Coffee Libre – The (Really) Hidden Gem among Hongdae Cafes

Coffee Libre (커피 리브레)

English Address (Google Map) : 227-15 Yeonnam, Mapo, Seoul

Korean Address: 서울시 마포구 연남동 227-15a

Operating hours: 12.00 pm – 9.00 pm, closed every Monday

I recommend you to use Naver Map for direction to Libre Coffee as it’s more accurate.

Click here for full list of Seoul Food Itinerary

Introduction

Coffee Libre is situated far from the happening part of Hongdae (홍대) and is tucked at a quiet corner at an old warehouse area. At a glance, no one would have guessed that such a inconspicuous cafe is far more popular than expected among the locals.

They don’t serve any food, not even puff or pastry. There are only two tables in the cafe, and the sitting capacity of the cafe is less than 10. And yet long queues were formed during working day’s meal hours. The reason? Quality coffee beans.

The Coffee Machine almost took up half of the space in the cafe. And from this angle, you can see both tables, one on the left, and one on the right.

Background of Coffee Libre

Coffee Libre is actually a side venture from their main line of coffee bean roasting (and they had won numerous awards). The team behind the roaster travels around the world in search of the best coffee beans and is involved in multiple coffee-related events in Seoul. Champion Barista Sang Ho Park has been using their beans in the UK Barista Championship. Sang Ho took the 2013 UK Brewers Cup title at The London Coffee Festival.

I’m sitting at one of the two tables

Their Coffee

On menu, Coffee Libre only serves 3 kinds of coffee – Espresso, Caffè Latte (espresso with milk) and Americano (espresso with water), at W$4000 each. Each cup of coffee is prepared by using their one of three kinds of espresso beans of the day.

Their menu with three kinds of beverages

You may also purchase their freshly roasted coffee bean and upon request, they will make a cuppa aeropress coffee for you right on the spot.

Generally, the espresso beans used in Singapore has quite a standard taste so that it’s widely accepted by the public. I tried Libre’s “Bad Blood” espresso bean and was blown away. The taste totally differs from the typical espresso taste. The coffee taste of bright acidity with a complex fruit blend.  I can’t really handle the taste as it totally deviates from Singapore’s traditional espresso bean. I had never tasted such a sour coffee in my life.

Initially i ordered their caffe latte (right) and notice the out-of-the-ordinary tinge of sour in their coffee and so i ordered the espresso (left) to confirm it.

The Caffe Latte at W$4000

I sat at the table and observed how did the Barista made an aeropress coffee for one of the customers who purchased coffee beans from the shelf. Perhaps he noticed how interested and captivated I were, he actually served the extra portion to me, free of charge. This roast is much easier to accept and I love it – Just a tinge of acidity, strong flavor and absolutely aromatic. The only problem is, I forgot to ask about the bean used. Zzz.

Here are some of the interesting roasts that Coffee Libre has to offer. Note that these roasts are seasonal:

Farenda Sertaozinho (Yellow Bourbon / Pulped Natural)

Jasmine, Peach, Grape, Milk Chocolate

Verde Alto (Caturra / Washed)

Orange, Lime, Pineapple, Caramel

The old school rustic feel is certainly amplified by the presence of herbal medicine shelf

Conclusion

This little coffee place is definitely not easy to locate and may require some effort. Apart from visiting the usual cafe that serves mediocre coffee, if you are interested to visit a cafe that is a little out of the ordinary and to widen your palate for handcrafted coffee, Coffee Libre may be the place for you.

Click here for full list of Seoul Food Itinerary

Maps and Directions

I use the Naver Map for Coffee Libre because i think it is much more accurate with more accurate details.

1. If i remember correctly, i came out from Hongdae Exit 4. I had to walk along the main road to the right to cross the road using traffic light. These are some really wide roads.

2. Then, there’s another traffic light to cross over to the Coffee Libre side. I can’t recall why i didn’t come out from Exit 3 already.

3. Anyway, after you crossed to the Coffee Libre side, walk straight and you need to turn to your left into a small alley. This is the crucial part. See my photos below.

Click to enlarge

This is the crucial turning point. I miss this turn as it’s relatively easy to miss

This is how the small alley looks like after you turn in. Walk straight and you should be able to see Coffee Libra.

You should be able to see Coffee Libre on your right. You can easily identify it by the head of the Wrestler.

Paljamakchang – Running Man’s Gary and Haha’s Shop

Paljamakchang Hongdae Branch  (팔자막창) Haha’s Restaurant

Korean Address (Naver Map): 서울특별시 마포구 서교동 395-17 

English Address (Google Map): 395-17 Seogyo-dong (23 Jandari-ro)

Operating hours: 5:00pm to 5:00am

Click here to see my list of Seoul Food Itinerary

*Important Update*

Apparently, as per this article, it seems like Haha’s shop is now going by the name “401” and had undergone some renovation. It’s still in the same location though so you can still refer to my map and directions.

According to one of my readers, he mentioned that the restaurant is still selling BBQ stuff but there’s no more Makchang (intestine) on the menu. Scroll to end of this article for direction to Gary’s Paljamakchang at Gangnam.

Introduction

Anyone who caught the recent Korean variety show craze would have heard of Running Man. And Paljamakchang was opened by one of the running man member Gary. Subsequently, another member Haha got the franchise from Gary and opened his franchised Paljamakchang at Hongdae area.

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

I visited Haha’s restaurant and I walked past Gary’s shop at Gangnam, which I will indicate the direction to Gary’s shop as well. Though Paljamakchang offers BBQ pork belly, traditional Korean rice box, soup, they specialized in BBQ pig intestine. So don’t be surprise if GoogleTranslate translate Paljamakchang as something that is along the line of rectum.

