Korean food, for the uninitiated, is like a open secret. Intriguing, enticing, not quite obscure but not possessing the reach and instant recognition of Chinese or Japanese cuisine. Indeed, the culinary profferings of Korea are a delicious secret, just waiting to be told. Won Jung Gak epitomizes the "open secret" concept. Those who know it, know it well. Those who know it not will discover an unremarkable exterior and utterly random location that conceal ample platters meant for sharing.
Won Jung Gak defies simple explanation. One wall sports a massive collection of manga. Large, dusty paintings of pioneer scenes hang from one wall, sharing quarters with dangling lanterns and colourful garlands. Hand-written signs, written in Korean and (mercifully) in English, proclaim specialties. We dive into the quintessence of Korean cuisine: Bul Go Gi. Here is a piping hot pot of fork-tender beef, earthy shiitake mushrooms and fragile, transparent noodles. The broth is rich, salty and I rue the absence of spoons. Otherwise, I would drink it, loath to let even a drop go to waste. We chase the Bul Go Gi with deep-fried dumplings that pop with scallions and tender, ground pork.
The noodles deserve their own paragraph. They are, at first, merely noodles - a vehicle for the glistening bowl of black bean sauce with seafood. The scissors on the table signify that these are not ordinary noodles. No; these noodles are more than a metre long and one must snip each serving to a manageable length. Genius. Won Jung Gak is still a bit of a secret but warrants a visit for the noodle scissors alone.