In the course of this blog, we’ve given our readers little tidbits of Seoul, Jeju Island, Busan, Gyeongju, Deoksin….and we’ve kind of ignored the city closest to where we live – Ulsan. Why? Well, as we may have alluded to in previous blogs, Ulsan is hardly regarded as a tourism mecca. You may remember that website searches always lead to the same damning statement:
“There are twelve touristic ‘scenic sights’ to see in and around city that range from the natural to man-made. However none are world class or notable sites within Korea itself.”
However, being terminally broke for 3 out of 4 weeks of the pay month we recently decided that it was time to perhaps dig a little deeper and find some gems in Ulsan. Every city has cool bits, right? And the 90 cent bus fair certainly makes a little exploration well within our reach. So over the course of the past few weekends, we’ve given Ulsan a bit more of a ‘go’ and have come up with a few gems!
Eating, of course, is one of our favourite activities and while our choices in Deoksin are extremely limited, a city as big as Ulsan has a far wider variety of culinary delights! A hankering for sushi led us in search of adventure one Saturday afternoon and we happened upon Bar Haru.
We loved the place instantly. We sat at the bar so we could watch the chefs at work. The owner/head chef, Brian, spoke exceptional English and engaged us throughout the meal with information and just general good-guy-ness. The set menu at ₩45,000 for the two of us seemed like a good deal so we happily ordered and sat back to await the first Japanese meal we had had since leaving New Zealand! Totally worth the five month build up…
We knew we were in for a treat when Brian grated proper, FRESH wasabi onto our side dishes! While we definitely consider ourselves experienced eaters, we have only ever been presented with the gloopy, bright-green, processed in-a-tube variety of wasabi – so this was actually our first ever taste of the real deal. And it was delicious. So fruity and pungent. The fluro stuff has been left for dead.
Our drinks and salads arrived next – a crisp, refreshing Asahi for H-J, while Dan tried something new recommended to him by the chef. Named Ramune ラムネ, it tasted like bubblegum! The bottle design is pretty cool in itself, made of glass and sealed with a marble. Definitely an snazzy thing to drink at your next party!
Then the sushi and nigiri started arriving…
Actually, there was a whole lot more but we ate it quicker than we could snap. You can only imagine how good it was…hehe.
And of course, to complete the meal, a gorgeous miso soup with a perfectly flavoured dashi.
Feeling pretty chuffed, we were sitting back and reflecting on the beautiful meal we had just enjoyed when Dan said, “hmm, I really could go for a bit of tuna sashimi, just to top it all off.” We weren’t really that hungry anymore but the idea of a couple of pieces of no doubt beautifully fresh tuna really appealed. Ordering accordingly, again, we relaxed and waited….and waited…and watched in amazement as our “couple of bits of fish” were plated.
And out came this platter of pure, sashimi heaven. Four different cuts of different tuna, thick and glistening. It was the best fish we’d had in a long time. And so stunning to look at. We took our time and lovingly devoured each morsel, sighing contentedly in between bites.
It was a good thing that we enjoyed it so much. When we happily went up to pay the bill our modest ₩45,000 meal had sky-rocketed to ₩130,000! Yes, that’s right – we had tripled our bill with an $85 plate of raw fish! So much for a couple of pieces to top off the night. All we could do was laugh and over-extend our credit cards, yet again. It was so worth it.
In a similar theme, another Japanese place that had caught our interest was a little noodle bar tucked off the side of the famous downtown area. Having walked past a number of times on previous visits and seen it packed with customers, we decided finally to venture in and see what all the fuss was about.
It has a simple menu; soy sauce noodles, spicy soy sauce noodles, soy bean paste noodles, spicy soy bean paste noodles…you get the drift. Reverting back to our tried and tested point-and-order system, we pointed and ordered the soy sauce noodles.
A pot of kimchi and some tea were first delivered to our table.
Next came our noodles – large, steaming bowls of goodness. The noodles were swimming in the most flavourful broth, really savoury and moreish and topped with a slice of pork and a boiled egg. It was the sort of noodle dish that you crave and will go back for time and time again (and we have!).
We get the impression that this place is sorta famous – the walls are covered in pictures of people eating noodles, newspaper articles and former customers proudly displaying huge empty bowls. Some kind of noodle eating challenge?
In a nutshell (or a noodle bowl), this place rules. Expect to be taken here if you visit us in Korea.
It ain’t all just Japanese food round here though! Arriving in Ulsan a couple of days ago to pick up some groceries, we disembarked the 527 in Samsandong feeling like a coffee and so looked for the nearest cafe/coffee selling establishment to us that wasn’t Starbucks (we were immediately, however greeted by TWO Starbucks, within 150m of each other).
A place called B-Stove immediately caught our eye. Two things really pulled us – the sun filled balcony looking over the street, and the cafe’s wonderful tag line ‘COFFEE & DINNIN’. As you can see the work that we and many other English teachers in Korea do has really paid off.
We headed up the stairs on a fiendish search for caffeine to find a very professional cafe/restaurant filled with people. B-Stove not only had coffee but a very nice looking menu that included brunch!!!! Brunch is a word that we haven’t heard for a long while so we were promptly distracted from the coffee mission.
Having just completed two back-to-back winters, we chose to sit outside and were led to a sun drenched table overlooking not only the busy streets of Samsandong but also the Lotte Wheel. Score!
Dan was distracted from his original intention of ordering the full American breakfast when the table beside us was graced with the most amazing looking salad. He decided on that instead, while H-J couldn’t resist the Korean/Italian pull of the “boccochiny” sandwich.
Somewhat surprisingly, we were presented with a free appetiser of bread with balsamic and olive oil dip was bought to the table with our drinks – what a nice touch!
And then came the main feature.
The chicken salad closely resembled a small mountain and was delicious.
The boccochiny (hehe) sammy was pretty good too! Hearty bread, delicious fresh cheese and copious amounts of salad both in the sandwich as well as on the plate. In the ultimate test of willpower, H-J un-buried the salad from under the generous serving of fries, leaving them neglected and uneaten!
Another success. Ulsan’s food scene was starting to prove itself worth a bit more thorough investigation. Did that mean there might be some non-food related hidden treasures, too? Stay tuned…