Twiga – Revisited

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Earlier this year I  visited new South African restaurant Twiga, and had the best cheesecake of my life. 6 months later I was invited back to see how things had changed. As soon as we arrived owner Vanita greeted us warmly like long lost friends. She told me that things had changed a little since my last visit, including the chef. Her original head chef returned home due to a personal crisis and she now has French chef Gregory at the helm. Gregory being french wanted to inject his own flair and skills into the menu, so there is now a French and South African fusion going on. As well as offering their evening A La Carte menu, they now have a brunch menu too.

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Since it was a Friday night, it was right down to business with a vodka lemonade. Using a dash of chef Gregory’s homemade lemongrass infused vodka it was a rather nice tipple. I’d be interested to see if they can make a complete cocktail list, as this one was right up my ally.

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The menu is still fairly small, as they plan on having weekly specials to make use of in season produce. The bobotie is still there along with their fantastic lamb sausages. Gregory’s arrival has put quiche on the menu (8,500 per slice), and luckily for us they had three varieties  available. I of course thought it churlish not to try them all  There was a salmon and spinach quiche which the Fat Boyfriend devoured with gusto, a traditional bacon,  and a Boerwors South African quiche. With a French chef in the kitchen I had high hopes for the quiche and wasn’t disappointed. The pastry was so rich and buttery. The bacon quiche was rich and satisfying, though the bacon was possibly a tad too thick for me. Surprisingly we both favoured the boerwors quiche of the three, the lamb sausages paired rather well with the egg and pastry. Who would have thought French-South African fusion would be such a great match. the quiche also came with salad and new potatoes, making it perfect for lunch or dinner.

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The Lamb Chops (28,000) are still a star of the menu. Though the accompaniments have changed a little since my last visit. They are now served with a luxurious mashed potato, baked asparagus, and rich red wine sauce. The two succulent lamb chops were cooked to medium at my request, and were just as good as last time. The red wine sauce was so moreish I could have drank a pint of it! I just stopped short of licking the plate clean, but it was a close call.

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Thankfully Vanita’s famous cheesecake (6,500) is still on the menu, along with a few new desserts showcased in a brand spanking new glass cabinet, or dessert showcase if you will. I thought it prudent to try a piece of Gregory’s chocolate tart (6,500) too. Beautifully made with a sweet pastry, and a rich chocolate throughout. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side it would have been just perfect.

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As part of the new revamp they intend to start serving Sunday roast dinners, and I for one can’t wait. Reservations will be very necessary to get a a starter, plate of roast lamb or chicken served with all the usual accompaniments, and a dessert for 35,000. This will be a weekend event only so be sure to book your seat before they are all gone. I have a feeling this it’s going to be very popular indeed, as there really aren’t enough restaurants serving roast dinners in Korea.

Twiga is located on the 5th floor, 26-38 Noksapyeondae-ro, Itaewon, Seoul. To get there take a train to Noksapyeong station and come out of exit 3. Walk across the cross walk so you are outside Suji’s Deli and go right and walk  along the main road. Keep going straight until you see the over pass bridge and take the road turning left. Twiga is about halfway up the road on the right hand side, just opposite the Saudi Arabian Embassy. For more information or to make a reservation call 02-797-5011.

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Dominic Brunch

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As a brunch aficionado I am always desperately on the look out for new places to go. Probably because I’m prone to getting rather drunk and am not always welcomed back. I had a wonderful dinner at Dominic a few months ago, so I thought it would be prudent to check out what’s on the brunch menu too. It’s such a great space with their large floor to ceiling windows, so brunch is the perfect time to enjoy the view.

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For me the best part of brunch is the fact you can drink, and not be the least bit frowned upon. I don’t think brunch can be considered brunch without a few cocktails and luckily Dominic doesn’t disappoint on that front. They have a fab range of brunch special cocktails for only 6,000 each! As you can see we all indulged in a mimosa or two, possibly three, after so many it really is hard to keep track.

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As well as the mimosas they also have a few autumn cocktail specials. We tried the Apple Pisco Sour, and Pear and Vanilla martini. Both are 12,000 each or half price during brunch and happy hour. They are both exceptionally well made drinks. The balance of flavours paired with the alcohol makes for a great harmony. I enjoyed both but would have to give the edge to the apple pisco sour, despite the fact I’m not usually a fan of apple flavoured things, this was a delight and The Fat Boyfriend agreed too.

