Panda Express Opens a Store in Seoul!

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panda-express-in-seoulI just got done eating my 3 entree combo from Panda Express. I got me some half and half, fried rice and chow mien. Orange chicken. Beef and broccoli. And Garlic chicken. It was so good. I brought it home so I could finish watching “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” before the Apple Keynote comes on. When I was living in the states, Panda Express was a regular visit for me. I’m super excited to have this as an option in Seoul. Anyway here are some photos and details of the just opened Panda Express in Seoul!

panda-express-seoul-entreesPanda Express opened its first restaurant in the B1 food court area of Myeongdong’s Lotte Department Store. It opened Sept 3rd. They are planning on opening a 2nd store in the Suwon Lotte Department store soon. The menu has pretty much everything you would find at any Panda Express in the USA. Prices are a lot higher. 1 entree combo was 7500 won, 2 entree combo was 9500 won, and 3 entree combo set me back 12000 won. Beef and Seafood will cost 1200 won extra.

panda-myeongdongThere was a line when I arrived. About 30 Korean Americans were waiting to get served. I got in line and could hear English dialogue. (“So excited” “Now all we need is In N Out”) Local Koreans were asking people in line what this was. (“is this a famous restaurant?”)

Panda-express-seoul-lotteI talked to the manager there. They had three teams. One spoke Mandarin or Cantonese, another spoke English, and the rest of the staff Korean. I’m thinking the Chinese speakers were from corporate. And the English were the trainers. I spoke with the Manager and it appeared that they were doing everything legit. They explained to me that the main items will taste the same. The main item being orange chicken. The rest might taste slightly different because they are using local ingredients. But from what I tasted, it all tasted the same.

panda-seoulBefore writing this post, I did some digging but didn’t find any official website to link to the new Seoul Panda Express. So I figured that I’d write a post with location and photos and everything.

Little Tokyo in Seoul

Koreans have a hate but respect relationship with the Japanese. They hate because of the atrocities that occurred during the Japanese occupation. But they look up to Japan’s rapid modernization and economic growth. Anyway, this blog is not about politics, history, nor international relations. It’s about Food. Stop that jibber jabber and talk about Restaurants in or around Seoul.

One of my favorite places to visit is Itaewon for obvious reasons. Itaewon is ghetto but it’s a great place to grub. For visitors of Seoul, Itaewon is like a home away from home. They have a lot of non Korean restaurants that are quite good. Better than anywhere else in the city anyway. Most visitors don’t know that that is a place called Dongbu Ichon Dong just a few block from Itaewon. Dongbu Ichon Dong is called the “Little Tokyo” of Seoul. This little strip of land in Yongsan-gu contains a plethora of eateries. The restaurants are all tiny. The variety is awesome. And you can find some really awesome Japanese restaurants.

I’ll probably write a lot of posts about the restaurants in this area later on. My wife’s sisters all live in Ichon Dong so we dine here quite often.

I Don’t know exactly why Ichon dong is called Little Tokyo. It doesn’t really resemble or have a Tokyo vibe. Maybe it’s because a lot of Japanese people live here. Maybe it’s because it’s close to the Military base. It’s not because of the Japanese restaurants. They have a few good ones, but it’s not like it’s filled with Japanese restaurants. You can probably find more Japanese restaurants in other area of Seoul.

But the restaurants are all tiny. It’s common to see restaurants that only seat like 10 people in Ichon Dong. Because these restaurants are tiny, you will find a whole mess of them. That’s what i like most about Ichon Dong. So many restaurants jam packed next to each other. It’s a diner’s dream. The only problem is that it’s a pain in the ass to get to Ichon Dong.

This post is rambling on without me mentioning anything about a particular restaurant. Oh wells, i’ll save that for another post.

Find Restaurants in Seoul at shikdang.com

One of the biggest problems about Seoul is that it really isn’t Foreigner friendly. Nobody really speaks English. Some do but you can’t really understand what they are saying because of the thick accent. All the signs are in Korean too. What’s an English speaker to do? For food lovers it’s especially hard to navigate the ocean of restaurants here in Seoul Korea.

There is a new website called shikdang that is trying to help out people like me. Shikdang.com lets you list, rate, and review restaurants in Seoul. The site is starting to grow and it seems that they are hard at work. I spoke with the admins of shikdang and they are currently working on a new iPhone app as well. We will see if they can bring a useful restaurant locator app to the Korean market.

If you need some help in finding restaurants in Seoul, visit Shikdang’s website.

