Primo Baciobaci (프리모바치오바치) – Amazing Italian Food in Seoul

Amongst the hustle and bustle of diners and waiters, Primo Baciobaci remains comfy, with pots, scribbles, and forgotten Christmas decorations adorning its walls. Perhaps it is the low-key vibe that attracts so many customers. Or maybe the food? We’ll get to that in a sec!

We went on a Wednesday afternoon around 1:30. Since the restaurant is too busy to accept reservations, we walked in expecting to wait. The magic of Primo is this: the host tells you 20 minutes. You look around and spot 15 other guests waiting to be seated. After 20 minutes, the host calls your name. Promise kept! The efficiency doesn’t stop there. After we were seated upstairs, the waiter took the order that we had been mulling over for 20 minutes and delivered a basket full of bread. Sweet. My favorite part about Italian restaurants. But wait, what is it with this sweet doughy texture? Mushy. Wet. Bread.  If they took some sugar out and stuck it in the oven a bit longer, I think that the bread would’ve been supreme. 1 point for service, dock 1 point for bread.

Everything moves quick here. Our entres were delivered after only about 4 minutes. I ordered the special of the day: Shrimp Curry Pasta in Cream Sauce. The pasta was perfectly cooked perfectly, al dente. And the sauce, can’t forget the sauce. Let’s just talk about cream sauces in general for a second. Most people put way too much butter, or salt, or FLOUR in their cream sauce. I find it very rare to find one to my liking. But this Curry Cream Sauce. My god. Seasoned to perfection. Rich. Full-bodied, but not overbearing.

Pasta of the Day: Shrimp Curry Pasta 13,000₩

Giin had the Nero – a cream based pasta with baby octopus and squid ink served in a bread bowl. I’m not usually one to mix seafood with pasta, but I tasted it anyway. Hold it. It tasted exactly like my curry pasta but with a slight seafood twinge! They came up with the perfect cream sauce, and applied it to Pastas A-Z. Apparently the cream sauce is what this place is famous for;  especially the Pane, a spicy cream spaghetti served in a bread bowl.

Nero – Cream and Squid Ink Spaghetti in a Bread Bowl 12,000₩

To top things off, mango or strawberry sorbet. Free of charge. Well done, Bacio. Who isn’t a sucker for “service items?” We recommend the mango: tart and tasty. The strawberry was a bit milky and bland.

Three locations:

The Rundown
Excellent untraditional Italian food. Especially famous for their cream based pastas served in bread bowls. No reservations. Expect to wait, and be glad you did.
25,000₩ for two.

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Hiking – Gwanaksan (관악산)

Directions: Sadang Station (Line 2/1) Exit 4, walk 5 minutes and make a sharp right and walk up the hill. Follow other climbers or look out for hiking stores. It’s not hard to find, fear not. And getting lost is always fun. We entered here at Sadang station, hiked for 3 hours to the peak, and then hobbled down on numb legs into Seoul National University which nuzzles its northwest boundary. From there we thankfully hopped on a bus and made our way home.

At this point my adventures in hiking Seoul numbers the pathetically low number of two times. However, I’ll tell you what I can. Gwanaksan was damn fun. We went on the first warm weekend of the year so it was quite crowded, but despite that the climb was all around enjoyable. Bring sturdy shoes, possibly gloves, and the normal sun block, hat, and water.

Some interesting history of the mountain is available from The Korea Herald.

Here’s the initial climb into the mountain. However, it’s misleading. Soon the stairs disappeared, and often the trail itself, leaving us wondering which route seemed less impossible.

Gwanaksan was very difficult on the feet as there were few stairs and pleasant trails such as I’m used to in America. This picture is no joke, at many points there were little footholes along the cliff and ropes to give you a handle. I seriously underestimated Korean hikers until I saw dozens of frail looking ajumas and ajushies tackle this trail.

I couldn’t find much information regarding the mountains military history but these little bunkers were popped up about every 20 minutes or so. I was excited to come home and read some exciting war stories but was unable to find anything. Fill me in if you know. But nonetheless they looked pretty cool and offered me a secluded spot to empty my bladder.

Of course while hiking you have to have some snacks. Bring along some cash as the makeuli is charged a premium at about 2,000 per cup. A popular practice is to freeze majeuli, hike it to the top and enjoy it frosty. I’ll have to try this out for my next trip!

Also this was my very first time trying beondegi (번데기) – or silkworms. They’re common snack food on the street in Korea and chances are if you smelled dirty feet while roaming Seoul it was actually beondegi. They look and smell like, well to put it culturally sensitively, like disgusting maggots. But i’ve been living here for 1.5 years so it’s past time I check it out. They taste like… crunchy/gooey peanuts? I actually enjoyed the texture, but the taste wasn’t pleasant. I had one, and politely handed the rest back.

And some views from the top!