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After all those drinks, I needed something to soak it all up with. I was rather ravenous, so opted for the Dominic Burger (17,000). Served on chewy ciabatta bread and topped with a slice of cream cheese, this homemade burger was delightful. The beef patty was well seasoned  and full of flavopur. Topped with a big wedge of cream cheese, and salad  it seemed like a classier version of a regular burger. It also came with cajun french fries. 20140813-151028-54628797.jpg

We also ordered The French Toast Crunch (12,000) Rice Krispie crusted French Toast, served with bacon and fig jam. This is the perfect treat for sweet toothed people with a serious hangover. The french toast will seriously cure what ails you. An interesting take, made with their buttery brioche bread. The fig jam that was paired with it also worked well and was a great compliment to the bacon. A real winner, considering the price.

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My dining companion ordered the Prosciutto, Eggplant, and Brie sandwich (17,000). It looked pretty well stuffed with freshly roasted vegeatables, cheese and pesto. Although I think it was a bit on the pricey side as there wasn’t much prosciutto in it. He let me have a bite but I’m not a great fan of brie, so I guess this one is a matter of taste for me. The vegetables and pesto were tasty though. I think it would be nicer if I tried it with fresh mozzarella instead.

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I also couldn’t resist ordering the California Cobb salad again. It’s just so fresh and tasty, and fast becoming my favourite salad.

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With their half price cocktails during brunch I think Dominic is definitely in my top five. The food is great, and the restaurant has a lovely atmosphere. Well worth checking out on a weekend if you enjoy day drinking!

Dominic is located at 683-133 hanam-dong, yongsan-gu, Seoul. to get there take a train to Hangangjin Station (line6) Come out of exit 3 and walk straight for about 200 meters. It’s located next to the Kolon Series Multi Shop and just across from Woori bank. For more information you can call them on 02-790-7588 or check out their facebook page.

Bar Rouge

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Last week things got classy when we ventured to Rouge at the JW Marriott Hotel in Gangnam. We went there in celebration of my wonderful friend’s birthday. 5 nights a week Bar Rouge operates a wine buffet (really a buffet of wine). For a paltry sum of  45,000 you can eat and drink as much as your heart desires between the hours of 6pm – 9pm. That’s 3 hours of unadulterated drinking and gorging. Of course I lived up to my name and made sure I got my money’s worth.

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First things first, you can’t start a night off without a glass of bubbly! They have four different kinds of sparkling wine, a Brut, a Cava, a Mascato and an Australian something or other. More than enough choices to keep everyone happy. No actual champagne but at that price I wouldn’t really expect there to be any.

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As well as the sparkling, there were 4 whites on offer, three different kinds of chardonnay and a sauvignon blanc. I’ve nothing against chardonnay, but it did seem somewhat redundant to have a wine buffet featuring three chardonnays out of four white wines.

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Red lovers fared better with 8 different varieties. You could also upgrade for an extra 20,000 per person which opened you up to whole other array of wine, but personally we were all happy with the selection we got.

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On to the food!  To start there is a cold salad buffet from which you can help yourself. All the regular salad ingredients are there and are sure to please the size zero second wives that plan on consuming as few calories as possible.

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There are also olives, and anti pasto style vegetables. It’s so nice to have a bowl of olives and a glass of wine again, it’s been far too long since I enjoyed my favourite pre-starter combination. One really doesn’t get to enjoy as many high class dinners as one would like these days.

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As well as the salad there is also a sushi bar, not a mind blowing selection, but decent enough with 4 different types. Pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce are also all available for your dipping needs.

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Rather than having a hot buffet, they bring you over these adorable trays of food whenever you request them. On this you get mini burgers, onion rings, battered salmon and tartar sauce, and two kinds of chicken kebabs. You can get as many of these as you like, but we found that two was plenty between the 5 of us. Everything on the plate was pretty good, and apparently the selection changes regularly.

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Next is the pièce de résistance, the cheese room!!! A room of cheese and wine (but you can’t drink the wine). You can, however, eat the cheese, as much as you like. Five different varieties are showcased as well as prunes and nuts and the like.