Wish they had pinkberry in Seoul

I’m not big on dessert. To be honest, i’d rather eat a cheeseburger for dessert after a good meal. But, sometimes you want to fill you gut with some sugar. Before i moved to Seoul, my wife and i used to live in Chicago. There was this frozen yogurt place we used to frequent called berry chill. I loved that place because the froyo there was tart and tangy. But my first love of yogurt is pinkberry. I’m a purist. I don’t need toppings or anything on the side. Just give me a spoon and a bucket of white deliciousness. So fresh and so tangy. Just seems to melt in my mouth. Wish Korea had pinkberry. They have red mango but its not even close. I read that pinkberry started out as a US clone of red mango. At any rate the clone is a lot tastier.

Best thing about dining in Seoul, no tip no tax

I was having an interesting conversation with my friend over lunch earlier today. We are both Gyopos and we currently live in Seoul, Korea. My friend was saying that dining in the States is cheaper. I called bullshit! Food is cheaper here in Seoul. Scratch that. Restaurant dining is cheaper in Korea. Food, not so much. Going grocery shopping is a pain on the wallet, especially if you buy a lot of fruit and meat. But, going to a sit down restaurant is super cheap when you compare to the States. In this post I’m excluding fancy westernized restaurants.

Obviously i won the debate. The reason why i won the discussion? The two T’s, Tip and Tax. Restaurants in Seoul don’t know anything about tip or tax. I’m assuming that they lump the tax into the final price. Locals here would go apeshit if they had to pay tax on top of the listed price. And tipping? Doesn’t really exist in Korean culture.

Going to a restaurant in the states will run you about 80-100 dollars. Nothing fancy either. Just your run of the mill date dinner. Cause pasta with drinks and apps will cost about $60. Add the tip and tax and you have 80-100. That’s a lot of money. Here in Seoul, Korea, your average dinner date will only hold you back like 50k won. That’s around $45. No tip no tax!

But, Koreans love to ride the train. Can’t end the night with just dinner. You have to relocate to another place for round 2. 1 cha, 2 cha, 3 cha. This was the argument my friend made. He’s right if you factor in round 2 and 3. But, we were only talking about dinner.

Anyways, i just thought that i’d share a lil bit of Korean food culture with you guys. I will end the post here.

Hyundai department store food court in Seoul

When i think of department store food courts, i picture fast-food franchises in the middle of the mall. You have Panda Express to your left and Taco Bell to your right. They have Hotdogs on a stick and Mcd’s and or Burgerking. In Korea it’s all different. The quality and variety of food available in Korean department stores are far superior.

The food court at Hyundai department store is my fav out of the three major Department stores. (Hyundai, Lotte, Shinsegae) You usually find the food court in the basement. It’s usually really crowded but i highly recommend you try out some of the food. They have all sorts of Korean dishes. Don’t be fooled by the price either, the food here is top notch. 6 or 7 bucks will get you a full on Korean meal.

My favorite go to dish at Hyundai is Naengmyeon. (cold noodles) These delicious cold noodles in beef broth are to die for. I honestly prefer the Naengmyeon at Hyundai to the ones at expensive Korean BBQ restaurants.

They have other Korean dishes as well as other Asian cuisine. You can even find pizzas and burgers if thats what you fancy. If you can’t decide on what to eat next time you are in Seoul, hit up the food court at Hyundai Department store. You’ll find some of the best mini restaurants in Korea.

Ankara Picnic satisfies my halal cravings

There is this little kebab joint right in the middle of Itaewon that i visit every time i’m near it. It’s right off the Itaewon station exit. I’ve probably been there at least 20 times or so. One of the reasons why i want to live in Ichon dong is because it’s so damn close to Itaewon. So many foreigner friendly restaurants in Itaewon.

The name of the place is Ankara Picnic. They have lamb and chicken kebabs. The place is halal. Like real kosher. The restaurant is a shack. Real small and usually you will see a line of about 8-12 people. But it’s totally worth the wait. They don’t have much room to eat inside but it’s ok cause you can step outside and eat it out on the street. Take in the funky Itaewon air and watch the eclectic mix of people walking by as you bite down on your middle eastern burrito. Only in Itaewon.

The Kebabs at Ankara Picnic are about 4 bucks. I usually get mine with a dash of spicy sauce and a whole lot of white sauce. Im getting hungry just thinking about it. They have a bunch of kebab restaurants in Itaewon. Don’t just walk into any tho. The one right down the street is real shitty. Trust me and hit up Ankara Picnic. And no I’m not being paid by Mr. Picnic for this very fine review of his establishment.