One of our favorite restaurants in Seoul is Baru (also known as Balwoo, or just 발우공양). We’ve only eaten there twice because it’s fairly expensive, so we treat ourselves on special occasions. We went for my birthday in October and headed there again for our anniversary.
Baru serves temple food, which means it’s all vegetarian! But don’t worry, the set meal comes with a lot of delicious, satisfying food that would please carnivores as well. The restaurant itself is in a very modern building across the street from Jogyesa Temple.
The restaurant only serves set meals. The 10 dish meal is only available for lunch, so for dinnertime we’ve gotten the “Beopryun Principles” 12 dish meal, about 35,000 won per person.
The meal started with a bamboo shoots salad and a rice porridge. I’m not a huge fan of rice porridge – it seems to me like something I would like to eat when I’m ill, but it is the tastiest rice porridge I’ve had in Korea.
Next we were served veggie pancakes. These were so good – fried and crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. There were only two so we each ate one.
Next is tofu and dumplings. Again, it’s so nice that everything is vegetarian. It makes eating such a relaxing experience for us and we don’t have to wonder if we just read something wrong or if they chose not to include it. We’ve taken to making our own mandu (dumplings) because it’s so hard to find veggie dumplings here, so we delighted in these.
After the mandu we were served a delicious dish that looked like and had the texture of fish. It was actually a root with a pine nut sauce, and had a pleasant earthy taste to it.
Then we got a plate with ginseng root. We went back and forth on the method of eating these but ended up just dipping them in the citrus sauce and taking a bite. It was nice – not nearly as strong as I anticipated.
Our favorite dish came next – fried mushrooms. Since becoming vegetarian I feel like we could eat mushrooms with every meal. They have interesting varied textures, unique tastes, and sometimes even trick us into thinking we’re eating beef, which is a little disconcerting. These are fried up with a sweet and sour apple sauce. So good!
The next course was a tofu soup – a little tasteless but nice and warm. With the soup came lotus leaf rice – rice wrapped in a lotus leaf. The rice is super sticky and a little sweet, with chestnuts nestled in on top.
At this point in the meal banchan (Korean side dishes) were also served. It was your standard bean sprouts and kimchi, but they were a nice accompaniment, and they were light – we were getting full.
For dessert we had some lemon, cinnamon, and ginger tea along with some “chips”, which included potato and sweet potato chips as well as some dried fruit.
Baru is expensive but provides a great place to experience temple food in a modern and comfortable setting. We’ve read that reservations are required, so both times we’ve gone, we called in before we went. However, we’ve called day-of with no problem.
The location of the restaurant is also awesome. It’s walking distance from Insadong and across the street from a beautiful temple, so if you find yourself touring Seoul one day, it’s a great place to stop in and get to try a lot of different foods at one time.
How to Get There
Anguk Station, Exit 6. Walk straight out of the exit and skip the main Insadong road. At the next intersection (a large main road), turn left and walk. Baru is on the left in the Temple Stay Building. Keep an eye out for Jogyesa Temple on your right – the restaurant is right across the street.
110-170 서울시 종로구 견지동 71번지 템플스테ㅣ 5층
71 Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-170