Review: Curry Rice, Noodles, and Tofu From Himeji in Yeonnamdong (연남동 히메지)

I can't say enough good things about Yeonnamdong near Hongdae. Before Hongdae became the commercialized behemoth it is today, it was a free-spirited, creative, and independent hood where people did what they loved and people loved what they did. Then the influx of mass commercial chains and soaring real estate prices pushed those folks out to parts like Sangsudong, Hapjeongdong, and Yeonnamdong but of these, Yeonnamdong is where it most retains that quiet but impressionable original spirit of Hongdae.

I'm almost afraid to share some of these spots with you because I fear I may add to a repeat of the rise and death of the neighborhood, much like what happened in Hongdae. I already shared that awesome Taiwanese joint before which is more a lively ordeal.

Himeji, on the other hand, has a certain zen-like, placid atmosphere. The wooden door, tadami mats, porcelain dishes, and more is modeled after a Japanese home and its simple, mostly Japanese curry dishes are meant to provide the feel that you are dining in someone's home.

Apparently the owner was fed up with the exaggerated prices for a lot of meals and decided to open up this family meal-style restaurant where you don't have to shell out an arm and a leg for.



"Cozy" is a word that fits Himeji with just a few floor tables and a few chairs at the bar-restaurant. It's very quiet and there wasn't even any music playing when I was there. The only sound is the soft murmur of patrons and the staff at work in the kitchen.

The place brought about a lot of fond memories from my short home stay days in Japan when I was a wee high schooler. Everything from the look and feel of the interior to the little ceramic bowls and plates truly made me feel like I was enjoying a meal as a guest at someone's home.

Japanese curry is the focus here and, as I mentioned, the prices are truly incredulous. A bowl of curry rice or curry udon are only 5,500 won each (7,000 won more for a bigger curry rice). They also have yubu udon and soy sauce noodles for 5,000 won each. The only side menu offered is yeon tofu (soft tofu) for 2,000 won.

Beers include bottled Cass (4,000) and Asahi and Kirin (6,000) while glasses of Sprite and, interestingly, milk and orange juice are 2,000 won each.  Rice, vegetables, and everything here are all local.

Our party of three went with an order of curry rice, curry udon, and soft tofu.


Helping keep the costs down is the fact that everything here is self-serve from picking up your food to getting yourself some tea. There's a small window into the kitchen where you go to pick up the food and help yourself to some tea and water.


The soft tofu is simple- a serving of soft tofu that comes splashed with some ponzu sauce and a bit of shredded dried squid(? it didn't seem like katsuobushi) on top. The tofu is clearly from a package and there's nothing extraordinary about the dish overall and at 2,000 won I wasn't complaining. But my dining companions found the ponzu sauce too tart for their liking and the verdict was mixed for them. I think some of them weren't expecting the ponzu's tartness so I say order this side if ponzu and tofu are a combination you like!


Side dishes were a simple kkakdugi (cubed kimchi radish) and some simply dressed cucumbers. Both tasty and both you can go up to the window to ask for more.


Full spread!


The curry noodles have plump udon noodles that's been mixed with an ample amount of curry. I recognized broccoli in the curry and some ginger flavors going on. As we saw later on, the curry for the curry udon is different than the curry in the curry rice. The former is slightly thicker and has some slight variance in flavor. Nevertheless, the consistency works as it gives the curry noodles a generous coating of curry with flavors that lingers as you chew on the chewy noodles.


Most striking about the curry rice is the noticeably yellow rice which is due to the rice cooked in turmeric powder. There's a lot of studies that have been done lately that seems to tout the health benefits. Here the turmeric flavors were mild and pleasant.

The curry for the rice is a bit more runny than the one in the curry udon. You can still recognize vegetables like broccoli, potatoes, cabbage, etc. Himeji proudly claims it makes its curry with only natural spices and flavors and it certainly seems like that's the case! My guess is they use a vegetable stock as the curry base which is both flavorful yet mild and overall just a pleasant, meal-at-home experience. There's a tinge of mild spiciness in the undertones but certainly nothing drastic (it's milder than a Shin ramen for comparison).

When I went to refill on the banchan, I could see through the window the chef was busy churning the big bubbling pot of curry and the sounds and smell really added to the home-like experience.



The three of us walked out pretty content and satisfied. There's nothing extraordinary about Himeji that's too noteworthy but I perhaps liked it a bit more because of the nostalgia it instilled in me for both my home stay days in Japan and my mom's meals at home. Many restaurants, especially the famed and popular ones, now have a very obvious commercialized, almost factory-like, sense of order, eat, pay, leave, with a borderline sterile atmosphere. If anything, Himeji really makes you feel invited and welcomed as if to someone's home and in a big city such as Seoul, that is a rare gem.

Ratings: 
3 out of 4 Stars
In a time when restaurants are going for bigger and bolder in both atmosphere and taste, Himeji stands out as a cozy and intimate home-like place where you can enjoy a simple meal in peace. There's certainly nothing extraordinary about Himeji but the curries show it's made with attention and care while the overall inexpensive prices makes it an attractive choice for those looking for a home meal in the area. I would say that for the bigger eaters, going with the bigger portion is advised. It's also more than suitable to come here to dine alone!

Address: 
서울특별시 마포구 연남동 227-15
227-15, Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea


Immediately after coming out of Hongdae University Station's exit three, turn around and walk to the big main street in front of you (it'll only be about 25 meters). From the main street turn left and follow the road as it curves around the big 3 way intersection and keep following the road for about 325 meters (you should pass a BBQ Chicken on your left along the way) or so until you see a small alley that's next to a big church (the church's name is "서울 동부교회" or "Seoul Dongbu Church"). Turn left into that little alley (not left into the main street right after this alley!) and walk about 50 meters and you'll see the entrance to Himeji on your right. The entrance looks like this:



Telephone: 
070-4743-1055

Website:
N/A

Parking: 
N/A

Alcohol: 
Bottled Cass, Asahi, Kirin available

Tip: 
Himeji closes on Wednesdays and daily hours are a brisk 12-9PM on weekdays and 1-9PM on weekends.

There's a small fabric/souvenir(?) store next to Himeji called "천가계바람" that's also owned by Himeji's owner.

Comments

  1. are those curry fill with veges no meat ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi June.

      There is meat in the curry but very little. If you can eat meat but prefer vegetables the curry is ok for you but if you are a strict vegetarian then unfortunately you'll have to skip it.

      Delete

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