Be Awesome

Look, our forefathers died for the "pursuit of happiness," okay? Not for the "sit around and wait of happiness." Now if you want, we can go to the same bar, drink the same beer, talk to the same people every day or you can lick the Liberty Bell. You can grab life by the crack and lick the crap out of it.
--Barney (HIMYM)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Visit to Pyongyang

Yes, that's right.  Took a trip to Pyongyang.  Pyongyang Restaurant that is.

I've been wanting the opportunity to try this restaurant for myself for a while now after hearing many others mention going there.  The Pyongyang Restaurant chain is said to be a North Korean government-run franchise of restaurants offering North Korean cuisine that also serve as North Korea's version of public diplomacy.  Some even rumor that North Korean diplomats work in these restaurants at night as the wait-staff.

I have to admit, if the above is true, it seems effective.  Though I don't believe the wait-staff are "diplomats" in the traditional sense moonlighting at the restaurant, they quite possibly could be diplomats in the sense that they attempt to represent their country in the best light sharing Korean culture.  And if you're going to share your culture, I think the route through food is definitely one of the best approaches!

The waitresses at the Pyongyang Restaurant in Jakarta wear traditional Korean attire and were very friendly and attentive.  They were all ethnically Korean and we assumed to all be from North Korea.  The restaurant was fairly plainly decorated but featured a performance stage in the restaurant center.
The menu featured a small selection of Korean BBQ meats, many vegetables dishes containing mushrooms, and Korean noodles and soups.  Following ordering, they served several free side dishes (banchan) and our beverages while we awaited for our order to come.
Pyongyang Soju!
Famous Cold Noodles
About mid-way into the meal with half our dishes served, the waitresses in the restaurant went to the stage and began performing.  Following the first performance, they would then take turns between performing and continuing serving guests for about the next half hour.  The songs they performed were a mix of Korean, Chinese, and American songs that could probably be found at any karaoke (in fact, it looked like they were singing from a karaoke machine).

At the end of the meal, after paying and preparing to leave, we asked if we could take a picture with the waitresses.  Instead of just taking the picture at our table, they invited us to come to the stage instead to take a big group picture with them!

I was pretty impressed with the whole experience.  A shame none of us spoke Korean as it would be nice to have been able to try to chat a learn more about their story and the country.  Definitely an interesting approach to public diplomacy and rare opportunity to try North Korean cuisine!
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