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Koong (궁) – Dumpling Soup (만두국) Done Right

There’s something homey and inviting about an old lady and her mother in traditional Korean garb sitting in front of a row of dumplings. However, as Koong is located in the center of tourist-central Insadong I was tempted to imagine a business man in a suit hanging that sign up. But once inside, my fears were allayed by a rare level of warmth from the wait staff. The warm, welcomed feeling I initially got from that picture stayed with me throughout the meal. It actually reminded me of meals with my grandmother: the food was delicious, my side dishes stayed full, and I left happy.

“Would you like an English menu?”

“Why yes, I would. Thank you.”

The food is awesome. I had the Kaesong Dumpling Soup (개성만두국). Yeah, Kaesong is the same city in North Korea with the South Korean workers who are kicked out or threatened to be every year. Giin had the Joleangee Dduk Dumpling Soup (조랭이떡만두국). Not much of a difference except the Kaesong came with six dumplings and the Joleangee came with 4 and some dduk.

Kaesong Dumpling Soup (개성만두국)

The dumplings are fat and fresh, the broth perfectly seasoned, and the side-dishes spot on. Everyone likes their kimchee differently, but it seems Koong knew I was coming and made their kimchee exactly to my taste. There’s nothing here that will blow your mind in originality, just simple, traditional food your Korean grandmother would make. It left me feeling full, satisfied, and somewhat healthy.

As noted earlier the service was perfect. They offered me an English menu with beautiful pictures and filled my kimchee without having to be asked. I also noticed there were at least 2 servers standing around waiting to be called on even during a busy Saturday afternoon lunch rush.

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The Rundown
16,000W for two. A simple, tasty, classic, affordable Korean meal that will leave you full and satisfied. Definitely drop in.


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Greenbasket – Eat Your Greens!

This fat foodie is on a diet. A combination of a leg injury and a group of friends who drink to make sailors look sober has put me 20lbs over my ‘normal’ weight, rendering most of my wardrobe useless. I suppose I should have started a diet before summer, but, eh, I didn’t have the motivation.

Anyhow, my dietary needs led me to Greenbasket today, and I believe I will be a regular for the foreseeable future.

This place is simple, delicious, and modestly priced. It’s just salad, nothing more. Fresh, colorful, so-real-its-bitter, salad. Mmmmmm. You choose one base extra with your salad, and then choose all the extras you like. If you are reasonable, your salad should come out to be about 7,000KRW.

My salad today had perfectly cooked and seasoned chicken breast. The broccoli was so green it looked artificially colored. And the Oriental dressing looked made-in-house and tasted amazing. Unfortunately they were sold out of the balsamic, but I’ll try to update this post later if I get a chance to try it. Balsamic is an extra 700W. Also I don’t recommend the olives. I suppose I was hoping for too much for some real fresh ones.

We made reservations for 2 around 11am for 12pm. We barely made it though as they said they were full and we had to beg. That also means that none of the people walking in were able to get seats (though, oddly, there were many open tables.) I believe the bulk of their revenue is from takeout and delivery to local businesses. Be sure to call for reservations.

Salad: Grilled Chicken Breast + Egg + Broccoli + Onions + Olives

Full resolution pictures available here:

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한남동 Green Basket (그린바스켓)
서울 용산구 한남동 657-204 지하 1층
Seoul, Yongsan-gu, Hannam-dong, 657-204 B1
02) 749-5055
Mon-Fri 10am-10pm
Sat-Sun 11am-9:30pm


Standing Coffee – Definitely Worth Standing For

Standing Coffee offers something unique among coffee shops – good coffee. I’ve worked in four different coffee shops over three years during college and have grown a proper palette for good coffee beans and properly poured espresso. That doesn’t mean I’m a coffee snob – I’ll regularly heat up day old coffee – but at least my tongue can identify the good stuff. Most people can right?

Every time I drink Standing Coffee I keep looking down at the cup, wondering “how does that taste so good?” Well, I have no idea what beans they use or if they have a nice coffee machine. But I can tell you that they pull their shots correctly. Proper technique in pulling an espresso shot is vital. The barista must 1) grind fresh beans, 2) level it in the filter basket, and then 3) pack it down hard. Each machine is different so a barista has to adapt his style to the machine, and he does so by monitoring the shot. A shot should take about 18 seconds, maintain a steady flow, and have a nice creamy layer floating on top. Then the shot cannot sit longer than 10 seconds without being mixed or it goes bitter. Want more information? Read this.

Despite pulling coffee shots for three years, I don’t think I’ve ever poured a shot like this. Hats off to them. They’ve cracked the coffee code, for me at least. I’m a fan. Unfortunately I’ve only gotten the Americano here so that I can’t comment on the other drinks. Though, my friend enjoyed her cappuccino. Also, I saw them juicing about 5 lemons for a lemonade so it doesn’t get any fresher than that.

As the name suggests, standing room only.

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568 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea