Monday, November 19, 2012
322 Sowol-ro Yongsan-gu, Seoul
+82 2 799 8601
The Grand Hyatt Seoul is the place to be. Aside from the breathtaking views of Seoul from all around the hotel, there is a lounge called J.J. Mahoney’s with 9 sections to provide a room and a drink for every mood. There’s a dance floor in one room with a DJ playing house music, a tropical bar with island drinks, a bar for those who want to have fresh sushi, sake and soju, and a room to shoot pool with a beer. But my calling is for the room with the live music. Each night at J.J.’s there is a live band performing on the stage behind the bar top. Being that I travel often on weeknights, this place is a guarantee wild night even on a Monday. There are people visiting this bar from all over the world, whether they come for business, holiday, or just locals that want to get dressed up and dance.
It was a Monday night, and we arrived at 8:30 to find out the band comes on at 9:30. By this time we are feeling the full effects of jet lag, being that it is our first full day in Seoul. We worked up the nerve to keep our eyelids open for another hour as our chins rested on the rim of our beer glasses. I don’t think either of us expected to make it to 9:30, and we almost called it a night. But slowly the bar picked up, it got crowded and the band was introduced.
It was a group of middle-aged men performing oldies like “brown eyed girl” and several Bon Jovi hits. I felt like I was back on Long Island at a dive bar, and that’s not a bad thing! After the band took a short break, they came back with a new band member. She was a hot-pants-wearing Korean-American singer. She got the crowd dancing while performing Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Black Eyed Peas. Although the drinks were very expensive, and the singing was off key at times, I would go back without hesitation. While J.J.’s is full of options for any kind of night you plan on having, you can find me in the room with the band.
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Maple Tree House
116-1 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu
We stayed in the Itaewon area of Seoul this time. It’s full of bars, clubs, and restaurants of various international cuisines. Before we left for the airport, we had our final meal at a modern BBQ joint, Maple Tree House. The scent of our final meal would be embedded into our clothes for the next 24 hours before our next shower back in New York. The reason for this being that Korean BBQ is full of beefy, garlicky, spicy smoke. It’s worth it! If I could bottle the scent I would.
We ordered the beef bulgogi and out came an array of side dishes and cooked sesame leaves to wrap it all in. Among the side dishes, we were given the usual: kimchi, garlic, omelette, scallions, rice. We also tried acorn jelly for the first time, and enjoyed a steaming hot bowl of spicy kimchi soup. We accompanied our meal with some soju and Cass beer. After all, what is a vacation lunch without booze?
While the bulgogi and veggies cooked, we toasted our drinks to a return trip to Seoul. The sweet little lady cooking our meat at the table knew that us round-eyes would need help cutting the big pieces of meat with only chopsticks to use as our tool. She cut up the beef and veggies with her scissors to avoid us having to rip the meat apart with our teeth like American pigs. Then we enjoyed the bulgogi-stuffed sesame leaves and left with a full belly and happy memories of the Itaewon district of Seoul.