Seldom it is that I'd embark on a journey purely for the sake of obtaining an album - a previous trip centred around a single task was much too time-consuming. That said, I opted to incorporate supper with friends; prior to that was a short-lived visit at Rustle & Still.
It's highly regrettable to say that the succulent-filled cafe did not fulfill such a yearning: their rendition was not only satiating, but also crumbly to the point where it was impossible to consume without the specimen shattering in countless tiny shards. Inelegant nibbling process aside, I was particularly unfond of the green-tinged grease dissipating from the mound. Commonly a consequence of an insufficient amount of dry ingredients, the one-year-old cafe ought to have taken the appropriate remedial measures the ensure the delivery of tried-and-true recipes.
Instead of being confined into a tiny, dimly-lit wooden booth, we were offered a properly illuminated table with ample space to move and set down our belongings. An abundance of decorative elements filled the space, reminiscent of Sikgaek's 40's style poster art (think Rosie the Riveter's 'We Can Do It!'). A handful of tables with backless Stainless steel stools were distributed throughout the restaurant; amusing signage such as "여자 말을 잘 듣자" (translation: "Listen carefully/well to the words of women") was hoisted above the stairwell to the downstairs bathroom. According to our native Korean member of the party, this was, by far, the most authentic setup he was familiar with.
The meal commenced with side dishes such as sweet potato stems (고구마순나물), bean sprouts, pickled peppers and onions, and kimchi. Thin slices of floral-shaped pickled white radish and a duo of dipping sauces were also laid down as part of the ssam components. I wasn't completely certain of the ingredients of either sauce, but vividly recall one being tangy and of a thicker consistency and the other an emulsion with coarse dark specks. Both were mild, much to my relief.
The more familiar pick of the two was Pork Neck, which, admittedly, was more to my liking due to its sensible flesh-to-fat ratio.
The group also ordered Pork Kalbi towards the second half of the meal. This platter arrived seared and smelling absolutely divine. Its insides were still rare though, so efforts were still required on our end.
The steamed egg was ridiculously fluffy, and didn't adhere to the grill despite its prolonged cooking time. One of the members of staff came by midway into our meal to torch the surface of the egg, as one did not have the option of flipping for uniform cooking. He also torched the corn cheese medley; it didn't display the stringy properties we desired, but the contrast of cheese and extra-sweet kernels was more than satisfactory.
The single stall was clean, however, and free of the generic slickness exhibited on the stairs.
A complimentary, password-secured Wi-Fi network was also available for customer usage. That said, I did not spot this until our time of departure, and thus cannot atest its strength.
It sufficed to say that the experience at Mapo was well worth the commute (and very minimal wait time). Of course, the fact that our party consisted of an experienced meat handler was another critical aspect. Although known as a human with meager meat cravings, Mapo is a destination that I wouldn't mind revisiting in the near future. (Nominal lingering odours was a huge bonus!)