After 3 long years, I finally had the chance to travel to Korea again! Unfortunately, many of my favourite haunts did not survive the challenging times and closed down (I’ll get around to updating my blog accordingly), but there is a silver lining – many new places have popped up in place and that gave me the chance to try new things, including this restaurant tucked away in Hongdae.
I had originally planned to eat at some other restaurants in the neighbourhood, including some really famous katsudon down the road, but something drew me to Ningyocho Sikdang for some reason. Perhaps the clean exterior aesthetic was one, perhaps the interesting menu was another. If you search for Ningyocho online, you’ll find photos of their old shopfront – I think they may have undergone renovation (and perhaps a menu revamp) recently, which is why you can’t find much updated information about them online.
We went to Ningyocho rather early (around 11am) and ended up being the first customers of the day, but as lunch hour came around the place became visibly crowded. Most of the patrons are young locals and we could tell that the staff were not accustomed to receiving tourists.
As the name Ningyocho (a neighbourhood in Tokyo) implies, the menu heavily features Japanese cuisine. I have come to realise that Hongdae is peppered with Japanese restaurants and izakayas, but Ningyocho stands out for its Western/Korean-fusion dishes. The offerings are a little limited, but I take it as a good sign that they focus on what they do best.
Prices are considered a little on the higher end, but still decently affordable.
Being a huge fan of mazesoba, I ordered the Maze Pasta out of curiosity and was not disappointed when the dish was served. Most places serve a huge serving of soba noodles, but Ningyocho has shifted the focus to the minced meat and spring onions, choosing to cut down on the portion of pasta served. The result is reminiscent of aglio olio, sans the strong garlic taste and replaced instead by fragrant soy sauce.
I thoroughly enjoyed this, although I do feel that they could take the spiciness up a notch and make it a tad less oily.
The katsudon is their signature dish, and for good reason. The pork cutlet is one of the juiciest and crispiest cutlets I’ve ever had in my entire life that it is so deeply satisfying to bite into the meat. The egg mayo is the cherry on top that gives the dish a well-rounded flavour profile. I’ve never been a particularly big fan of katsudon, but this is one that I could keep coming back for.
I was pretty glad that we decided to give this restaurant a shot instead of its more famous katsudon counterpart in Hongdae. The beauty of travelling is truly in finding gems in unexpected spots and trying new things even with limited information available – although now you know about this amazing Japanese-fusion restaurant!
Note: the shop front is pretty unassuming among the sea of loud signboards in the Hongdae area, which can make this restaurant tricky to locate. My tip is to look out for an all-white building with the simple black Ningyocho logo – this restaurant takes up both the 2nd and 3rd storey of the building.
Address: 164-10, Donggyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul