Archive | March, 2013
March 22, 2013

Vatos Urban Tacos

Vatos01The district in Seoul called Itaewon has a love-it or hate-it type of feel to it. Over the last 18 months it has become one of my favorite parts of the city and a necessary destination for a little western influenced sanity. It is truly a global melting pot in the heart of the sprawling capital city and has a little to offer everyone as a result.

Looking back over my food reviews on this site, I realized I have become a little obsessed with finding good Mexican food here in South Korea despite my own advice to simply give up hope. Short of a Chipotle opening up on my block, the best I have had so far has to be the buzzing, modern, and super busy Vatos Urban Tacos.

Previously located in a smaller location, Vatos ( moved into their new digs in August, 2012, and may outgrow this space soon, too. With the seating already full for brunch on Sunday afternoon I took a break from putting up Animal Rescue Korea flyers and bellied-up to the empty bar to order from there.

The house specialty, as their name implies, is an impressive selection of Mexi-Korean fusion tacos and a brilliant kimchi/carnitas fries appetizer.  Although they are smaller than I imagined, they are sold for 7-10,000 KRW in groups of 2 or 3 so come hungry and try a few of each. Each can be packed with lots of fresh meat choices, including my choice of baja fish and  braised carnitas, plus lime chicken, galbi short ribs, or carne asada. Your first batch of chips and salsa are on the house, so my total bill for 4 amazing tacos came to 13,000 KRW. The food was fresh and very tasty, especially the fish, and the staff was very attentive, helpful, and bi-lingual (the bartender had recently arrived from France).

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I would definitely go back again to sample more of the menu, especially the starters and the quesadillas, too. The decor and atmosphere is terrific and it all begs to be enjoyed with a larger group. The military guys I met at the bar were from Arkansas and Hawaii and were on a similar quest for their Mexican food cravings. They raved about the margaritas, too. Vatos in Itaewon is certainly worth checking out if you are in the neighborhood.

To get there (Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-dong 181-8 2nd Floor, Seoul) take Line 6 and use Exit 1 from Itaewon Station. Then go straight about 5 minutes past BK and “What The Book?”. Vatos is on the second floor up a steep parking exit, across the street from the Itaewon McDonald’s and next to the Standard Chartered Bank. Walk-ins are welcome but reservations are recommended for large groups.


March 12, 2013

JLS Speech Contest

SpeechContest01Last month, I was the Master of Ceremonies and a judge for the 2013 JLS Speech Contest at our English academy. Students from all grades and both locations have been preparing for this annual competition for some time and the job of editing all the rough speeches fell to me, too.

While some topics were pretty simple, I was amazed at the maturity and complexity of several of the submissions. Some students simply introduced their families or their pet hedgehogs. Others recounted volunteer work with their church or their favorite vacation.

The most impressive and compelling speeches, however, touched on the subject of Korean reunification. Even at an early age, kids understand and are keenly aware of the pain and suffering the peninsula has endured over its long and troubled history. When a child explains the wisdom of reuniting North and South Korea, the impact is both heartbreaking and innocently optimistic.

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While the contest is not highly competitive, there is a certain matter of bragging rights (and a nice little prize) that goes to the eventual winner. The rest of the nearly 30 finalists are battling their nerves and ability to successfully remember their speech without goofing up and are instead unified to that end. The results are a very proud moment for the faculty and staff, as well as the assembled families – all with cameras flashing and video recorders rolling.

The winner this year was without question the terrific Monica, from the Dunsan Dong location. Not only was her speech highly energetic and creative, but her amazing fluency made it easy for her to imitate a local news reporter and three separate interviewees. The result was a clever tour around the sites of Daejeon, as seen through the eyes of 3 of its citizens, each of different ages. Not only did she keep the whole thing straight without forgetting a single line, she had the entire audience rolling without ever breaking character.

Congratulations to Monica and all the participants on a job well done this year!