a food item that you need to get. There are a few types of fish that you can choose from, but unless you're a fish connoisseur you will most likely not know the differences between the fish they offer. Fortunately, due to the small number of choices, you might get to try all of the different fish if you were to return, but if it's your first time, just order the type of fish that you've tried or heard of before. They're all actually really good.
Nevertheless, after we ordered some food, which I will describe in a bit, we got our first food item placed in front of us. Often seen in Korean meat (often also known as Korean barbecue) restaurants, we received a small basket with some cabbage and sesame leaves that in Korean is known as ggaennip (깻잎).
If you're at all familiar with the "ssam" culinary culture of Korea, you'll already know what to do with these leaves, but if you don't, don't start nibbling it now -- it will be used at a later time.
Then we received a tray of banchan with two types of kimchi and some seasoned potatoes. If you've cleared your tray (which I bet you most likely will), you can always ask for more and they'll happily give you more. Beware of those potatoes -- you will constantly want to ask the employees for more even after quite a few refills.
Finally, the main entrees arrived. From left to right on the photographs above, we ordered the following: biji-jjigae, seasoned stir-fried squid and the go-galbi grilled fish, which is intentionally the first fish option they list on their menu. This restaurant is famous for this go-galbi, so if this is your first time, this is the fish that you'd want to try first.
The jjigaes (Korean stews) that Gosami serves are fantastic and it's something you want to try here. From the outside, these traditional and quite small jjigaes seem like any other jjigae you might find served at either Korean meat restaurants or hanshik (Korean food) restaurants, but there's something special about these jjigaes that have customers wanting to order this alongside their grilled fish. You have a choice between doenjang-jjigae (soybean stew), kimchi-jjigae (kimchi stew), sundubu-jjigae (lean tofu stew) and the jjigae we particularly ordered, biji-jjigae, which is also known as ground-soybean stew.
It terms of taste, it's similar to the doenjang, but the soybean is solid when scooped and is usually eaten by mixing it together with some rice. Those who may have a reluctance towards beans may not be the biggest fans to this solid texture, but in general, biji-jjigae offers a mouthwatering combination that'll have you scraping your rice bowl in no time. It'll take guts to order this because at first sight it doesn't look appealing, but if you want to taste an authentic Korean jjigae that is not as easily found as the popular doenjang/kimchi jjigaes, the biji-jjigae would be an adventurous yet (hopefully) rewarding option.
The biji-jjigae was great, but despite how good it is, it's a menu item that can be found at other restaurants if searched properly. Gosami's increasingly popular Seasoned Stir-fried Squid, however, is a menu item that you will not find nearly as much anywhere else. It's truly a dish that Gosami makes best -- almost to the point where stir-fried squid has me automatically thinking of this restaurant. The seasoning the restaurant uses for this dish is a decent mixture of spicy and sweet, spiciness taking over the flavor a bit more, so it's a dish that chopsticks are constantly busy wandering towards.
Unfortunately, the portions aren't as much as anyone would hope they'd be, so at times it's too hard to resist ordering a second serving. It's never a decision that is regretted, so just getting that extra serving to satisfy your desires may be the emotionally better choice for your desperate taste buds. Like I've already said, it is spicy so you might be grabbing a hold of the ice-cold water often, so make sure you have that rice ready to nullify that heat.
Finally, the main dish and this restaurant's specialty: the Go-Galbi Grilled Fish. Go-Galbi is actually another name for go-deung-uh, which in English is the mackerel. The mackerel is a common fish that is eaten in Korea and is most popular for how juicy and flavorful the fish is. It's also infamous for its greasiness, but that's what makes this so fish so delectable. Mackerels are usually not the largest fish so this restaurant gave us two mackerels on one plate so in terms of quantity it definitely lives up to its price.
In terms of quality and taste, this go-galbi was savory and pleasant. Like the restaurant put it on one of the signs located in front of the restaurant, the skin was crunchy and the meat inside was soft and moist. Unlike many other restaurants that serve fish, this mackerel was not overwhelmingly greasy, although it was undoubtedly greasy to give it its original flavor. Due to the fish's size, it was packed with meat and the bones weren't sprinkled all over the fish. It's not the most difficult fish to eat and it's easy to eat it comfortably, but it does help to know how to take the bones out smoothly so it's not a hindrance.
Now, this is optional but we did it anyways since we are Korean and it's difficult for us to just leave ggaenip and cabbage unattended while eating meat. Remember those two leafy vegetables that we received as soon as we sat down and ordered? Those are given to customers intentionally so that they can be used to eat a little bit of everything together. This is known as ssam, which translated means "wrap," and it's truly one of Asia's greatest inventions ... or better said, culinary realizations.
Depending on what food items you have, put each of everything unto some cabbage layered upon a ggaenip leaf like shown on the pictures above and converge the leaf edges together at the top to form a balloon-like shape. Everything should be enclosed inside, ready to form a harmony of delicious flavors inside your mouth and stomach. Then, if your mouth is big enough (which it should be), put the entire thing into your mouth and enjoy the numerous yet distinct flavors that encompass your taste buds. Obviously, there's a bit of exaggeration in my expression, but it's a different yet delicious way to taste everything you ordered so it doesn't hurt to give it a try. Most Koreans or people who've lived in Korea long enough know of this culture, so it's something you'll have to get used to.
For three people, these three dishes definitely filled us up and it didn't leave us feeling heavy perhaps from the oil of the grilled fish. Rather, I felt surprisingly light and undoubtedly satisfied with my meal. As someone who loves eating fish, this place really serves some quality grilled fish, so if you're in the mood for some bone picking, this restaurant is one to check out.
The prices aren't cheap, but they're definitely affordable. I'd also say that each dish lives up to its price tag considering how good the food is and how much they give you per dish.
The grilled fish's prices range from 6,000 won to 8,500 won with most of the options costing 7,500 won. The go-galbi grilled fish we ordered cost 7,500 won, and seeing that we got two fish on one plate, it's definitely worth the money. The other options are hefty as well, so you won't feel ripped off while paying the bill.
The jjigaes cost 5,000 won each so it's not the cheapest value since the jjigaes aren't actually as big as the fish. I'd recommend you taste one if you can nevertheless because the quality of the jjigaes supplements the quantity well. There's something special about these jjigaes so definitely give these jjigaes a try.
Finally, the famous stir-fried squid costs 6,500 won and this is a must-get if you're coming to Gosami. There's also another option known as dweji-bul-baek which is a meat dish, but if you're ready to dish out 6,500 won it would be better spent on the stir-fried squid here.
Since I practically recommended that you get one food item from each of the three categories on the menu, you might be better off getting a set menu. The set menu options listed on the very right of the menu include a grilled fish, a jjigae as well as your choice of either the stir-fried squid or the dweji-bul-baek. Unfortunately, ordering a set won't mean you get a discount but it is easier to order this way so that's an option you can take when you're ordering.
Overall, it's not expensive nor cheap, but it's worth the money you're paying. If you're the only one eating here, the prices might amount to quite a bit of money, but since the food accommodates more than one person, you will end up only paying a portion of the entire bill, assuming that you will be splitting the bill with those who've accompanied you. The original audience being hungry college students, Gosami truly delivers a bang for your buck.
Location : Seoul Seodaemungu Changchundong 53-72(Yeonsaero 7 ahngil 38)
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