Trip to Busan: Serious foodie’s guide

“So your kids must be studying at the school in USA.”

Curious taxi drivers in Busan cut us off in conversation every time when my two kids chatted each other in English. In a country where there’s a national interest(closer to an obsession) with language-learning, their (endless) chitchat was enough to draw taxi drivers’ attention. When explaining that we’re actually living in Hong Kong, a flurry of questions keep continuing. “Isn’t Hong Kong a part of China? Is English the official language of Hong Kong, not Chinese?”

Well, how can I explain (or do I need to explain) things like, international schools, our kids’ experience prior to HK, status of Hong Kong as SAR (Special Administrative Region) and somewhat not-so-simple relationship with China during such a short ride? Although inquisitive, Busan’s taxi drivers are super-gentle and extremely soft-speaking, so don’t feel uncomfortable in case you encounter something like this.

It appears that the relaxing atmosphere of this beautiful port city even made taxi drivers mellow-tempered, indeed a rare characteristic found in the big cities. True, during the last 4 weeks of summer in Busan, I’ve never felt freer and more excited, owing to leisurely ambience and mind-blowing food.

If you are a serious foodie or adventurous enough to taste exotic food that you’ve never imagined possible, this post is just right for you. From spicy cockle dish, abalone porridge to live octopus, the list goes on and on. As for the diversity and excitement offered by food in Busan, sky’s the limit!

1. Poong Won Jang (풍원장 꼬막정찬): 1409 U 1-dong, Haeundae-gu



Poong Won Jang is one of my favorite restaurants in Busan, serving cockle set meal only. It matters little whether you are a fan of cockle or not, as made-to-order seafood miso soup and delectable side dishes served along with the main dish are too good to resist, all at the unbelievable price of KRW15,000(HKD100, USD12). Its prime waterfront location adjacent to famous “Movie/cartoon street” makes this place popular destination for locals and travelers alike.

2. Obok Seaweed (오복미역): 28 Gunam-ro, Haeundae-gu


“How lazy does a housewife need to be to order Seaweed soup in a restaurant?” As a no-frills everyday dish (aka birthday soup), seaweed soup has  never seriously  been regarded as a “proper menu” by itself. But Obok Seaweed is an exception and all it serves are seaweed soups, beef/clam/sole fish seaweed soups. Take one spoon of its hours’-long simmered seaweed stock, and its deep flavor and chunky ingredient will make you nod why it makes sense to pay for seaweed soup alone.

3. Mitaki(미타키): 139, Dalmaji-gil, haeundae-gu





If I have to choose only one place to eat in Busan, this is it. Eating lunch Kaiseki while overlooking unrestricted “Haeundae beach” view is a sheer luxury. Restaurant is divided into two floors, one specializing in Kaiseki meal, the other for Teppanyaki course, and it is one of the biggest regrets that I didn’t try Teppanyaki here. If you are longing for Japanese style sashimi(숙성회) instead of Korean style fresh fish(활어), look no further than Mitaki and the whole experience will make your Busan stay absolutely memorable.

4. Millennium fresh fish house (밀레니엄 횟집): 5/F, Millennium Plaza, 110-51, Minrak-dong, Suyoung-gu




Welcome to Busan. You’ve just stepped into the heart of the local charm, meaning you ‘ve reached where locals frequent to shop for daily sashimi and fish. 5th floor seafood restaurant offers 7 course dinner feast, including fresh abalone and live octopus smothered with seaweed and sesame oil, all at the price of KRW35,000(HKD240, USD30). Considering how expensive sashimi/sushi dinner costs in HK, this is a steal and quality is also second to none.

5. Bium wine bar (비움와인바): 1459 U-dong,  Haeundae-gu




Bium is probably the most memorable wine bars in Busan, full of characters and taste. Ex-paradise hotel sommelier Mr. Kang surely knows about wine and food. Bium literally means “making empty (to fill up again)” and it is the place to make yourself empty to recharge your batteries whenever you need a rest or companion (whether wine or whisky). “Signature cheese and fruit platter” will be a good match to whatever alcohol you will choose.

6. Cheonji Halmaejip (천지 할매집): 119-3 Yeonhwa-ri, Gijang-eup, Gijang



Driving about 30 min from central Busan, you will find another local beauty “Gijang” district where tourists are hardly seen. Best quality Uni in Busan can be found here in “Gijang market“, a local chef’s most beloved place. “Abalone porridge pot” is the food for your soul and its vivid dark green color and chunky abalone slices show what “Abalone porridge” is supposed to look(taste) like.

