Review: Hyoja Barbe in Seochon (서촌 효자바베)

Hands down, right now is my favorite time in Seoul. Daytime temperatures are mild, the humidity is gone, the (usually) blue skies are gorgeous, and you can just catch a wisp/glimpse of autumn in the air, the scents, or the leaves just beginning to change their tint.

This makes it the perfect time to have a good ol' barbecue in Seoul. Unfortunately the lack of big, open spaces and the city's strict regulations on outdoor fires makes barbecue a bit of a rarity though they do exist. In fact, riding on the recent popularity and interest by locals in all things camping-related there's been a bit of a surge of barbecue-related restaurants opening up including last year's fad of "glamping" joints (camping themed barbecue restaurants).

Hyoja Barbe (and yes, with the last "cue" missing from the word) is located in the recently trending area of Seochon just west of Gyeongbokgung (Gyeongbok Palace). It's actually quite close to Tongin Market which I previously wrote about.

The area of Seochon is going through a major change as an increasing number of entrepreneurs are opening up shops, restaurants, drinking spots, and more in the old and historic area. In Hyoje Barbe's case they've been one of the area's leaders in terms of popularity and buzz as evidenced by the wait that's common just about every night.



From the outside, you immediately get a hip vibe from the place with its wood and tile decoration and vintage interior. In line with their theme, the place inside plays a lot of 80s/90s music. There's an open kitchen and grill inside while the dimly lit, orange/yellow lights inside gives it a warm feeling. You can choose to sit outside in the nicer weather- perfect for early autumn.


Barbecues are the main players here with their two assortment platters their best sellers. The "Hyo" platter is essentially a large platter and for 35,000 won you get a giant plate of grilled pork belly, chicken thighs, hamburg steak, sausage, ribs, shrimp, and a whole squid sitting atop mung bean sprouts pan fried in butter. The "Ja" platter is a medium size platter, costing 25,000 won, and includes grilled pork belly, chicken thighs, hamburg steak, sausage, and shrimp. Either platter comes with steamed cabbage leaves, an anchovy jeotgal based sauce, cabbage salad, radish pickles, homemade barbecue sauce, homemade cheese sauce, ssamjang, and dried herbs. Hyoja emphasizes that their meats are left to rest naturally twice and then pre-cooked in slow temperatures a few times in between before being grilled to order for serving.

Their specialty barbecue menu options include a Hanwoo (Korean beef) platter in which they smoke sirloin cuts of beef with wood chips before barbecuing. But this option is only offered to five customers a day for 21,000 each.

Their Hyoja Special Noodle is 15,000 and has noodles grilled and tossed with slightly charred eggplants, pumpkin, perilla leaves, tomatoes, shrimp, garlic cloves with extra virgin olive oil and seasonings. A good option for pescatarians.

The Hyojatang is a special Korean style spicy soup (13,000) that's full of seafood and meant to pair with drinks.

And lastly their in-season barbecue in which they grill a bunch of stuff in season with prices based on market prices.

They also have a in-house burger (9,000), grilled squid (8,000), and skewers (3,000 won each) as sides.

Drink options are pretty extensive with your usual soft drinks (2,000), soju (3,000), and Max draft beer (4,000). But they also have Magpie and Whale specialty beers (7,000 and 6,000 respectively) and Hyoja emphasizes they're about good barbecue and good ale beers. You can also get Hallasan soju from Jeju (5,000) which you can drink straight or mix with lemon and ice (1,000) and mineral water (2,000).

I went with the large, "Hyo" platter with a few rounds of beers with my friends on my visit and chose to sit outside.

After a few minutes wait, out came the different sauces which, as mentioned previously, included house made cheese sauce, barbecue sauce, ssamjang, and some herbs (dried rosemary and the likes).


When the platter is brought out, you can almost sense a (manly) tear about to form in your eyes at the beautiful sight and aroma that is laid before you.


I mean, look at it: it's so aesthetically stunning it's like they made the platter for an outdoors camping magazine. Those little bits of char, the sheen from the barbecue glaze, and the sprigs of fresh rosemary truly makes it feel like you're at a grill party... except you don't have to do the grilling nor clean up afterwards!









Standouts include the grilled pork ribs, pork belly, and squid. Unlike western-style barbecues, the sauces and seasonings are lighter but the barbecue sauce on the side should prove helpful for those who want their grilled protein a little more flavorful. The hamburg steak was just a tad dry but everything else was just good ol' grillin.

I personally only required a bit of salt or bbq sauce on occasion overall. The cheese sauce I didn't care for as the strong flavors and scent (I have a hunch it's gorgonzola-based...) didn't mesh well with the barbecue for me. Surprisingly the mung bean sprouts and cabbage paired well with the barbecue and washing everything down with icy cold beer in between is always a win.

I was with a group of four but we were more than satiated with the amount and quality of food that was offered. Moreover, it was nice to have that little bit of outdoors grilling nostalgia in the environment Hyoja Barbe offered while doing it in the cool and hip Seochon neighborhood. Hyoja Barbe is definitely not 100% American but neither is it purely Korean either. Instead of labeling it one way or another though, I've found that it, like the surrounding Seochon hood, has its own unashamed vibe and thing going on and, most importantly, it works.

Ratings: 
3 out of 4 Stars
It's not difficult to see why Hyoja Barbe has been receiving so much attention in the area since its opening. It has a nice atmosphere to it, food is good, beers are cold (and with more variety than Korean beers), and value is unbelievably good for their price. 

They do a fantastic job of meshing Korean/Western atmosphere and taste and the place has the versatility for a dinner venue or drinks venue and with friends, family, or a date. 


Address: 
서울특별시 종로구 자하문로1길 42
42, Jahamun-ro 1-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea


Walk out exit 2 and walk straight for just a few meters. Immediately after passing the crosswalk on your right, you should see a big alley on your left with a little arch over it and Korean saying it's Sejong Village Food and Culture Street (세종마을 음식문화거리). Enter that alley and walk straight for about 200 meters (the alley will slightly curve right later but keep walking along that main alley). Hyoja Barbe should be visible on your right. 

Telephone: 
070-8749-0019

Website:
https://instagram.com/hyojabarbe

Parking: 
N/A

Alcohol: 
Draft and bottled beers and soju available

Tip: 
Hyoja Barbe is only open from 5 PM to 1AM.

Be prepared for wait times on weekends!