WHERE TO EAT:
The major hotels in Haeundae all offer restaurants of various types, often with views of the ocean. For the slightly more adventurous, we offer these recommendations in the Haeundae area or on Dalmaji Hill, a trendy district overlooking the sea that is five minutes away by taxi.
Haeundae’s most difficult to pronounce restaurant may also be its all-around best, offering a nice, intimate interior and topnotch traditional Korean food. Located in the square to the right side of Paradise Hotel, Yeyije has space under the tables so that customers can sit on the floor and still stretch their legs. Course meals, which feature about a thousand small side dishes, run from 30,000 to 70,000 won per head, with more modest offerings available for lunch.
Haeundae Amso Galbi
Anyone who as eaten galbi (barbecued meat) in Korea knows that even the cheap stuff tastes pretty damn good. But for those willing to shed a few bills to see just how good it can get, Haeundae Amso Galbi offers melt-in-your-mouth barbecue like no other. While the restaurant’s interior will not have anyone writing home, the food will. Galbi meals start at around 25,000 won a head for just the basics. It’s also called Haeundae Rib Barbeque restaurant.
The Ganga chain of restaurants has spread throughout Seoul and Busan, and it’s no secret as to why: it serves up the best Indian food in Korea. Prices range from 15,000-22,000 won for curries and 17,000-35,000 for tandoori dishes. Special kudos go to the fresh spinach and cottage cheese-based palak paneer. Nan bread is top-notch, but note that the rice served is of the Korean, not the Indian, variety. Ganga is located on the main road between the Grand and Sea Cloud hotels, in the basement level of the building housing Starbucks.
A small, attractive restaurant on Dalmaji Hill serving traditional Korean food with course meals from 20,000 to 50,000 won. Lunch lunch courses are also available for 15,000 won. Seating is traditional — on the floor — though legless chairs will give you something to lean back on. Call well in advance to reserve a table with a view of the ocean.
Goryeojeong is one of the Haeundae area’s most famous restaurants, located on the third floor of the Ocean Tower Hotel. Meals range from 11,000 to 50,000 won and run the gamut from beef to sashimi.
The shot of Choi Minshik chomping down a live octopus in the movie Oldboy has become an iconic image in the minds of many Asian cinema fans. For those wishing to make a pilgrimage to the real-life sushi restaurant where this scene was shot, travel to Gozen, a 20-minute taxi ride away from Haeundae in Oncheon-dong. Note that it’s not cheap — dinner prices range
from 50,000 to 80,000 won a person, with lunch available from 20,000 to 50,000 won — but it’s high-quality sushi. Have a Korean friend call in advance to make reservations, as space is limited.TO
You could spend the whole night at Opera if you were so inclined. The fourth and fifth floors offer coffee, cake and light meals; the third-floor Italian restaurant garners a recommendation from Pusan fest staff; while the ground and basement floors offer the chance to indulge in karaoke, Korean style. However, we’re particularly taken with the dimly-lit bar on the second floor that offers a nice selection of whisky and wine. Opera is located halfway up Dalmaji Hill; Busan taxi drivers will all know the place, but they won’t be able to understand your pronunciation. Try saying “aupair- ah.”
WHERE TO DRINK COFFEE
Those looking for a comfortable place to talk, or those who just need a really decent cup of coffee, are advised to hop in the taxi for a five-minute trip up Dalmaji Hill. The gallery/café Van offers roomy, artsy ambience as well as a nice view of Haeundae Beach. Barista Lee Myung-jae serves up coffee at 5,000-9,000 won a cup, which is twice what you’d pay at Starbucks, but worth it.
PRACTICAL AND CULTURAL TIPS
Eating: Foreign guests who experience a full Korean course meal for the first time can be forgiven for feeling intimidated. You are not expected to finish all those scores of side dishes that will be set in front of you. Indeed, if you do, they will only be filled up again. The only thing that polite courtesy requires you to finish is the rice (and most Koreans won’t hold you to this, either). The rice and its attending side dishes come at the end of the meal. Take note: the meal is never over until you get the rice. Pace yourself accordingly.
Drinking: Traditional Korean etiquette has been retained to a greater extent in drinking than in any other activity. When you receive a drink from someone else, hold your cup with two hands — or to show more respect, rest your left hand on your right arm, somewhere between your wrist and elbow. Take care not to let your companions pour their own drinks — you should pour it for them. When taking a sip, if you are sitting across from an elder, turn your body so that you face to the side. For a conversation starter, ask your Korean colleagues about other aspects of Korean drinking etiquette.
Paying: There is no need to tip, anytime or anywhere in South Korea. You can forget that the practice ever existed. That being said, taxi drivers will grateful if you round up to the nearest 1,000 won. When paying in a restaurant, you don’t need to wait for a check, just pay on your way out. Taxes are generally included in the price
of a product, but take note that upscale restaurants may add both a 10% service charge and a 10% tax to the price on the menu.