차이란 (삼성점) (Chai-ran)
Reviewed by Aaron Namba on May 31, 2011 / Updated August 5, 2011
I fancy myself something of a 자장면 connoisseur, having tried all kinds, from the fancy, high-class renditions (which thankfully, I didn't have to pay for), to the more pedestrian, all the way down to the cheapest of the cheap (sad-looking, light brown oniony mush). Sit-down restaurants, mall eateries, food courts, delivery (of course!), instant, and even 짜짜로니 (ramen in the style of jajangmyeon). While I have found most to be at least satisfying, after a few bowls it is not hard to tell which shops truly care about the quality of their food and which are just trying to provide cheap meals.
Out of the many dozens of bowls of 자장면 I have had over the years, some of the best have been here, at 차이란. I rank 차이란's 자장면 in the top 2 (not because it's 2nd place, but because I can't decide which I like better).
반찬 (side dishes): pickled cucumber, cabbage, turnip
Most Chinese restaurants in Korea offer the two standard noodle dishes, 자장면 and 짬뽕 (spicy seafood noodle soup, the alternative for those who don't like 자장면), and at a relatively low price (4000-7000원). You can just eat noodles, but if you want to try one of the specialty dishes, those will set you back 18000원 to 25000원 or more. They tend to be fairly large (even the small size, 소/小), so they are best for parties of 3 or more.
Deep fried pork with sweet & sour sauce (탕수육 中, 22000원)
If you are willing to shell out for one of the add-on dishes, 자장면's proper sidekick is 탕수육 (sweet & sour pork, 中/medium, 22000원). Battered pork is deep fried multiple times to build a crispy, crunchy shell and a thick sweet & sour sauce is poured over it (or sometimes served on the side in a bowl).
Deep fried shrimp with chili sauce (칠리새우 中, 27000원)
On our third visit, we decided to give their 칠리새우 a try (shrimp with chili sauce, 27000원). Battered and deep fried shrimp are covered in sweet and mildly spicy sauce and served on bed of sprouts. This was just okay, but probably just because I think it's hard to beat the classic combo of 자장면+탕수육.
The star of the show: It doesn't look like much (it never does) but it hits the spot.
As with many foods found in Korea, few would find this dish appetizing at first glance, but after a few bowls of the good stuff, you'll develop a Pavlovian response to the heavenly aroma, the black bean sauce, full of onions and pork bits, all on top of a bed of perfectly cooked, chewy egg noodles. There's nothing quite like it, and words and photos cannot adequately explain the appeal of this dish.
If you haven't tried 자장면 (or simply haven't had one worth eating again), give 차이란's rendition a try and let me know what you think.
Oh, and don't forget: wearing your brightest, whitest shirt is... not a good idea.
- Food: 5/5 - Consistently excellent 자장면. Other dishes a little expensive for what they are, but that's par for the course at this type of establishment.
- Service: 5/5 - Attentive service, quick 반찬 refills.
- Atmosphere: 3/5 - Clean, satisfactory. Nothing detracts, but nothing really attracts either.
How to get there: 차이란 is located in the City Air Terminal Food Court. It has two entrances, you can follow the directions from any mall information kiosk, or you can try this:
Start from the main mall entrance (Samsung Stn exit #6, cross the courtyard, enter by the revolving doors). Walk until you see Bandi & Luni's bookstore, then take a left and head toward Link-O. As you get close, you should notice steps leading down between Link-O and Mr. Pizza. Go down the steps, then go up the escalator to the food court. The food court is just a single hallway, so just walk until you see 차이란.