Story by RUFFIE CRUZ
Subic Bay, home of the world’s fourth largest shipbuilding company, found a way to cater to the hundreds of Koreans working at Hanjin Heavy Industries. Seoul, owned and operated by Uram Jeong, is believed to be Subic’s number 1 Korean restaurant.
Ten years ago, Uram’s grandparents started the restaurant. They were both natives of Jeolla Province, South Korea, the country’s famous region for best home-grown food. Back then, they were not interested in attracting “foreign” customers. Instead, they were focused on servicing Korean engineers, students, tourists, and immigrants.
Nevertheless, in 2009, Uram’s mom stepped in and helped run the restaurant. It later paved the way for Uram and his Polish wife, Kataryzna Statkiewicz, to join in the operations as well. The couple took full responsibility about three years ago.
That’s when things started to change. Uram wanted to shift their customer base from a selected few to the general public. Basically, he wanted to serve anyone craving for Korean food in Subic Bay.
Authentic Korean cuisine
Set 1299 (Good for 4 people)
Upon getting the dish, the first thing you’ll notice is the perfect cut of the meat. The fat and flesh ratio is very balanced, too. It is neither too thin like bacon nor too thick like steak.
The set is composed of: Samgyeopsal, Duruchigi, Pork Galbi, Sogalbisal, Seoul Sweet Sogalbisal, Cheolpan Bulgogi, 4 cups of rice, 1 ice tea pitcher
Seoul Fried Chicken
This one is Seoul’s original recipe. Available in original and spicy flavors, the platter includes crispy fried chicken legs and wings.
The prices are: P350 (good for 2); P650 (good for 3-4); Half sauced P700 (good for 3-4)
Cholmyon (good for 3 people)
Cholmyon is composed of chewy noodles served with sliced cucumbers, carrots, pears, lettuce, and chili pepper sauce. Made up of crushed fruits and ground beef, the goo gives the dish a distinct sweet and sour taste. In fact, it is almost like eating spaghetti with subtle Kimchi sauce.
Ramyon (good for 2 people)
It is the iconic Korean noodle soup with egg. Ramyon is very basic in terms of texture and flavor but definitely rich in aroma. For one, it is highly spiced. Nevertheless, it is still a must-try.
Pork Bone Soup
This was temporarily taken off the menu for a few months before. It was only reintroduced due to very high demand.
Pork Bone Soup requires “too much” time and effort. A lot of pork bones are needed to make this soup. Uram does everything from buying the ingredients to carrying them to their kitchen every morning. This dish also takes up too much space in the refrigerators. It is a bit spicy but really tasty and healthy at the same time.
Uram’s personal recommendations: Set P899 (all pork good for 3); Set P999 (all beef good for 3); Set 1499 (all beef good for 4); Pork ribs; Kimbap (Korean maki); Seafood noodle (with shrimp and mussels)
Secret to success
Everything at Seoul is done meticulously. Uram works slowly but surely, focusing on every detail as much as possible. Instead of producing goods in bulk to make lots of money, he wants to make sure that every food he serves satisfies every guest. He sleeps less than 7 hours a day and spends 15 out of the 24 hours in his restaurant.
True enough, if you visit Seoul, you will not see him stuck in one area. He’s always moving, serving dishes, and cleaning the tables. Uram said that while he can hire a good manager, he still believes that no one else could render the same love and passion he has for his company.
Seoul Korean Restaurant doesn’t have a lot of marketing strategies. It just relies on word of mouth. Uram wants people to come to them because they like the food, not because the ads are attractive.
During the first few months, Seoul only had a few Filipino customers. Nevertheless, they remained patient. Besides, those “few” Filipino patrons kept coming back. Their secret to success, Uram said, is optimism.