The Great Patbingsu Roundup 2011 Part II
Better late than never! The follow-up to the first half of our patbingsu roundup is finally here. (Although it is late for a dozen reasons, I choose to blame Meal Top. Heh.)
Welcome to Part II of our Great Patbingsu Roundup of 2011! Check out Part I if you haven't already. Part I generated a lot of buzz, which we enjoyed, but also a lot of recommendations, which we enjoyed even more. Several of them are featured here.
This time, we've decided to skip some of the drama and just list them in rough order of how much we enjoyed them.
합: 팥빙수 (6000원)
The best of this installment was 합 (Hap) in Insadong, recommended by Daniel Gray of Seoul Eats (restaurant reviews) and O’ngo Food (food tours and cooking classes), who took us there himself. We came in with high expectations, and remarkably, Hap lived up to the hype and then some.
Hap is actually first and foremost a handmade 떡 shop, so in everything they make, they are coming from a tradition of handcrafted quality. Even the spoons appear to be handmade. Their patbingsu starts with perfectly shaved ice, which is then topped with handmade 팥 and 떡, condensed milk, plus a little surprise: 유자. 유자 was a unique addition and Annie thought the flavor worked nicely and made an already refreshing dessert even a bit more so. (Aaron found it a little odd, but not enough to detract from the experience.)
Highly recommended, give this one a try! The only trick will be finding it, it's a little off the main streets of Insadong and hidden away underground.
Take Line 3 to Anguk. Go out exit #6, walk a little ways then turn left onto Insadong-gil. Take the 4th right. You should see a building called "SUN ART CENTER", pass this and another gallery, and the building housing Hap is a little further along on the right. You'll see a directory sign, with Hap at B1. Hap is just down the stairs.
서울 종로구 관훈동 198-31
밀탑: 밀크빙수 (7000원)
If you ask, "Who makes the best patbingsu?" it seems 9 times out of 10, the answer will be 밀탑 (Meal Top). Located on the 5th floor of the Hyundai Department Store connected to 압구정역, they have acquired quite the outsized reputation over the years. They even have a ticketing system, the kind you'd find at the post office and at customer service centers. Before you pull a ticket, the machine shows how many people are already "in line" ahead of you, and at 밀탑 it can be 100 people or more. When we went, it was just 64. In any case, make sure you bring an abundance of patience with you when you visit.
While you wait, think about what you want to eat and get your money ready. They have a "pay first" policy here (선불).
When we were finally able to place an order, we ordered a 밀크빙수 and a 딸기빙수. 밀크빙수, the house specialty, features just the basics: milk, condensed milk, and in-house 팥 and 떡.
밀탑: 딸기빙수 (7000원)
딸기빙수 consisted of strawberry milk, strawberry syrup, topped with in-house 팥 and 떡, along with kiwi, watermelon and pineapple.
In both cases, the ice was shaved to our ideal consistency and every scoop of ice was full of milky flavor and not overly sweet. Annie suspects they shave frozen milk (or strawberry milk) instead of the usual practice of pouring milk over regular shaved ice.
Our only complaints were the value and the wait. While the price itself is nothing out of the ordinary, the bingsus come in single-serving sizes (it's hard to tell in the picture, but these little guys are rice bowl-sized), making them 2-3 times the usual price per serving. It is true that they are located in a department store, which can't be cheap. I guess they have to pay the rent somehow.
And oh, the wait... you might want to bring a good book. A foursquare tip notes that 밀탑 is also open in the dead of winter. Maybe the line will be shorter then?
Paris Croissant: 팥빙수 (8500원)
Paris Croissant offers a version similar to Paris Baguette's, actually, that keeps toppings simple, and makes its light, fluffy, snow-like shaved ice the star of the show. Our server advised us not to mix it (the way many Koreans seem to eat their patbingsu) since the ice is so soft... I think it would turn into a tiny puddle. Just the basics: milk, condensed milk, 미숫가루, 떡 and 팥.