 

 

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There is also ham, lots of it, and some bread rolls. You could make yourself a ham sandwich and pop it into your pocket for later!

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For those that like to finish on a sweet note there were pieces of fruit, and a cheesecake, but I was far too drunk at that point to take any more pictures. But I’m sure you have all seen watermelon, pineapple and cheesecake before.

 

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They also offer a makgeolli cocktail, it was very sweet with a fruity taste, nice until you let them settle at the end, and they were just pure sugar. Also when we went to pay, they tried to charge us for them, so maybe they were part of the expensive wine buffet. They let it slide, but if you are part of the bargain club it might be worth checking first.

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Overall I think the buffet was amazing value for money. If you have a birthday or an occasion to celebrate it’s the perfect spot if you want to do something a bit fancier without breaking the bank. They also have live music on weekends and will even even sing happy birthday for you. It’s just all round a lovely setting, plus the wine (so much wine!)

 

Bar Rouge is located at the The JW Marriot Hotel, Sinbanpo-ro, Seocho-gu, Seoul. It is open Tuesday-Saturday. To get there take a train to the Express bus terminal (line 3, 7,9) and follow the signs leading to the hotel. For more information you can call on 02-6282-6763 or check out the website.

Menya Sandaime

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Today’s post is the Japanese noodle shop of your dreams. Located in Itaewon on the main stretch, it’s one of Seoul’s rare gems. Hidden in plain sight, I have walked past this ramen restaurant dozens of times and have always figured it was worth trying out but seemed to forget about it until now. Last week I went with my adorable friend Jeanie and had some of the best food I have had in weeks! I’m loath to share it as it’s such a great find, but you know I would never do that to my faithful readers.

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When we arrived on a Saturday afternoon the place was bustling, and I can only imagine it will get busier as winter starts to turn. There is a big long counter for singles and an array of tables for two jam-packed into the tiny space, so get ready to breathe in if you want to get into your seat. The waitress brought the menu over which was presented in this adorable wooden box on wafer thin paper. The menu consists of various kinds of noodles in soups, with optional extra toppings, though I personally don’t think you need them. They also have gyozas, which are  Japanese dumplings, I sadly didn’t try them and I’m kicking myself for it now. I think another trip will soon be imminent.

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After a good old browse of the menu I decided to order the Tonkotsu Ramen (7,000). Which is noodles in a pork broth, topped with pork chasyu, egg, bean sprouts and pak choi.  This dish was so unbelievably tasty that I really couldn’t fathom how it was only 7,000 won. The noodles are exquisitely hand made, and in a broth so rich and full of flavour it almost tastes like gravy (English gravy, not American). I could eat that soup every day for the rest of my life and live in a perpetual state of bliss. The amount of pork  given was also generous, there were the two pieces on top and I also found a piece underneath my noodles, with the egg and pak choi it was the perfect meal. They also serve a side of kimchi style vegetables for those that enjoy them. I really cant recommend this dish enough, I’d marry it if I could!

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My partner in crime ordered the Miso Ramen (7,500). A miso based pork broth with noodles, stir fried vegetables, chopped chasyu, egg, scallions, and spinach. Again the miso broth was very rich and full bodied. It was a nice contrast to the Tonkotsu. It had just the right balance of saltiness to make it indescribably tasty. Another winning dish it was just so wonderful, I cant wait to try out the rest of the menu.

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As well as the wonderful noodles, they also have a few sakes and beers available, for those who like a truly authentic experience. The most fantastic thing about Menya Sandaime is that they are open 24 hours a day! Around the clock, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snacks can all be eaten here. So next time you are starving after a hard nights drinking, forget about Kebabs and Taco Bell and get yourself a big bowl of sexy noodles.

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Menya Sandaime is located at 126-17 Itaewon 1(il)-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea. To get there take a train to Itaewon station (line 6) come out of exit 3. Walk straight for about 200 meters. It’s on the right before you get to Soft Tree. For more information you can call on 02-790-4129.

 

Taj Palace – Seoul Food

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After the rousing success of our first Vlog about Amazing Thai, we gave into popular demand and made a second one about Taj Palace. I love Taj Palace because it always brings back great memories. It was one of the first restaurants I ever visited in Seoul, and at the time it was one of the only places serving lamb. Me and a large group of friends would come up from Cheongju and hit the buffet hard before a big night out. I reviewed the buffet a couple of years ago, the food is still as delicious as ever, but I think we can safely say my photography skills have come along way since then.

