Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on February 2009
Newly opened Korean restaurant Fangumu, tucked under the train tracks near Yurakucho station, is tough to find among all the nearby eateries. This is an unassuming spot, only announcing its presence with a red-and-white sign displaying the curious name in Korean and katakana.
Once you enter the front doors, however, Fangumu really comes alive. It’s like walking into a ’50s American diner transported to Seoul. Everything from the classic tunes to the gleaming silver tables to the staff wearing matching T-shirts evokes that old school diner vibe.
The next thing we noticed was how empty the place was. Aside from a middle-aged pair of women, we were the only customers in the whole place. When we learned that the restaurant had opened just a couple of months before, we figured that word hadn’t gotten out yet. So, half expecting a pony-tailed waitress in a poodle skirt to some sashaying along to take our order, we settled in for some grub.
Usually not thrilled by the idea of Korean barbecue places because of the smoke and oil’s venomous effect on clothing, we were pleased to learn that Fangumu is remarkably well ventilated. The offensive smoke is sucked up the red metal overhangs with ease, and our clothes were spared the malodorous onslaught. Perhaps owing to the lack of clientele, the staff were remarkably friendly, attentive, and informative, taking special care to monitor the grills and change them as the dreaded burn marks started to appear.
Fangumu’s menu ranges from tried-and-true Korean favorites to more interesting offerings like Kangoku-style shiokara (squid guts) in cream cheese (¥600) and cheese chijimi (Korean pancakes, ¥950). There are two well priced course menus (¥3,500 and ¥5,000). We opted for the cheaper course, and were surprised by the generous amount of food. Standouts included raw beef yukke with avocado—tender and juicy lumps of flesh that melted almost like snowflakes on our tongue—and dazzlingly fresh, exquisitely seasoned kimchi and namuru. The yakiniku featured very lean and fresh cuts of meat, accompanied by various sauces—the wasabi sesame was particularly memorable. The one disappointment was the purukogi, cooked on the grill with huge bits of fresh garlic (a plus in our book). While well-seasoned, it was a bit on the fatty side for us.
The drinks menu was likewise ample and reasonably priced. Beer (¥600), wine (¥450), cocktails (¥480) and a range of Japanese and Korean sake are also available by the bottle (from ¥1,980).
Overall, the personal attention, unique and casual vibe, and remarkably fresh and interesting food offerings left us satiated. Surely this joint will be rocking around the clock in no time.