A Banquet in Jeonju

 

We had another of our eating extravaganzas in Jeonju last weekend. Jeonju is one of my favourite places to visit in Korea – It’s so calm and such a contrast to Seoul and I appreciate this while I’m there.

Jeonju is very famous for its food so I always look forward to eating there! This time we naturally had the typical must eat Jeonju dishes – kong namul kukbap 콩나물 국밥 bean sprout soup and bibimbap, but we also went for a traditional set dinner…

After a day of sightseeing in Jeonju we didn’t know where to go to eat, so we just picked a name from the tourist map that we had with us. (At this point I was feeling a bit irritated that we have come so unprepared.) Then we hailed a taxi to take us to the restaurant that we had randomly chosen. The taxi driver asked us why we were going to that particular restaurant – was it any good? Well, we said we didn’t know, we were going there for the first time. So he said, in that case we should go to Paekbonjip 백번집 because that is the oldest and most famous restaurant in Jeonju for this kind of Hanjeongsik 한정식 Korean set dinner. So we said OK! And he turned around and took us back to a place very near where we had started off in the first place near our hotel in the centre of town.

We arrived early at 5 pm and were the only customers at that time. But it was open for business (the other place didn’t open till 6 so we would have had to wait an hour) A friendly lady showed us to our own room with traditional Korean furniture mixed with a modern TV and  plastic coat hangers. Very eclectic. We left our shoes outside the room and sat on pink cushions waiting for our food to be brought to us. There’s no table in the room at first – the table is carried in by two waiters and all the dishes are already laid out on the table. It felt like the place had a history and the atmosphere was calm and homely. In fact almost too like home and before long we were lying on the floor watching the TV… When the food arrived I insisted on turning the TV off though. Because we can eat in silence in front of the TV at home!!

 The prices range from 80,000 won (about £40) up to 250,000 won (about £125) but you can’t buy a set for 2 people or 4 people or whatever. As the price goes up, more dishes are added to the set ( not the amount of food on each dish) So the more people in the party the cheaper the meal becomes – of course everyone does get less food then though. We had the 100,000 won set and yes, it was a lot of food for two people.

I enjoyed the food as I always do in Jeonju. And we were there for nearly three hours. There was no rush and the staff encouraged us to take our time. I liked that. The kimchi tasted home-made and some of it was so pungent that it must have been over a year old (that’s good by the way.) There was also a variety of meat and fish dishes and the side dishes weren’t too salty which can sometimes be a problem when eating out.

We didn’t know what to expect from the meal but if you are looking to taste some of the real traditional dishes of Korea then this is a good option. But just in my personal opinion, this was a very traditional range of dishes and I have tasted all these flavours before. I would have liked to have had at least one dish that was a bit more unusual and that I haven’t had before. Perhaps something with a modern twist. I know I’m being picky now though. And it was also a little overwhelming for all the food to come at once. (even though I knew it was going to be like this…) I didn’t know where to begin! I think next time I’ll try to find somewhere where we can have courses instead. But all in all it was a great experience. Hover over the pictures below for a brief explanation of each dish.

   

 

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