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fancy some beef – Secret han-u beef restaurant

I’ve eaten a lot of beef over my time but my favourite cut has remained pretty steady: a bistecca alla fiorentina (beefsteak Florentine) over a wood fire in the heart of Tuscany. Quite frankly it is pretty hard to beat.

Seoul - han-u beef

I’ve never really got the obsession with super premium fillets/ filet mignon or wagyu beefs. Even in Japan. They are just too easy and it can be like chewing on yogurt. And then I came to Korea and experienced marbling and flavour the way it was meant to be; 한우 beef style. 한우 is written as han-u, hanwoo or hanu.

Han-u beef is the Korean wagyu but better.  Koreans get pretty patriotic about it and unlike their patriotism for Samsung or the chaebols this is entirely correctly placed. I mean you can even read a scientific digest by Messrs Hur, Park and Joo entitled “A comparison of the meat qualities from the Hanwoo (Korean Native Cattle) and Holstein Steer” (here).

Seoul - han-u beef

It comes in various grades such as B, A, A+, A++ and A+++. And apparently even with A+++ if you know the restaurant owner you can get the better +++. But all those pluses come at a pretty severe cost. If you ever come to Korea on business or have someone here who likes you they will probably take you to Samwon Garden in Gangnam so as to impress you with han-u beef. You should be glad they are paying.

As to whether Samwon Garden is a place you should be excited to eat han-u beef, I think their own blurb on the restaurant website tells you all you need to know: “Samwon Garden is the largest first-class restaurant in Korea which can host about 1,200 guests simultaneously. We have hosted local and foreign dignitaries; prime ministers, VIPs from international conferences like the IPU, IBRD, and IMF, The Berlin Philharmony Orchestra, Miss Young International contestants, and etc“.

Seoul - han-u beef

You don’t want to go there. It has good meat but is expensive and the character of factory. Instead you want to go to a small neighbourhood place where the owner is very good friends with the butcher and will phone you when he gets a special cut in.

The pictures of the steak on this post are all from that kind of restaurant. The kind of restaurant where we organised a special late night beef party when the owner told us he had the good stuff in. Where he brings out cuts and samples and slices which I don’t recognise and even offers to bribe the waitress result in nothing. This is because its all a bit secret. A bit nod, nod, wink, wink. From the location of the restaurant to exactly what bit of the cow you are eating.

Seoul - han-u beef

So unfortunately I can’t tell you the name or the location of this fantabulous beef restaurant as it is not mine to bestow. That honour goes to my friend who runs a fairly successful K-Mexican restaurant I much love (Vatos) with the direct line to the owner. I am still searching for the special TomEatsJenCooks one and trying to learn enough Korean to get the best cuts as just saying “han-u chuseyo” doesn’t cut it.

  • Address – secret
  • Price – KRW 50,000 a head and up

Seoul - han-u beef

6 Comments

  1. Words cannot express my envy. That is all.

  2. Hah – next time you come I’ll take you there :)

  3. Tom – I just stumbled across your blog and am loving it! I moved from LA to Manila earlier this year and am often in HK for business so your reviews are much appreciated!

    Given how lazy I am at reading most long-winded posts, I especially enjoy how succinct yours are. Ironic, considering most of my posts are fairly lengthy haha.

    This secret beef place reminds me of one in LA I used to hit up every now and then:
    http://effingdericious.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/totoraku-los-angeles-ca/

    Fun stuff though i admit over repeated visits, the experience does get a bit stale given the 7 or 8 cuts of meat rarely change.

    • LA to Manila – that is an unusual one. Actually one of the places I most want to visit is Manila but Jen is a bit reluctant. I think I just need to book the tickets.

      Thanks for giving the link to that place in LA. Jen and I will actually be visiting next year as her mother has moved there. I am already getting excited about the Mexican

  4. Elizabeth Baek

    If you want to know the best hanu restaurant, I can tell you where it is. But, you need to reserve at least two weeks in advance and travel all the way to Hoengseung. Although personally I would say the taste is worth the travel. We go there at least 4 times a year. It is simply fantastic. Best beef in the world, I tell you. No other restaurant in Korea can match the quality of beef served at this tiny restaurant tucked in Gangwondo. Gosh, I am drooling now.
    I personally do not agree with you on the point that Seoul is not a foodie place. I live in the UK now and I think Seoul has equally good restaurants as London, albeit less diverse cuisines available. We definitely have better Korean (obviously) and Japanese restaurants compared to London, and arguably some better Italian restaurants. In terms of affordable food, I would say Korea definitely triumphs London. But then, everyone’s palette is different and Korea can be pretty difficult to navigate for a foreigner (I am Korean). If you are interested in the Hanu restaurant, drop me an email! I will give you the detail. (the restaurant is pretty exclusive haha.. only really serious foodies know the place. they only take about.. less than 20 tables per day? I don’t really like to advertise the place online as it will mean harder for us to get a table! haha if you know what I mean)

    • Carol Teo

      Hi! Please tell me the address of the restaurant? I am heading to Seoul for the first time in my life end April and would be very thankful if you could give me some good recommendations.
      I am a Singaporean female and this means that I love food and can eat a lot a lot a lot…

      Thank you in advance!

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