As soon as you walk into Dongdaemun, it feels like you’ve been teleported to a typical pre-gaming restaurant in Korea. Specialising in chicken recipes, this Sul Jip, directly translated to “Alcohol House,” is where you eat spicy chicken and drink bottles of soju until you’re feeling tiddly enough to sing karaoke, where you normally drink more soju and beer and have a jolly good time. Spicy food, soju and singing form the procession of how a true Korean de-stresses on a “Flaming Friday” night.
This restaurant is famous for their Buldak (translating to fire chicken) and despite being able to choose the level of spiciness, its self-explanatory name helps convey the danger in eating this. Your mouth will feel like it is on fire. If you’re already addicted to the pain that spicy food brings you, this is a challenge that you should accept. There’s also fire chicken feet ($30) if you want a big dose of collagen. Don’t be put off by the fact that you’re eating feet – it’s actually pretty good. Moreover, you have the option of having boneless chicken feet if the idea of having to eat chicken feet with the bones still in it freaks you out. They do look like red paws with extra long fingers but it’s kind of like eating wings – but they’re feet. Apologies if I made it worse.
Personally, I’m not one who has K-pop on loop so it felt rather bizarre to see an endless stream of music videos on their TV. I was mesmerized. Also, the incredibly flimsy paper screen dividers kept each table segregated from each other which provided a bit more privacy in the packed restaurant. This joint is definitely not a place to take someone on a first date. It’s not the most romantic as your noses will be running and your eyes will be welling up from the fire chicken. However, I recommend it for a cultural experience.
Most of their meals are designed to be shared between 2 - 3 people so it’s good to go with a few friends and try some weird foods such as the aforementioned chicken phalanges or perhaps a portion of chicken gizzards and stir-fried chicken cartilage. Or you could be safe and have a pot of mussels and crumbed chicken cutlets.
Either way, if you’re up for a night of authentic Korean cuisine and booze culture – this is a good place to start.