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

The table set up

Good thing i like about Paljamakchang is they offer big plastic bags for customers to store their jackets.

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

Pig intestine / Pork Belly

There are two kinds of intestines as per their menu – large intestine (150g – W$9,000,) and fresh large intestine (150g – W$10,000). The fresh version is slightly more expensive, smaller in quantity but apparently the better quality.

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

Click to enlarge. The waiter gave me a Chinese version menu so sorry to those who can’t read Chinese =\

I ordered the fresh version and this is the first time seeing a raw pinkish pig intestine getting cooked right in front of my eyes.

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

Doesn’t look very appetizing, yet.

It doesn’t look very appetizing during the grilling phrase but it’s another story after it’s fully grilled. To be frank, I am not a big fan of internal organs but this grilled intestine works for me and I think it’s worth a try. Anyway, how often do I get to eat grilled pork intestines in Singapore?

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

Pig Intestines and Pork Belly

The intestines taste very very fresh and clean. The surface is grilled to crisp (by their waiters), texture is chewy but yet not to the extend of rubbery.

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

I also ordered a portion of Pork Belly at W$8,000. It’s not out-of-this-world  but it’s still good, typically taste like how a typical Korean BBQ Pork Belly ought to be. The exterior is grilled to crisp with no marinate on the pork belly. As always, wrap it in the lettuce and sauce to enjoy!

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

Grilled intestine wrapped in Perilla Leaf. Not exactly a fan of this leaf from the mint family that has a hairy texture. I still prefer the lettuce.

Remember to dip the intestines and pork belly into the unique blend of Korean BBQ chilli paste. Paljamakchang’s version is rather different from chill paste from a typical Korean BBQ restaurant. The most evident difference is the added crushed peanut and the salty sweet paste.

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

I like Paljamakchang’s Dip and Paste very much.

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

Grilled pork belly wrapped in Red Leaf Lettuce, one of the most common vegetables used in Korean BBQ.

Korean Rice Box (Dosirak 도시락)

I also ordered the traditional Korean rice box at W$4000 that came with a portion of spicy tofu soybean paste soup (Dubu Doenjang JjiGae 두부 된장찌개). The Korean rice box is call dosirak (도시락) and don’t call it a bento.

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

The lunch box, before shaking it. I took out the seasoned anchovies though.

The Korean rice box works like our Mcdonalds shaker fries. Hold the box and lid together and shakkkkeeeee it baby. Probably the shaking just add a little fun factor for a tourist like me. The portion is rather small but I guess the the rice cannot fill up the lunch box for this shaking thing to work.

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

Rice Box after shaking. Well mixed and ready to fit into my stomach!

Among everything, I particularly like the mixed rice. I can finish the rice even without the rest of the ingredients. There’s slices of meat that looks like sausage/luncheon meat. It don’t exactly taste like one and it is not exactly to my liking. Still rather unsure what i’d eaten on that day.

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

The soy bean paste soup that comes as a set with lunch box

As for the spicy tofu soybean soup, to be honest, although it “comes with the rice box”, it’s one of the better one i had till date. Be warned that it’s rather spicy and that’s what i love about the soup and i love the crushed peanut that is mixed into the soup.

Conclusion

Probably a must-go for Running Man Fans out there. There’s a wall with a lot of signatures from various Korean celebrities including the members of Running Man but i can’t seem to be able to identify them.

Despite it being a restaurant opened by a Korean celebrity, i think that the BBQ pig intestine is good and unique enough to convince me to pay a visit again IF i have the chance to come back to Seoul. *pray pray*

Another table beside me was grilling some chilli-marinated pig intestines and looks GOOD. Can someone please try that and let me know whether is it nice? Hahaha~

Paljamakchang 팔자막창 Gary Runningman Haha Restaurant Seoul

The interior of Haha’s shop. We reached at about 5.30pm when it just open. No crowd! *Happy*

Directions and Maps

While doing research, i read from online that it’s not easy locating Haha’s shop and it’s even worst for Gary’s shop at  Gangnam. But it does not seems too difficult from the map and i am glad that i found Haha’s shop quite easily and i just happen to walk past Gary’s shop and seems rather easy to locate too.

Follow my directions and i promise you won’t be lost.

Click here for full list of Seoul Food Itinerary

Directions to Haha’s Restaurant

Actually the nearest station is not from Hongdae MRT station but from Hapjeong MRT station. But since i am staying in Hongdae, i took a short walk to Paljamakchang and it took about 7 to 10 minutes.

1. From Hongdae MRT, come out from Exit 9, turn to your left and walk straight and you will come to a T-Junction.

2. At this T-Junction,  turn right. As you can see from the map, after turning right, just follow the map direction and walk straight.

3. You will cross a couple (two major) of cross junctions and just continue walking.

4. After walking for about 5 – 7 minutes, you should be able to see this tall unique building at a cross junction as shown in my map which is known as the “KT&G Sangsang Madang”

5. You should be able to spot Haha’s shop Paljamachang at this junction by looking to your right. Tada, you are there.

Directions to Gary’s Restaurant (Gangnam Branch)

Korean Address: 서울특별시 서초구 서초동 1309-8

English Address: 1309-8 Seocho-dong (8 Gangnam-daero 69-gil)

Actually i think that Gary’s shop is even easier to find. Although it’s nearer to Sinnonhyeong station, i walked from Gangnam (강남) station as i was at that area anyway. It’s about about a 5 – 7 minutes walk. It’s actually just beside a very well known Korean Fried Chicken Restaurant, Kyochon Fried Chicken, which i will review on later.

1. Exit from Gangnam station’s exit 9. Turn to your right and walk straight all the way.

2. Walk for about 5-7 minutes. You should will cross two cross junctions along the way. And you should be able to see Gary’s shop Paljamakchang at the third cross junction.