KOREAN NAME: 마중
LOCATION: Seoul, Insadong (서울, 인사동)
OVERALL: Majoong is a joomak catering to people with deeper pockets who are looking for a wide selection of makgeolli. Which is not to say it’s snooty. This makgeolli house does a nice job of creating an atmosphere that is both relaxed and civilized. Despite the slightly pricey menu, I’d still recommend Majoong. After all, you’re in Insadong so what you’re paying for is the atmosphere.
LOOK & ATMOSPHERE: If you can find this joomak, you deserve to drink here. Like so many other establishments in the tourist-dense neighborhood of Insadong, Majoong is in a windy back alley off a slightly larger windy back alley, the sign half-hidden by ivy leaves. But you know you’ve arrived when you see a small path that has lost half its territory to foliage and a red banner displaying numerous bottles of makgeollis. Stepping inside, the décor is a bit akin to a Japanese sake house. On the right side of the main room, the window looks out onto a miniature waterfall and, although it is obviously man-made, it does not seem tacky or off. On the opposite side is a long bar that is more for staging drinks and dishes than for sidling up for a cold one. In addition to the tables in the main room, there is a clutch of tables at the front and back as well as a few semi-private rooms with floor seating.
Majoong is by no means your scruffy hole-in-the-wall makgeolli bar nor is it one of those dusty, cluttered places where all the furniture looks as if it is made of drift wood. It sits comfortably between the two: shoji-esque doors, sturdy tableware, and a wall of handmade pottery contrast with a bar top littered with restaurant equipment and one or two bookshelves in studied disarray. Because of its location and size, I doubt this place gets rowdy or loud. The clientele seems to be comprised of foreigners looking for that uniquely Korean experience, retired Korean men who may or may not have been hiking (but still decked out in the requisite Columbia/North Face gear), and the odd couple on a date.
MAKGEOLLI & FOOD: In addition to the nice atmosphere, there is a wide selection of makgeolli to choose from – over 20 different bottles. Prices ranged from around ₩6,000 to 12,000. Here are a few I recall:
- Daedaepo Blue Label (대대포)
- Sobaeksan (소백산)
- Sansooyoo (산수유)
- Baedari (배다리)
- Geumjeong Sanseong (금정 산성)
- Song Myeong Seob (송명섭)
- Haechang (해창)
- Eyagi Cheonma (이야기 천마)
- White Lotus Baekryeon (백련)
- Jipyeong (지평)
- Gapyeong Jat (가평 잣)
- Flavored makgeollis, such as apple, black bean, yuza, corn, omija, chestnut, and even tomato.
The kimchi jeon (김치전) was one of the best I’ve ever tried. But fair warning – it packs a spicy punch. The jeon marked the low end of the food menu at ₩15,000. They serve a number of other dishes, such as samgyuhbsal (삼겹살), golbaengee (골뱅이), hwangtaetang (황태탕), bossam (보쌈), and so on. The bossam was one of the most expensive at ₩35,000 but most of the other dishes were around ₩20,000.
BATHROOM: Inside the premises. One bathroom shared by men and women. Very cramped but clean enough. Hand soap available.
HOURS: 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 a.m.
DIRECTIONS: From Anguk Station (안국), come out of exit 6 and walk straight until you get to the first large intersection. Turn left here (you’ll notice that it’s a foot path that is off limits to cars). Walk straight until you reach a large intersection and turn left onto Insadong 10-gil. You’ll see a small alley on your right. Turn right here and you’ll see “마중”. Hopefully.