Review: Podam (포담)


I find it humorous that here, "dim sum" is equated with the various Chinese-style dumplings and not the actual proper dim sum feasts, carts and tea and all. Here, "dim sum" restaurants refers to hybrid restaurants that sells mostly xiao long bao and xiao mai dumplings with a few common dishes from the ubiquitous Korean-Chinese restaurants around. The quality and taste of these restaurants generally has a bigger range than the menu offerings but today's spot is a solid one if you're looking to get your dumplings fix. It certainly helps their other dishes are also well executed.

Located in the popular area of Seochon, just west of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Podam is a restaurant that's found growing success both due to word of mouth and a few media mentions. The space is quite small, measuring less than 40 square meters, so it’s best to arrive before or after peak lunch and dinner times. It also has a rather oddly shaped, elongated layout somewhat like a backwards "C" shape and so large groups may find it difficult to be seat together. Its tiled and wooden theme, combined with the yellow lighting gives it a warm yet sophisticated feel to it that makes it suitable for a casual meal with friends or a date spot. 

For their dumplings they have pork xiao long bao (6,500), shrimp xiao long bao (6,900), crab xiao long bao (6,900), and shrimp shao mai (6,900). All dumpling order includes 5 pieces except for the shrimp shao mai which comes in 4 pieces. You can also add dumplings to your dumpling order which is 1,300 for the pork, 1,600 for the shrimp and crab xiao long bao, and 2,000 for the crab shaomai
For main dishes they have the black vinegar tangsooyook (16K), soy sauce tangsooyook (17K), sweet and spicy chicken (18K) and lemon cream shrimp (22K). Noodle varieties include their wooyookmien (beef noodles for 7.5K), Sichuan style tantan noodles (8K), maratangmien (8K), and chaomien (9K). 
Soft drinks are 3K and they also offer Hong Kong-style milk tea (4K) and mango ice tea (5K). Bottled hoegaarden  and bottled Tsingtao are both 6K each while they have Kaoliang Wine for 13K or 22K for 125mL or 250mL.
So you can see, it's a rather hodgepodge of different regional, Chinese cuisine-derived dishes so one shouldn't come here expecting authentic traditional dishes. 

They take particular pride in their xiao long bao though their black vinegar tangsooyook and tantanmien also earn raves... so that's what we ordered (along with the shrimp shao mai).

After ordering zha cai provided on the side along with black soy sauce and ginger slices for the dumplings and standard tea. 

The standard xiao long bao arrives right off their steam baths. Podam takes particular pride in their xiao long bao which utilizes pork shoulder and some 12 ingredients to make up their juicy and amply packed dumplings. The filling is always made the night before and left to refrigerate overnight so the ingredients and flavors have plenty of time to mingle and to prevent it falling apart during the cooking process. The wrapper making process and ratio differs depending on the season and humidity levels but they always strive to make it as thin as possible as a good xiao long bao should be. 

And thin the wrappers were, delicately enveloping the generous portions of the filling. Not only was there a good amount of soup inside but the filling was sizable as well.

The shrimp shao mai also seemed slightly bigger than their normal size and again, generous on the filling. There was a hint of fishiness so I preferred the xiao long bao but these were far from the worst I've had before. Still juicy and soft but still retaining texture.

I was most looking forward to the black vinegar tangsooyook on the menu. Black vinegar generally has a stronger profile to it with a slightly earthy tone to it and I was curious how it played out against the generally sweet and salty flavors of tangsooyook. True to black vinegar being a prime ingredient to the sauce, the tangsooyook’s sauce is decidedly darker in color than regular tangsooyook and even before eating, the black vinegar’s smell cuts through the fried pork and sauce. 

The fried pork is piping hot and the sauce poured over just before serving leaving the pork’s crunchy case intact. The black vinegar in the sauce definitely makes it known it’s there as it punches through to the taste buds at first and certainly some will find it a bit strong to their liking. But as you keep chewing you’ll find that the initial impact of the black vinegar recedes as the various flavors from the fried and breaded pork, the sweet and salty sauce comes through. The bits of frozen raspberries was another interesting addition to the dish whose tarter flavors worked with the black vinegar sauce. It’s a tangsooyook with a mean upper cut that I found thoroughly enjoyable but the younger demographics who prefer the thoroughly sweet tastes of regular tangsooyook may not find to their liking. 

On the surface, their tantanmien looks like any other tantanmien and it also tastes very similar to a traditional tantanmien. But the difference in Podam's take on the dish is that instead of peanuts they mainly utilize sesame seeds to recreate that characteristic nutty flavor. It's certainly distinguishable when you know but I was surprised how similarly the sesame seeds mimicked the nutty effects of peanuts. Creamy, savory, just a tang of sweetness and spiciness... what's not to love about that? 

Final thoughts: 
Though certainly not traditional, Podam shows its effort in creating solid takes on these favorite dishes. They're not afraid to make an occasional twist which, more importantly, works making it a nice dining experience for the open-minded.  

서울특별시 종로구 자하문로9길 11
11 Jahamun-ro 9-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul




A few draft beer and Chinese liquor available

Closed on the first Monday of every month.

Break time everyday between 3-5PM.