7. Italy Pocha(이태리 포차): 247 Gobun-ro, Yeonsan-9dong, Yeonje-gu




Italy pocha is an exquisite combination of “Italian restaurant” and “Korean style casual pub” and chances are its nondescript exterior will easily fool you. But don’t underestimate this owner/chef trained at some of Korea’s top Italian restaurants, who creates awesome family-style dishes for taste bud and visual pleasure. Honestly, everything I tried was excellent, with mushroom & shrimp salad/spicy tomato seafood pasta/Tiramisu being another good combination of the meal.

Now, get the hang of the food in Busan? Next, let’s go back to Hong Kong and indulge in more gastronomical pleasure in the world’s fastest-paced city!



Trip to Busan: Food lover’s guide

Beach, relaxing atmosphere, leisurely people and amazing food…What else can I ask for more in Busan?

Yes, I am very excited to have my first long summer in Busan since my childhood and happy to share my findings in Busan with you. Some of the restaurants in this post are hardly known to tourists (Thanks to a large number of relatives living in Busan, I came to find many great places which no tourist guide books have any reference). You will be surprised to find how good, authentic and cheap they are!

1. On the plate (1F, Paradise Hotel, 1408-5, Jung-dong, Haeundae)20258508_10214168747601424_1413348881426761092_n




20108366_10214168774602099_4452068070497866763_nReputation of Paradise hotel in Busan is simply legendary and ex-Paradise chefs, sommeliers are found in some of the best establishment in Busan, proudly holding their badge as “Ex-Paradise (wo)men”. Top quality facilities, restaurants and service all adequately describe Paradise Hotel, and the real star is its beachfront location, commanding the best sea view in Busan.

With the slogan of “7-Star dining experience”, On The Plate is an ideal place to enjoy seafood-focused international buffet in the newly renovated venue. After your lunch, plunge into this beautiful Haeudae, Busan’s top beach where the number of daily visitors easily reaches 1 million in peak season.

2. Aomori (3F, Centum Hotel, 1505, U-dong, Haeundae)20156023_10214198683869812_8197313086834994207_n.jpg



20108239_10214168887644925_2863363106412153213_n5 min-walk from the World’s largest department store “Centum Shinsegae” sits this cozy Japanese place, quite famous among visitors from other parts of the country. While I greatly enjoyed Omakase lunch comprising 5-6 menus at a fraction of the price that I would pay for in Hong Kong, it didn’t take long to realize that there are numerous other alternatives in this port city where seafood places are as common as wonton noodle shops in Hong Kong.

Aomori is worthwhile to try if you are in “Centum city” and want to get your Sushi/Sashimi fix in a refined setting. I am more excited to post real authentic Sashimi places filled with Busan characteristics, something similar to “Tsukiji market” in Tokyo in my next post “Trip to Busan: Serious foodie’s guide”

3. Ops Bakery (1429-6 Jwa-dong, Haeundae, multi-locations)20155970_10214169024968358_5123162627281126722_n


20258001_10214169024608349_1131190233990753520_nOps Bakery is somewhat equivalent to Seoul’s “Kim Youngmo Bakery“, offering highest quality pastries/breads/cakes at a price. It has around 8 shops in major locations throughout the city and chances are you will encounter at least one of its venues somewhere in your itinerary. Despite its aggressive pricing policy, Ops Bakery is always filled with people due mainly to its comprehensive menu that satisfies general palate.

4. Newbell Bread (1F, Zenith Square, 33 Marine City 3-ro, Haeundae-gu)20258241_10214226336121101_287567151941450037_n




20292697_10214233496260100_6669250647814935703_n20258299_10214233497540132_8054190739315217757_nLocated at one of Busan’s wealthiest districts “Marine City” which boasts the splendid skyline, Newbell Bread really stands out from the crowd and provides the neighborhood with unique, quality bread. Signature menu is “roasted chestnut bread” where you can find generous amount of whole roasted chestnut and “Angel baguette” whose soft, chewy texture pairs perfectly with its homemade milk jam. Strongly recommend this place to anyone visiting Busan if you care for good loaf of bread with decent coffee in a super-posh neighborhood.

