Jul 082012
 

BY ALLISON DIXON

With a name like 생선 대가리 – Fish Head, in English – this small restaurant in a back alley of Seomyeon might not seem like the best dinner pick. However, the English name is a bit deceiving, as fish heads are not on the menu. Provided you like seafood, you might find that Fish Head actually has quite a lot to offer in both taste and its laid-back atmosphere.

Owner Jang Jinho used to run an Italian restaurant at the same location, but recently reopened the restaurant as a more laid-back beer and fish joint. In fact, Fish Head is so laid-back that guests can write and draw on the walls, which are layered with newspaper, while they wait for their food. Jang runs Fish Head almost single-handedly, waiting tables and doing all of the cooking by himself. He does have a little bit of help, though. the butler cat

Meet Pasuni, the butler cat. Every day, without fail, Pasuni dons a bowtie and lounges about the restaurant, taking sporadic breaks from his arduous day of napping to welcome customers and stare wistfully at their table as they eat delicious grilled mackerel. While Pasuni’s life might seem exceedingly easy, it has its challenges: Jang didn’t realize the kitten was a male when he first got him, so he gave him the girl-cat’s name Pasuni. By the time Jang realized his mistake, the name had already taken and it was too late. On top of that, Jang’s Valentine’s Day gift to Pasuni one year was to have him neutered. Understandably, Pasuni was not impressed.

With only about six or seven dishes available, the menu at Fish Head is not extensive. That said, the grilled fish is delicious. Both the 고등어구이 (grilled mackerel) and 모듬생선구이 (assorted grilled fish) are highly recommended. Jang cooks the fish on a grill outside the restaurant so that it is perfectly crispy on the outside, and he doesn’t add unnecessary oil so, unlike other fish dishes in Korea, it’s never greasy. Fish Head doesn’t normally open on weekdays until about 8 PM, but if you’ve got a late-night appetite for seafood and drinks, then stop by Fish Head for a bite to eat – the only restaurant in Korea with a cat butler.

Directions: From Seomyeon Station exit 2, take the first left (you’ll see a women’s swimsuit/ dance costume store). Walk straight ahead and take the slight left at the convenience store. From there, take the first right (you’ll see a secondhand clothing shop) and walk straight to the end of the street. You’ll find yourself on the same street as The Spot, with the Soph clothing store straight ahead. Take the alley just to the right of Soph. Take the first right in the alley, just before the giant wooden statue of a penis on the left (and no, this is not a joke). Fish Head is a few buildings down on the left side (look for the생선 대가리 sign).



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Apr 192011
 

clams and mussels at taejongdae clam tentsThis is a strange memory, but I remember being 14 years old and watching a random show on the Discovery Channel or something similar on Okinawa. The people in the show were diving into piles of squid and clams and other strange sea aliens that I didn’t know the names of. It was cool when I was watching, but later that night, I’m pretty sure I had some Fear Factor-style nightmares, and I might have wet the bed. Not sure.

So anyway, flash forward to present-day in Busan. Who would have thought that one of the coolest things to do in this city was to eat the stuff that made me pee the bed all those years ago?

The Taejongdae clam tents are seriously a fun time. We show up after a long-ish bus ride to the end of Yeong-do, walk along this parking lot overlooking a pebble beach, and stroll down, scoping out the tents. I always feel like the prettiest girl at the ball as all the ladies who work the tents shout at my friends and me (Hey! Come on! You! Here!) and try to coax us into their tent. Don’t stress too much about the selection process: all are pretty much the same. They have no menus; our particular lady told us “memory” when we asked her for one, as she gestured towards the buckets of seafood out in front.

taejongdae clam tents eating on the pebble beachI’ve been here twice now, and both times, you just kind of mime what you want (or speak some Korean if you’ve got the skills), and the ladies will take care of the portions. I think clams (조개 – jo-gae) and mussels (홍합 – hong-hap) are the best things to go for here. There are also prawns (새우 – sae-oo) and some smaller shellfish, as well as Gaebul (the weird sea penis-looking things… I steer clear) if you’re feeling saucy. (NOTE: Just to be clear here: you’ll need to cook the clams. Sorry, just had to say it. You might want to use the scissors as well to cut the clams away from their shells).

There are no “prices” posted, but both times I’ve gone, it’s been about the same. For five people, mussels and clams, beer and some soju should run you 80-100k, depending on how much you drink. Another time, we had 10 people eating and the total was 160. Not bad, considering how much you get, and considering that the divers are about 50 meters away plucking the shellfish out of the ocean.

Tents at taejongdae that serve clamsTaejongdae is also a really nice scenic park that give you some nice views along the ocean, so you can go hiking before or after you eat. There is a small train (think something like those trains that go around the zoo) that goes around Taejongdae, and there is also a small ferry/tour boat that goes around a couple small rock islands off the coast. I’ve heard that you can get a ferry from Jagalchi market to Taejongdae, but I’m not sure about this.

Directions:

FROM JAGALCHI/NAMPO: get to Jagalchi metro station exit 10 and take bus 8.
FROM SEOMYEON: get the 88-B or 88-A across the street from Judie’s Taehwa. The ride is about an hour.
FROM POINTS EAST (east of Seomyeon): Metro to Daeyeon station, exit 2 and take the 101 all the way to Taejongdae. OR you can take the 139, 1001 or 1003 to the Munhyeon stop and transfer to the 101 there. The ride from Daeyeon will take about an hour.
FROM BUSAN STATION: Bus 101, 88-A or 88-B will do the trick.

Take the bus to the END of the line (TaeJongDae) and you’ll get off in a parking lot. Turn left and you’ll see the entrance to the park. Turn RIGHT after the Family Mart, BEFORE the main gate. Walk down the path (it looks kind of seedy) till you come to a parking lot. You’ll see the tents and the ocean. ATM and bathrooms are to your left of the parking lot, slightly uphill, and overlooking the clam tents.



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