Although it’s not quite enough to call a trend, a couple vegetarian restaurants have sprung up around Bomun Resort (보문단지) in the last few years which, for a country that generally considers eating meat equal with common sense, is a pretty big deal. Perhaps the frequent media scares over livestock-borne diseases, like mad cow, foot and mouth and avian flu, are beginning to turn some Koreans off from their gleefully carnivorous diets. Whatever the case, it certainly helps the vegetarian cause that both Dayoo (다유) and Ssookboo Jaengi (쑥부쟁이) restaurants near Bomun serve excellent traditional Korean vegetarian food. And, contrary to the popular belief among Korean school kids, this is not a contradiction in terms.
The smaller of the two restaurants, Da-yoo (다유), is quietly tucked away behind the Bomun Country Club golf course on the north side of Bomun Lake. Built in traditional “han-ok” (한옥) style architecture complementing its interior, Da-yoo is tastefully decorated with ceramics, tea ware, antiques and other traditional crafts. Along with the floor seating, split log tables and paper screens, this helps create a cozy yet cultural atmosphere . Of course, if you’re a vegetarian in Korea and have been starved of descent veggie-friendly cuisine for a while, this is probably the least of your concerns.
Luckily for you, Da-yoo also serves quality vegetarian food and in fact specializes in meat substitutes, like tofu beef or fake chicken. Da-yoo offers three different set menus, artfully served on individual trays, for about 11,000 each. The “kkong gogi bap” (콩고기밥), or literally “bean meat”, set is delicious and comes with an assortment of veggie dishes, like fake bulgogi, imitation chicken, baked pumpkin rice, and veggie wraps. The “maeun kkong bulgogi bap” (매운콩불고기밥), or “spicy bean bulgogi” set is also is also tasty but has a little less variety, focusing mostly on the spicy imitation bulgogi. Personally, I’d give the “chae gwa bap” (채과밥), or veggie-fruit set as a miss, as (as the name implies) it’s mostly salad and fruit.
Da-yoo also offers add-ons, like the like the “peoseot deulggaetang” (버섯 들깨탕) , or “mushroom soup, for 9,000 won and the “mini bam hobakbap” (미니밤 호박밥), a mini baked pumpkin stuffed with rice and nuts, for 7,000 won. As Da-yoo doubles as a tea house (and in fact triples as a guest house or 민박), they also serve a excellent assortment of green and black teas as well as fruit teas and infusions, which come free with traditional sweets as your desert.
My only complaint with the food is that the portions are little small for my tastes. Not to mention, Da-yoo is a little bit of a hassle to get to. It’s tricky to find if you’re driving and expensive by taxi (around 10,000 won from town, I’d guess). Even so, Da-yoo’s still worth the effort, especially if you’re of the vegetarian persuasion. To get there by car, take N.R. 4 going east out of town to Bomun. When you reach the “T” intersection at the lake, turn left and follow the road around the north side of the lake. After a few minutes, you’ll come up on an exit on the right to the Bomun and Gyeongju Country Clubs. Take that exit and follow it down and back under the highway. Follow this road a few hundred meters up the hill and bank a hard left at the gate to the Bomun C.C. where it then splits. Follow the right branch of the “Y” around to the right and down the hill. Da-yoo will be just off a rice road on the left after you clear the trees.
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Or you could just take a taxi and give the driver their address: 경상북도 경주시 천북면 물천리 1159-7 and phone number: 054-773-8866 plus the map below: