Women with expensive faces and men with expensive suits bumped shoulders with tourists and stray packs of teenagers, all strolling through the dazzling, neon-lit food alley of Gangnam. Jessye and I were among this horde, and as usual, we were hungry.
I like places like 만면희색, or Smile Noodle, that have the confidence to put glass walls on their restaurant. This means that they are willing to show you:
A) what they are serving.
B) how many customers are willing to eat what they are serving.
When deciding where to eat, these are basically the only two things that matter.
As the name of the restaurant suggests, Smile Noodle is a noodle place. But, it is not just any noodle place — it is an explicitly Korean noodle place.
The master chef’s mission statement says “We want to globalize Korean noodles, just like Japanese Ramen, Thai Tom Yam Kung, and Vietnamese Rice Noodles. We prepare authentic Korean noodles which we believe everyone must try when visiting Korea.”
In accordance with these international aspirations, Smile Noodle is super-user friendly for foreigners. The vending machines come in both English and Korean. After you order, sit down and wait for your order number to pop-up on the screen by the kitchen.
As an aside, one of my favorite things about Korean restaurant-culture is that you don’t really have to think too hard when ordering food off the menu. There is always one dish that is labeled “BEST” and why would you want anything other than that?
At Happy Noodle the “BEST” is “Premium Beef Brisket Noodle” so that’s what we ordered, along with fried shrimp dumplings and two beers.
As promised, the noodles were uniquely Korean. The beef broth was very light, something which I think Koreans prefer with their noodles, and this lightness complimented the noodles and brisket without overwhelming them. There were a lot of other goodies thrown into the soup too, I was especially fond of the bok choy.
I sat in the window, shamelessly slurping, while passersby gawked at me.
Lastly, I thought the fried shrimp dumplings were pretty good for a noodle place.
They even threw in this fun little Korean cookie as well.
Cheap (rare for this area), delicious, with a fun atmosphere and people-watching, I think Smile Noodle warrants a visit.
Short walk from exit 11, Gangnam station.