Review: Noodles from Yurimmyeon Near City Hall (시청 유림면)
It's funny how a lot of the long-running culinary and dining institutions around Seoul tends to draw polarizing opinions. Because of the hype that comes with these kinds of places, people who actually do try the food there tend to either fall in the camp that it's worth the name and history or that it's just fluff.
Yurimmyeon near City Hall is one of those "institution" restaurants in Seoul. Claiming a history that's over 50 years old this is one of those places where parents will take their kids saying they recall having their own parents take them to eat here as a kid. Yurimmyeon's claim to fame is simply oodles of noodles. They offer a variety that appeals to different tastes and preferences and, since you're not likely to find someone who dislikes noodles, it adds to the place's popularity.
The two-story building is almost always packed at lunch hours so it's best if you go at an off time. Because of their decades of operation, they really have their business down to a pat. As soon as you're seated, they'll ask what you want. Tough luck if it's your first time as the broad assumption on their part is that you know who they are and you know what they serve.
Your choices are simple at maemilguksu (buckwheat soba) for 7,000; bibimameil (buckwheat soba with spicy sweet seasoning) 8,000, naembiguksu (fish cake noodles) 7,000, bibimguksu 7,000, ohnmaemil (warm soba) 7,000, and dolnaembi 9,000.
I always find myself with an eyebrow raised when I see the menu here as the prices are expensive for noodles in Korea. But when you're this famous, you have a lot of freedom in what you charge.
Oh, and the place is a pay-when-you-order system making the overall feel of the restaurant more a noodle fast food place than a restaurant.
Usually within a minute of you paying for your meal, they'll bring out their pickled radish (danmooji). Note that this is going to be the only side dish you get no matter what noodle dish or how many noodle dishes you order. You can at least give them credit for making their danmooji in-house so you're not served that odd neon yellow danmooji from factories. But c'mon. A bowl of danmooji as my only side? :/
Oh right, the side of mustard is free...
The naembi guksu is basically fish cake udon soup. The fish cake soup is joined with plump udon noodles, generous slices of fish cake, mushrooms, some sook, and a perfectly near poached egg on top. This is the dish that was featured on that Jeon Ji Hyun, Kim Soo Hyun drama, You Who Came From the Stars, which probably brought in a major influx of non-Koreans seeking these noodles.
You do have to give Yurimmyeon credit as they do deifnitely use high quality ingredients. The udon noodles are plump and cooked just right to that chewy consistency with bite. The fish cakes aren't your cheap fish cakes comprised of mostly wheat and fillers. And I still marvel at how expertly they cook and serve that egg. Every single time I've ordered it they have that yolk cooked just to the point that with a gentle prod the gooey yolk just spills out. Such is your skill level when you've been doing this for decades.
The same goes for their other noodles such as their maemilmyeon and bibim maemil which are quite popular in the summer seasons. The maemilmyeon comes in a tray with two levels of the soba, the soy dashi broth on the side and a basket of chopped scallions.
Again, quality can't be denied. The soba has a high level of buckwheat as you can tell by the nutty, somewhat gritty consistency. The soy sauce dashi broth is homemade as you can tell they've used a mix of their own seasonings which I guess to include things like cinnamon. It's refreshing, tasty, and just great for summer seasons but really, the serving size is ridiculous. You basically get a few small clumps of noodles which, if I chose to, I could slurp down in 5 minutes. You're essentially paying 7,000 for a snack, and not a meal.
Same goes for the bibimmaemil which, you can’t deny is excellent quality. It’s the same maemil (buckwheat) noodles used in the maemilmyeon dish so the texture is great. The spicy seasoning sauce is definitely homemade and uses ingredients like ground grains to give it a greater depth. Unfortunately there’s another problem with serving size. You get a handful of noodles with sauce but the noodles serving is really underwhelming as is the ratio of the noodles to sauce.
Overall, Yurimmyeon evokes a lot of mixed emotions and thoughts. I’ve been to plenty restaurants in Korea where there’s been a problem in quality or lack thereof. That’s not at all the case here as the food here, overall, is good. But after repeated visits to here and almost always leaving somewhat dissatisfied with portion, service, and price, my mind is almost all but made up to look elsewhere for my noodles fix… unless you’re buying. J
2 out of 4 stars
Quality can’t be denied overall for the tasty noodles here but for an underwhelming portion of noodles served with only a bit of danmuji (pickled radish) on the side for 7 to 9K Won and leaving your stomach wanting is unfortunate. Add to that that service is rather gruff and the demand you pay up front before your order is brought out in lightning speed almost gives you the sense they’re unashamedly doing it for the money.
서울특별시 중구 서소문로 139-1
139-1, Seosomun-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea
When you emerge from exit 12 of City Hall Station, turn around and follow along the main street for just a few meters (the main street should be on your left) and you should come to an alley on your right. Look ahead a few meters and you should see the big entrance to Yurimmyeon in big letters.
They open till 9PM everyday except on Sundays when they close earlier at 7PM