They Got Good Deli in Korea?


"They got good deli in Korea?" the man buying our chair asked me pointing the etz chaim around my neck. I smiled. It was such a New York question. "Nah, I doubt it".

Rye Post, Itaewon Seoul Food

I was right. Despite Wikipedia's claim that most Korean households have a translated Talmud, I have yet to find good deli. Hell, I can't even find a half sour, let alone a full sour PICKLE other than the ones made in my own kitchen. Let's not even talk about the cream cheese filled bagels from Paris Baguette.

But I have finally found some decent sandwiches (even a Pastrami on rye!) at Rye Post, a sandwich shop we've ordered delivery from multiple times but I hadn't gone to until today. While I wrote the other day that the Banh Mi at Rye Post wasn't my favorite, for the most part the sandwiches get the highest praise we give these days - "it doesn't taste like anything we've eaten in the last six months". Which is to say, nothing about it is Koreanized. You don't even get a side dish of kimchi. It's not that we don't like Korean food, it's just that most dishes have a very similar flavor profile and Koreans like their spicy sweet food a little on the sweeter side than we do. It's nice once in a while to get food that doesn't even have a hint of Korean influence.

Lets discuss the things we've tried there so far.

Pastrami on Rye - This is one of those things that's hard to explain my feelings about. Would I eat this pastrami on rye in New York? No, there is definitely better pastrami on rye to be had. Will I probably eat it again in Korea? Yes. This is not the best pastrami and rye I've ever had but it's not bad and there's lots of mustard and an actual not sweet pickle spear. By our lowered Korean standards, this is a solid sandwich.

Chicken Club+ - Sliced chicken, mixed greens, tomato, crispy bacon, avocado, jack cheese and house mayo. This is a pretty solid chicken club. I'd eat it in America but I'd still pick off the sad January tomatoes. I'm really not into mealy tomatoes. I AM really into avocado and the avocado portions on this sandwich were surprisingly generous given how expensive avocado is in Korea.

Banh Mi - already reviewed

Waffle Fries - I got these today and was slightly disappointed. I was expecting seasoned waffle fries since they already have regular fries on the menu. They are not seasoned, they are good if you just happen to prefer your fries waffled.

Philly Cheese Steak - I would definitely eat this in America. I'm going to be honest and tell you I've never been to Philly and I KNOW people have very very strong feelings about what makes a proper cheese steak. My cheese steak opinions are entirely based on eating the greasy cheese steaks from "The Cheese Steak Shop" (either the Oakland or Berkeley location) growing up. So, while I can't speak to authenticity of this sandwich, the steak is well seasoned and the cheese is nice and gooey. I'm pretty into it.

Philly Cheese Fries - AKA our new favorite hangover food. The Philly Cheese fries are thin cut fries topped with the same steak, peppers and gooey cheese as the sandwich. These are probably my favorite item on the menu but obviously not the healthiest. I had to send Dan a picture to convince him I was actually eating a sandwich for lunch today not a giant pile of cheese steak fries by myself.

It seems like the menu changes somewhat seasonally, so I'm looking forward to seeing what else they come up with.

Rye Post is located on Itaewon-ro beneath Dillinger's.

Banh Mi Three Ways

If you look at this food map, you'll see Californians are all about the Asian food. Just all the kinds. While my bluntness and tendency to yell at people on the street might be all New Yorker, my real food preferences are all Californian. GIVE ME PHO OR GIVE ME DEATH. Or, in this case, banh mi. I really love banh mi. I used to order banh mi and bubble tea for lunch every Tuesday. I can get all the bubble tea I want in Korea and I love love love Gong Cha's system of choosing your preferred amount of ice and sugar, but non-Korean Asian food has been hard to come by. Until last week, when I ate banh mi THREE TIMES. Let's compare.

Location #1: Le Hoi Banh Mi

Things are constantly changing so much in the Kyungridan/Noksapyeong area that it's hard to keep up but I'm pretty sure I was one of the first to stumble across this new Banh Mi take out window underneath 5bey. They invited us to wait inside while our sandwich was being made and we went into a small, adorable room with lanterns, a long, low bar and tiny stools. There were still some construction materials lying around, so I assume they were still in their soft opening and will have a little more indoor seating soon. We took our adorably packaged sandwich to eat as we walked.

The sandwich wasn't quite what I expected. No pickled carrots or daikon. No Cilantro. But it did have an egg on it and you KNOW I'm a sucker for anything with soft egg. The pork was thinly sliced with fresh hot peppers and I THINK a variation of Hoisin sauce. The bread had the exact amount of squish and chew you expect for banh mi and definitely was my favorite bread of all three sandwiches. Since the quick pickled vegetables are what really make banh mi for me, this didn't quite satisfy my craving but was still excellent. I will be eating here again. Maybe I'll try the veggie sandwich next time.

Location #2: Le Saigon

My husband and I just really noticed Le Saigon the other day, but upon further research, I've realized it's been there forever by Seoul restaurant standards (which basically means longer than six months but in this case means many years).

As you can see above, Le Saigon makes a more classic banh mi. I once again went with pork which was in chunks instead of slices this time and a little lighter on the sauce. I was a little disappointed that the peppers were pickled instead of fresh on this sandwich but happy about the quick pickled carrots and daikon as well as the house spicy mayonnaise. It wasn't quite spicy enough for me so I definitely made liberal use of the house made (?) hot sauce on the table. Was it the best banh mi I've ever had? No. Was it the best classic banh mi I've had in Seoul? Definitely.

Location #3: Rye Post

Rye Post is a fancy sandwich shop on Itaewon-ro that does sandwiches from a variety of cuisines, not a Vietnamese place specifically, so it's not really surprising it comes in last place for banh mi. We got this sandwich delivered and I forgot to take a picture (sorry!). While there was nothing really wrong with it, there wasn't anything really right either. They bake their bread in house daily, but like a lot of bread in Korea it was a little pale and didn't have the proper crunch and chew for a banh mi baguette. There were pickled vegetables but the sandwich was a little dry, especially compared to the other two. I will order from Rye Post again, but I'll probably be sticking to the Philly cheese steak fries, not the banh mi.

Pork Banh Mi costs W6,000 at Le Hoi Banh Mi located beneath 5bey in the Kyungridan/Noksapyeong area of Itaewon

Pork Banh Mi costs W7,000 at Le Saigon which has a location both in Kyungridan and in Itaewon proper

Pork Banh Mi costs W7,800 at Rye Post which is located on Itaewon-ro

All of these places are open for lunch which definitely gives them extra points in my book.