If you want to see what Jason and I got up to then check out the video here. We were lucky enough to get a behind the scenes tour and Chef Ramesh cooked up a real feast for us, he actually managed to include all of my favourites, so I was one happy camper indeed.

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The first dish we got was Butter Chicken, this is my absolute favourite so if you have watched the video, that was real genuine excitement, no foodie fakers here. I also learned that butter chicken actually has no butter in it. The sauce is made from boiling a variety of herbs with tomato sauce, cream, and a paste made from cashew nuts. It’s all those lovely nuts that give it that richness, no wonder my attempts at home have always failed before.

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The second dish we made was tandoori chicken and chicken kebabs. We watched them make their fabulous marinade, using cardamon, garlic, ginger, yogurt, and cream, then cook it on skewers in the tandoor oven. Served with salad, it was spectacular. The chicken was so tender and juicy and filled with so much flavor from the marinade. I really need to convince The Fat Boyfriend to get us a tandoor oven for the kitchen!

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We also made a lamb rogan josh! A medium spiced, very rich curry with lamb meat. It was just so packed with flavour. We always end up  ordering this, as it’s one of The Fat Boyfriend’s favourites, he was very jealous that I got to watch them make it!

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You can’t eat all those curries without some naan bread, and The Taj Palace garlic naan is incredible. In fact it’s better than the ones we get back home, and England is no stranger to Indian food! If you get the buffet you can eat as much as you like!

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To finish we got a cup of chai tea, the perfect way to round off the meal. It was an amazing meal and I can’t wait to go back again. The a la carte menu is always open, and the buffet runs on weekends and red days. They are open 365 days a year, so be sure to pay them a visit, or if you are as lazy as me you can get a delivery from Ynot-takeout!

Taj Palace is located in Itaewon at 2F 132-2, Itaewon1 -dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul.  Come out of Itaewon Station (Line 6) exit 3 and walk straight until you reach Dunkin Donuts. Take a right at the corner and continue walking up the hill, its just opposite King Club and the Foreign food mart. If you would like more information about their menu, check out their website http://www.tajpalace.co.kr/  which includes descriptions of all their curries. Or you can call them on 02-790-5786.

Bulldogs – This Tastes GREAT

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This week my favourite British bar Bulldogs, is running a promotion in conjunction with the British Embassy called This Tastes GREAT. A fabulous food festival focusing on classic Great British cuisine. There is a special menu on at Bulldogs from September 29th – October 5th. There are a variety of bars and restaurants taking part in the festival offering different dishes, next week Behind Yellow in Nonhyeodong will be serving up its tribute to Queen and country.

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There are 3 items on the special menu, first up was the Breakfast Martini (8,500). What a fabulous way to start, a sweet and fruity martini is right up my street. Made with Hendrick’s gin, berry brandy, raspberry and cranberry jam, and topped with an adorable piece of toast and jam. It went down a treat and at only 8,500 I really hope it stays on the menu. It is the perfect chaser to one of their Pimm’s fruit cups.

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As a Brit myself, I take my pies very seriously. There’s nothing like one to warm you up on a cold rainy day, and yesterday was no exception. With the drizzly rain we were suffering it was just like being at home again. The special Bangers & Barrels (14,500) was the perfect meal for grizzly Monday. The rich ale gravy was filled with pieces of beef, sausages, peas, and carrots and topped with a cheese skirt and their creamy mashed potatoes. It was heavenly, even better than my mum’s, but don’t tell her that.

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As part of the offer they are giving away a California style pale ale, by Scottish brewery BrewDog, to each customer that purchases a Bangers & Barrel Pie. Who doesn’t like free beer? The Fat Boyfriend certainly did.

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For dessert we were served up the Tea-licious Mousse (7,000). Served in these charming little tea cups was the decadent white chocolate and earl grey tea mousse. One mouthful and I was hooked, it was just so creamy, and the white chocolate and earl grey was a match made in heaven. Served on the side were homemade shortbread biscuits, because you can’t have tea without biscuits! A real sweet treat to end the meal, I practically licked the whole cup clean.

