Learn some Korean: Itaewon: 이태원 (pronounced ee-tae-won)
Itaewon (이태원) is a district in Seoul, South Korea that is popular for foreigners. It is Seoul’s international stub hub. You can find a huge array international goodies here such as Vietnamese food, Thai food, American franchises, Turkish food, Middle Eastern food, Italian, and the list goes on. What is surprising is that if you are trying to get Korean food in this area, it is generally more expensive than if you were getting Korean food from outside the Itaewon (이태원) district. **Eating tip: do not get Korean food while in Itaewon (이태원) to save yourself some bucks.
For me personally, I avoided going to Itaewon (이태원) because – although I am a foreigner in South Korea, I did not want to interact with other foreigners in Korea. Me and my friends never really explored Itaewon (이태원), but we wanted to make sure that we hit up all of Seoul. So we came to see what was up in the area, found that there was nothing much other than food (sorry if this offends anyone!), and went searching for a good restaurant.
We came by this Vietnamese restaurant called Le Saigon. **History fact: Saigon is the old name of the current Ho Chi Minh City. The main reason why I wanted to come here was because I wanted to compare the Vietnamese food here in South Korea and the Vietnamese food in NYC. Hint hint: I have never eaten Pho from Vietnam, so what’s my say on what authenticity is? NONE.
I ended up ordering a bowl of Pho and shared spring rolls with my friends. Let’s start with the spring rolls. It was crispy and good, however, it was lacking in filling. The spring rolls I have tasted in my local Vietnamese restaurants in NYC usually has more flavor (a little bit more kick), and more meat filling. This was also pretty expensive. I think each spring roll was $1.5 ~₩1,500. Thus, the spring rolls were not worth the price I paid.
Now, for the main dish, Pho. The broth was hands down the same in flavor as I have tasted in any Vietnamese restaurant. The noodles were a bit different. The ones that my local Vietnamese restaurants use was a slightly skinnier vermicelli noodle, whereas, the one used at Le Saigon was flatter. I did not really like this because the noodles had a little bit more starch than I was used to, so it made each bite a little more bland. They also went a little cheap on meat (cheap meaning not generous). Usually, I would be offered three kinds of meat, and definitely more than what I got in Korea. I think the Pho cost ₩10,000~$10 and that is more expensive than in NYC. So, sadly, it was another dish that was not worth the money.
It did come with the beansprouts, peppers, and a lime wedge that could be added based on your own preference. There were also the sauces, hot sauce and hoisin sauce on the side.