If there’s one area in Gwangju I can’t seem to get enough of, it’s 동명동 (Dongmyeong-dong). It’s been quite a ride to see the changes it has been going through over the past few years, and the new businesses and restaurants have definitely been getting my attention during my walks through the neighborhood. Based on few places I’ve tried, it appears I need to find more excuses to visit.
A couple of friends invited me to have lunch at 제주당 (Jeju Dang; Jeju Restaurant) shortly after I had returned from a long trip to the Middle East. I let them know beforehand that I had been craving pork, and they recommended this spot. As someone who still needs to make a visit to Jeju, I was excited to see what was in store.
The restaurant was a little tricky to find, mostly due to it being tucked away on one of the smaller side roads. Due to its small size, I almost walked right past it before being called out to by my friends. By the time I got there, a line had already been forming. The few seats inside were full from the lunch rush, and those of us who arrived a little later had to wait outside until some spots were available. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long.
Once I was seated at the single long table that everyone in the restaurant shared, I looked through the book that offered no pictures or translations. It was a good thing our curiosity had pushed us to think ahead, as we had no problems finding pictures of the more popular dishes through social media after realizing just how popular it was. The main feature appeared to be the noodle dishes, such as the 멸치고기국수 (myeolchi gogi guksu; anchovy meat broth noodles), the 고기국수 (gogi guksu; meat broth noodles), and the 제주국수 (Jeju guksu; Jeju noodles). Other items on the menu included options like 흑돼지두루치기 (heukdwaeji duluchigi; chopped black pork), 얼큰버섯한우전골 (eolkeun beoseot hanwoo jeongol; mushroom and beef hotpot), and a number of seafood items featuring octopus. After peeking around at what everyone else was getting, we ordered the three noodle dishes mentioned above, a small order of 돔베고기 (dombe gogi; black pork belly slices), and 감태 주먹밥 (gamtae jumeokbap; rice balls).
It didn’t take very long for us to receive our food after we placed our orders. We first got our noodles, which all looked wonderful. I had the anchovy meat broth noodles, which came topped with fried tofu skins and some healthy slices of pork belly. The anchovy in the broth wasn’t too prominent. If anything, it really elevated the meaty flavors of the pork. The noodles were nice and bouncy, and the overall dish reminded me of Japanese ramen. This comparison was even closer with the regular meat broth noodles, which came with the same pork slices and some chili peppers to add a nice amount of heat. The Jeju noodles came in a spicy broth that was packed full of seafood. Not only was it gorgeous, but it was tasty as well.
We also received our slices of pork belly that was served with not much more than a side of course sea salt. I can’t really say whether or not what we got was proper black pork from Jeju, but I can say that it was wonderful. The flavor of the pork was made that much better by the salt, and the way it had been cooked left the fat soft and buttery while still maintaining its shape. I had to remind myself that I was sharing this dish with my friends, as I almost inhaled the whole thing by myself. The rice balls, which was a popular option on social media, were also lovely. They didn’t have anything inside, but the outside had been coated with a thin, crunchy layer of seaweed, and the whole thing rested on a serving of spicy mayonnaise. Eating it was a satisfying experience that left me wishing that spicy mayonnaise was more of a common ingredient in rice balls.
제주당 ended up being the highlight of that weekend, as I started missing the food before I even left the restaurant. Even with its small space, the place was welcoming and cozy. For previously mentioned reasons, I would not recommend this place to large parties of any kind. Most of the people there came in twos, and my party of three was almost one too many. As for me, even if it means going by myself, I’ll definitely be back for more of those porky noodles.
P.S. Don’t try to fix the fence decoration. That’s how it’s supposed to look. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.
Address: 광주 동구 동명동 143-55 (near the Gwangju library)
Hours: 11:30AM to 10:00PM (break from 3:00PM to 5:00PM)
Average Price Range: 8,000 to 10,000 per person