Sushi Itaewon

salmon belly nigiri Sushi Itaewon Seoul South Korea

I've mentioned before that Dan and I have had a rough go of finding good Japanese food in Seoul despite a pretty large number of Japanese restaurants. We've especially had bad experiences with sushi and since raw fish isn't really the good of thing you want to be taking chances with, we had reached a point where we assumed we wouldn't be getting sushi again until we went to Japan. Then, suddenly, the food world was all abuzz about Sushi Itaewon. "Three dollars for three pieces of nigiri and you expect me to believe it's actually good?" I thought to myself, "Please". My assumption was that at its best it would be "good for Seoul" but not actually good. Luckily, my curiosity got the better of me and I made Dan go for our one year anniversary dinner. (I know, that realllllllly could've backfired.)

The miso is free and seems to have unlimited refills. It's not the world's most amazing miso but it's solidly good and definitely Japanese miso as opposed to Korean.  I also ordered a Sapporo that somehow magically tasted as delicious as the Sapporo in America instead of super skunky like the Sapporo from the convenience store next to my house (though it also cost significantly more money). We haven't been to Japan yet so I only have American wasabi paste to compare to but the we both loved how fresh and sharp the wasabi was compared to the wasabi in the U.S.

For our anniversary dinner we ordered: salmon belly nigiri, tuna nigiri, mackerel nigiri, octopus, Alaska roll, spicy tuna roll and cucumber roll. The star is definitely the salmon belly. It's beautifully fatty and tender. Melts in your mouth. We found the tuna nigiri good but not exceptional, which still makes it worlds better than any other raw tuna we've had in Seoul. Dan said his mackerel was a bit bitter and he just wasn't into his octopus. The Alaska roll was good because the salmon in it was still fantastic but the avocado was tasteless so you might as well just get a salmon roll. The spice in the spicy tuna overwhelmed the fish a little but I still really liked that they didn't go the spicy Kewpie route that a lot of places in New York and the Bay Area do these days. The cucumber roll was simple and delicious and really let the quality of the slightly sweet but rice vinegary, sticky sushi rice shine. I don't know if it's just because we looked so excited, I was taking a million pictures or we ordered so much, but they also sent out a special roll. I'm not entirely sure what was in it but we think it was fried soft shell crab topped with tuna, eel sauce, and, because this is still Korea, corn. I don't usually like crab based rolls but the texture and flavor combinations in this one were very interesting and delicious. I have no idea how to re-order it though.

Yesterday, I went back for lunch and was once again amazed at the tenderness of the salmon belly. The tuna belly I got was fine but nothing spectacular. They do have lunch specials but those two things plus cucumber rolls cost me a whopping W9,200 (US $8.24) so it's definitely one of the more affordable lunch options in Itaewon. I wouldn't be surprised to find myself here on a weekly basis.

The address for Sushi Itaewon is 59-4 Itaewon-dong and it's located on the second floor.