5.18 Wandang House (31, BIFF Gwangjang-ro, Nampo-dong, Jung-gu)20155744_10214168934846105_5324313366699725970_n



20156064_10214168935086111_8161034914892492678_nDon’t let the humble decors fool you as this serves one of the tastiest dumpling places in the city. Menu at 18 Wandang House is simple and straightforward, it’s all about wandang (similar to wontons in Hong Kong) soup made with long-simmered anchovy seaweed stock and handmade wandang that is irresistibly good. If your hunger is not satisfied with a bowl of wandang soup(HKD 50, USD 6), pair it with “Soba with mixed vegetables in a spicy sauce(HKD 60, USD 8)” and these are truly comfort food for the soul. After your meal, a walk through Nampo-dong will unfold many interesting places, including “Kukje Market” which is featured in the famous Korean movie.

6. 냉수탕가든: Naengsu Tang(107, Gaya gongwon-ro, Busan jingu)20228718_10214186500965247_1243337773339766286_n




20245975_10214186501045249_8208064088585047274_nOK, Naengsu-tang is not the one you will encounter in your typical itinerary. I had the most interesting meal here in my first week in Busan for both types of food and dining ambience. You’ll have the luxury of experiencing traditional Korean dining back in the old days(Korean-style Al-fresco dining surrounded by lush green). Naengsu-tang specializes in “roasted duck(duck bulgogi)” and “herbal simmered clear duck soup(Duck baeksook)” and they taste amazingly good.

You will be surprised to find that it only cost KRW 150,000 (HKD1,000, USD 130) to feed 8 hungry adults and 2 primary school kids. So next time you visit Busan (preferably with a group of 4 or more), simply grab a cab and go to this place. It will truly be an experience that you won’t forget.

7.  JM Coffee (B1, Sinsegae Centum, 1495 U-dong, Haeundae-gu, multi-locations)20265118_10214226179037174_8598135160598272946_n


20292981_10214226217638139_7908004811804561679_nIf you are wondering where you will get your caffeine fix in the world’s largest department store “Shinsegae Centum”,  JM Coffee is the right place to satisfy your coffee craving. As a coffee aficionado, I could immediately sense that this place treats coffee seriously. Try its popular Long black or Cafe latte in its cool ambience exuding hipster-vibe in each and every corner and it is the place that makes Busan’s cafe scene so unique and vibrant.

Next, Trip to Busan: Serious foodie’s guide will follow to introduce you more exciting places in Busan so please stay tuned.


Sushi Ume(梅)

In terms of food, everything available in Seoul can be found in Hong Kong at comparable or better quality but Japanese food seems not the case. Especially, when taking the price of Omakase into account, it feels like eating Sushi/Sashimi by flying to Seoul could be cheaper, even including plane ticket. As I adore Japanese cuisine, I eat them a lot in Hong Kong, but never miss chances of eating Sushi/Sashimi whenever I am in Seoul.

Dongbu-ichongdong, wealthy residential district filled with unique and fun independent restaurants and shops, also known as “Little Tokyo” in Seoul,  is the perfect place where you can enjoy authentic Sushi/Sashimi Omakase dinner at around 1/3 price of comparable restaurants in HK. Sushi Ume(梅) is the sister restaurant of Sushi Kiku(菊), probably the most famous Japanese restaurant in the area where over 15 Japanese restaurants call home. Sushi Ume costs slightly cheaper, also easier to make a booking than Kiku, it tastes just equally good.

Sushi Ume is not a fancy place where you can impress your date with its down-to-earth and humble ambience. But it is the place where you can truly wind down after your exhausting day over authentic Omakase dinner and a bottle of Sake (they even keep your unfinished bottle of Sake if you are a regular or turn out to be a good(?) patron).



















The best moment came when the chef asked me, “Is there anything that you want to eat  more?” after completing above 18 amazing Sashimi Omakase. Yes, Omakase in Seoul never ends, rather it was me who turned down another deliciously-looking Maki as I can’t digest anymore, cutting short original 20-course dinner. Although there are many fancier high-end Japanese restaurants in Cheongdam-dong or Apgujeong-dong (belonging to Gangnam area), for those who don’t have a deep pocket including myself, Sushi Ume is undeniably a bang for the buck.  With its quality food and cozy ambience in a lovely neighborhood, I will definitely return next time I visit Seoul.

Rating: Taste 4.5/ Ambience 3/ Service 4.5/ Price 3 /Value 5