Little Jakob's: 녹차빙수 (5800원)
We found this one randomly, while walking around the 홍대 area looking for shops advertising 팥빙수. This featured shaved green tea ice, frozen strawberries, large 팥-filled 떡, almonds, 팥 and 양갱. We wouldn't have guessed that strawberry and green tea would go together so well!
To get there, take Line 2 to 홍대입구 and go out exit #9 (formerly #5). Turn left at the intersection, heading up the hill toward the university. Go through the first and second traffic lights, Little Jakob's will be on the left, a bit more than halfway between the second and third light.
나무그늘: 팥빙수 (6900원)
나무그늘 (meaning "tree shade," as in the shade provided by a tree) is a little cafe we've often passed by, but never checked out until recently. (Incidentally, you can also go here to try "Dr. Fish," the little fish that nibble the dead skin off your feet.) We stopped by intending to try one of their patbingsus, but it seems they have a policy that each person must order something, so we ended getting two patbingsus, even though one would have been enough for both of us.
The regular 팥빙수 featured chocolate ice cream, cereal, 떡, 팥, milk and condensed milk drizzled over the top. The toppings were great, but the ice was too crunchy, as if it had been merely crushed in a blender.
나무그늘: 과일빙수 (6900원)
Their 과일빙수 featured strawberry ice cream, sliced bananas, kiwi and previously frozen strawberries, drizzled with condensed milk. Annie enjoyed the toppings immensely, but again, the ice was way too crunchy.
To get there, take Line 2 to Gangnam, go out exit #6 (or #10, using the new numbers), then look for the BSX store next to the second crosswalk (opposite CGV). 나무그늘 is on the second floor, just above BSX.
Twosome + Cafe: 팥빙수 (9000원)
Twosome + Cafe aimed for simple (a recurring theme this year), sticking with just 팥, condensed milk and 미숫가루-covered 떡, but hit "plain." Twosome + (and Twosome Place) have many lovely desserts so we were disappointed to find that their 팥빙수, while wonderful to behold, missed the mark in flavor and texture. We thought the ice was too crunchy and Annie thought it had too much 팥 (though Aaron loves 팥, so the more the merrier).
To get there, take Line 2 to Gangnam and go out exit #7 (or #11 using the new numbers), and it will be the fourth building.
Cafe Yung: 팥빙수 (7000원)
Cafe Yung (카페융) is a cute little place in 삼청동. While the atmosphere impressed, the food, sadly, did not. The patbingsu was just okay (it arrived with the ice all re-frozen into one big block) and the hoddeok was a bit too ambitious (way too much filling, and seemed to be made from two pieces of dough pressed together). Still, other people seem to like this place, so it might still be worth checking out if you are in the area.
종로구 팔판동 27-2
Tom N Tom's Coffee: 팥빙수 (7500원)
This one featured lots of 미숫가루, 2 kinds of 떡, 팥 and condensed milk. (It actually comes with mixed nuts, too, but Annie doesn't like peanuts so we asked them to omit that.) Overall, mediocre, and the plastic spoons didn't do much for the presentation.
Zoo Coffee: 컵빙수 (5300원)
Zoo Coffee's "cup bingsu" featured green tea ice cream, fruit jellies, sliced almonds, 팥, 떡 and condensed milk. It looked like it was about to topple over when it came out, we didn't know how best to attack it. Other than that, there wasn't anything special to report.
Mister Doughnut: 녹차빙수 (5500원)
This one featured lots of 팥, some pieces of green tea-flavored 떡 and green tea syrup. It was served in a stylish bowl and looked promising, but everything was overly sweet. Not recommended.
Burger King: 팥빙수 (3500원)
One word: Don't! Aaron tried this just for novelty value (especially the folding paper "spoon"), but it wasn't worth it.
And that's all for this year! Enjoy the rest of patbingsu season, everyone! We hope to do this again when the temperatures start rising again in May 2012.