Review: Jooo's Dimsum and Noodles in Sinsa Garosugil (신사 가로수길 쮸즈 딤섬 + 누들)

For all the popularity explosion in international cuisine in Seoul the past few years, I'm surprised dimsum and its similar culinary cousins haven't taken off as much in Korea. I suppose we're fortunate to have branches of Din Tai Fung as a similarity but they still lack in comparison to their originals in Taiwan.

In Korea, the word "dimsum" is casually thrown around to apply to any sort of Chinese style dumpling and its varieties. Whether it's a pot sticker, a bao, or whatnot, it's all dubbed "dimsum" here and not at all uniquely Cantonese or even remotely connected with the notion of "yumcha". Which is to say it's certainly a pity as Cantonese style true dimsum, carts and all, I think could potentially take off rather well in Seoul with the right amount of buzz.

In any case, Jooo's Dimsum and Noodles (yes, it's really "Jooo" with an extra "o") is hidden off the main Garosugil in trendy Sinsa. With the commercialization and gentrification of Garosugil in recent years, it's been a while I've been pleasantly surprised with a good eat in the area. While out and about with a friend one day, we were browsing through our options of where to eat and trying to find somewhere that wasn't a pasta and "steak" joint but wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. Jooo's Dimsum and Noodles (henceforth referred to hereon as "Jooo's") caught my eye for its positive reviews and moderate prices. And thus, Jooo's was settled as our lunch spot.

We were rather lucky to be seated within a few minutes as it was not only a Saturday afternoon (and the place is rather popular) but also because the place is quite small; I suppose there are about 20-25 seats total only in the entire place.

Jooo's is also entirely open kitchen and, in fact, no matter where you are seated you can do a 360 degree look about and see the kitchen, the bathroom, the entrance, and all 20 something seats of the entire restaurant. The open kitchen is where all the dumplings are steamed to order and noodle and other dishes made.

The chef himself actually did his culinary study in Beijing before working in various Chinese and Chinese-influenced cities such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore to build up his culinary base. Random fact: the Korean name of this restaurant, "쮸즈", is actually a Koreanized pronunciation of the chef-owner's name.

Returning to Korea, he decided he wanted to open up his own Chinese-influenced restaurant and focusing on Chinese dishes that were lesser known to Koreans. With his background, the dishes themselves are rather a mix in origin and the menu shows where each dish comes from with a little flag next to the name that shows if it's either mainland Chinese, Cantonese (Hong Kong), and Taiwanese. 

As the restaurant's full name suggests, dimsum and noodles is the name of the game here and choices are kept simple.

For dimsum varieties you have:
Xiao long bao (소룡포)- 3,500 for three dimsums
Shumai (쇼마이)- 4,000 for three dimsums
Spicy Taiwanese style wonton (매콤완탕)- 6,000 for 5 dimsums
Chunjuan or fried spring rolls (춘권)- 2,000 for 3 pieces

Noodles varieties include:
Dandanmian (단단면) - 7,000
Beef noodle soup (우육면) - 8,000
Wonton noodles (완탄면) - 9,000

There is also Cantonese stir fried bok choy (4,000) and wonton soup (7,000) available.

Drinks options are only Tsingtao beer (6,000 for a 640mL bottle), Yanghe Baiju (15,000 for a a 165mL bottle) and cans of Coke (2,000).

As I mentioned, a hodgepodge of Chinese and Chinese influenced cuisine which worried me a bit but I decided to trust the chef's background and positive reviews. At the very least, the fact that the owner knew the difference and origin of each dish gave me some relief.

On my visit, they were offering some new dishes including crab meat shumai (6,000), Nanzheng style noodles (9,000), and cream/mayo shrimp (15,000).

In addition to the flag icons next to the menu items, there are little food icons such as a little pig, shrimp, mushroom, and peppers to specify what goes in each dish. They also specify all meat in their dishes comes from Korea (Seoul's Majangdong, in fact) but I didn't see anything about the origins of their seafood.

After ordering, pots of complimentary Jasmine tea are brought in for patrons to sip on while waiting. A nice touch.

The standard sides is a fresh cabbage salad with a sweet and spicy oil dressing and zha cai

First to arrive was our order of xiao long bao. It actually took quite a few minutes for this, and the other dishes, to come out as all dumplings are steamed to order. And their fresh cooking is evident by the wisps of steam that float from the peaks of the dumplings' soft peaks.

The bigger soup spoons are provided for the xiao long baos and with a gentle poke, out comes streaming the flavorful broth while you get a glimpse of the meat mixture inside. I like mine with a bit of the slivered ginger slices and sauce . Jooo's takes pride in the fact they make even the dumpling wrappers by hand and this is very clear by their wobbly, delicate texture.

The pork filling was seasoned well except it had a bit of strong meat smell. A bit more of aromatics such as ginger, garlic, chives, etc would counteract the bit of porky smelling but otherwise flavorful xiao long baos.

The same could be said of the shumai which was, again, plenty flavorful, but bogged down by its fishy/gamey scent. The shumai here is billed as the Cantonese variety which explains the pork an shrimp combination but a bit of the tweaking in the seasoning would make for a much cleaner tasting dimsum 

So-so dimsums aside, the noodles came out and right off the bat one thing was clear- noodles from Korea these were not.

My dandanmyeon was a fiery red broth in which the noodles were submerged and then topped with some bok choy, ground meat and peanut mixture, chopped scallion, and sesame seeds.

I expected the soup to be as fiery in taste as it looked but it was surprisingly mild. Instead, the chili oil intermingled so well with the nutty peanuts that my taste buds were instantly intrigued and tantalized. The flavors are familiar yet different and such a change of pace from the variety of noodles you find in Korea. This was definitely my favorite dish.

Despite its similar scarlet hue, the beef noodle soup is completely different in flavor. The chili is definitely more evident as are the exotic spices. Sichuan peppers, cinnamon, ginger, and other unique spices are used that makes it similar in taste and scent to Sichuan hot pot. The noodles for both dishes are the same and cooked to a just-right plumpness. I can't say I'm a fan of the beef noodle's flavors yet and I preferred the dandanmyeon but that's just a matter of personal taste :)

Jooo's turned out to be a welcome change of pace in the Garosugil area which seems to be about 90% either brunch or Italian spots in its restaurant choices. Prices are reasonable for the area and makes for a decent spot for a meal with friends or a date. The dimsum is so-so but the noodles are quite different and tasty for those looking for a break from the standard noodles around town.

2.5 out of 4 stars
The noodles stand out far more than the dumplings but Jooo's makes for a different and affordable dining option in the pricey Sinsa area.

서울특별시 강남구 신사동 540-15
540-15, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Head out straight from exit 8 of Sinsa station for about 300 miles until you get to an alley with a Jeongsu Bokguk restaurant (there should be a giant blowfish on the Jeongsu Bokguk restaurant logo)  on the left of the alley entrance. Enter that alley and go up just 70 meters, passing a four way intersection. You should see Jooo's on your left.




Bottled Tsingtao and baiju available

Weekly specials are put up by the place and advertised on their chalkboard menu in-store as well as their Facebook page.