It’s my new tradition, eating at Jeju Noodle Bar the first night I’m back home. This place opened a year ago, the same week i was home last September actually, and I hope it stays open forever because I love the food and I love the idea of taking ramyeon and elevating it.
I don’t usually give a rat’s ass about things being “elevated,” though, I tell you, because there’s something so stuffy and elitist about it, this snobbish, frankly racist and classist idea that foods need to be elevated to be considered seriously. At the same time, it’s nice to see something as “common” as ramyeon be elevated into something formal, something more complex and flavorful but wholly familiar. It’s nice to see chefs take Korean food and do cool things with it, something we’re seeing a lot in New York but less so in Los Angeles, where people stick to the traditional, the “authentic.” We’ve talked about how we agree that “authentic” is a bogus term.
This is my third time at Jeju Noodle Bar, and, this time, the hwe-dup-bahp is no longer on the menu. That makes me sad because the hwe-dup-bahp here was not only one of my favorite dishes on this menu — it was also one of my favorite dishes ever.
For noodles, I get the chicken coop because it’s the one I haven’t tried yet. It’s a bonito and chicken broth, and there’s chicken confit in it and pork and seaweed and jalapeños, and it’s light and refreshing, not entirely what I’d expect from a bowl of ramyeon. I don’t know what its corresponding traditional Korean dish is, though; it doesn’t come to me as clearly as the gochu ramyeon (shin ramyeon) or the so-ramyeon (seol-leong-tang) does; but that’s okay, too. The seaweed makes me think mi-yeok-guk, though not the way I grew up eating it.
You get the truffle kong-guk-su, the seasonal, summer dish. I think that’s pretty adventurous of you because I’m not the biggest fan of kong-guk-su, always found it too thick, too intense, too bean-y, though it does make me nostalgic because my halmoni loved it. We get the toro ssam-bap to share, and I think it’ll be like triangle rice balls, but it’s not — we get a bowl of seasoned rice topped with toro and scrambled egg, a bowl of toasted, salted seaweed rectangles on the side. It’s good — really good — but I still miss the hwe-dup-bahp.
That doesn’t mar our enjoyment of our meal, though. We look up from our noodles bowls just long enough to agree that Jeju Noodle Bar should never ever close.