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During the festival you can buy each dish individually or buy the set of all three for 27,500. If you buy the set you also get a little bag of British goodies consisting of a sparkling water, a bar of Green and Black’s chocolate, and a Berry White organic juice.  There’s nothing like a goodie bag of free stuff to round off a fantastic meal.

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The This Tastes GREAT menu is available at the Itaewon location and their new Gangnam location. The new Gangnam location is even bigger than the original, and sports some fantastic artwork, by renowned British artist Mat Hughes. They also have BrewDog on tap, and even more pictures of Britains greatest celebrities, as well as all their usual fantastic cocktails and hotdogs.

 

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Bulldogs Gangnam is located at 2F 9  Gangnam-daero, 94-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. To get there take a train to Gangnam station (line 2) and come out of exit 11. Walk straight, then take the first right down the side of the CNN building. Walk down the alley way and turn left. You should see bulldogs just ahead on the right as you exit the alley way. For more information call 02-538-2998 or checkout their facebook page.

Panda Express

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Today my blog reached 400 posts. And I thought I would commemorate the occasion by sharing with you one of my greatest pleasures in life – Chinese food. Now I’m not talking so much about the food they enjoy in China. I’m more obsessed with the deep fried, msg laden, batter encased goodies doused in garishly colored sauces that we get back home. It’s my kryptonite, wield Chinese food in front of me and I shall fall. Despite its close proximity, good Chinese food is one of the hardest cuisines to find in Korea. And the westernized stuff is even harder still. When I first found Ho Lee Chow it was a godsend, but it quickly lost it’s allure as it’s so incredibly expensive. For four dishes and a couple of spring rolls it runs over 80,000, which at home in London we could get for less than half the price. So when Panda Express opened I was thrilled indeed, and when I saw the killer prices I was practically giddy.

I had tried Panda Express once before in Las Vegas and to be honest wasn’t too impressed, although I was just coming off a bout of food poisoning which may have had something to do with my less than perfect impression. I likened it to the restaurants at home that have buffets, where you fill up a plastic container full for about a fiver. So I didn’t get my hopes too high but figured it was worth checking out.

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It’s true what they say first impressions can be deceiving . As soon as I took my first bite it literally blew me away, everything was so good! The other incredible thing is the price,  3 main dishes and a side for a mere 12,000! It’s incredible and only 1,200 extra per main dish if you want shrimp or beef.

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We got the following for 12,000! This box consisted of fried chow mein noodles, which were a little dry by themselves but once you had put the other dishes on top were fine. The orange chicken was stellar. It was just so good, nice coating of batter, sweet tasty sauce. It was what fat dreams are made of.  The kung pao on the other hand was rather disappointing, more like a plain old stir fry then the kung pao we all know and love. The Fat Boyfriend was rather disappointed as it’s usually his favourite. I randomly chose the tofu egg plant as the last dish as it’s one of my favourites at home. This was excellent, the spongy fried tofu was well paired with the soft juicy egg plant, though they could have been more generous with the tofu. It’s a nice choice for vegetarians.

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The second set ran a little higher due to the add ons, this one was 14,400, but lets face it still amazing value. For this one we got the fried rice. It was of a good standard and much better than the ones you get in Korean style restaurants. The Bejing beef was amazeballs, battered in a sweet sticky sauce it was all kinds of delicious. The walnut shrimp was also right on par. Battered shrimps (tails on though) which were deep fried along battered walnuts. Want to make a walnut more delicious, deep fry it and drizzle it with a sticky honey sauce. The last dish was the shimp and pineapple, this one was a special they had on. It was fine but not my favourite of the bunch.

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Besides all these dishes were a variety of other mains and a few sides, sadly no spring rolls though. There is fried mandu the filling tastes better than regular mandu but it’s no spring roll, plus you only get 3 pieces. Panda Express may be the Mcdonalds of the Chinese world but I’m glad its here. Cheap, quick, and delicious, it’s what I’ll be eating on hangover Sunday for the forseeable future.

Panda Express is located on the basement floor at The Lotte department Store in Myeongdong. To get there take a train to eljiro 1 station (line 2) and come out of exit 7 and walk into the Lotte deparment store and go down to the basement floor. You will see Panda express in the food court.