Seeing as I live in Shenyang, a city in northern China that is only a stone's throw from the North Korean border, I got this evening about as close as I'll ever realistically get to North Korea this evening - without needing a visa, that is.
I was invited by a couple of Chinese friends for dinner at a place on Nanjing Road calling itself "Korean Barbecue". Yes, that's the name of the restaurant, in 10-foot high neon letters (oddly enough there's a restaurant on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago with the same name, only written on a peice of paper taped inside the front window).
Greeting us at the front door of the Najing Road establishment were two young Chinese men in fairly authentic North Korean military dress uniforms. Kinda freaked me out at first. Ya know? The only thing missing was a portrait of Kim Il Sung on the wall (a picture of Kim Jr. would have put me off my meal).
Even the guy who came to take away the coals was dressed in fatigues and had dyed blond hair and looked a little like Rick Yune in Die Another Day, where 007 sneaks into North Korea by high-tech surf boards.
The staff were quite good at explaining the menu in English and Chinese and even Korean, but one thing they failed to mention was that the soup I ordered, normally made with pork, this time contained dog. Yes, that's right, dog. Uh huh. Lassie. Bowser. Man's best friend. Etc. Mind you, this was only casually mentioned by one of my dining companions, "oh, by the way, that's dog you just took a bite of."
Needless to say, I stuck with the beef (bulgogi) BBQ.Afterwards (and sometimes during the meal) the staff brought us dessert, which consisted of sliced watermelon, melon ice cream, and some little fried bits of dough liberally coated in sugar. Midway through the meal they brought us damp towels, which I think you actually use before the eating starts (or after, I think).On the way out the door the immaculately attired North Korean soldier turned waiter gave us some fake Wrigley's "peppermint" chewing gum.
I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone who loves Korean food (including the occasional canine - the sign outside should be a poster for that John Cusack movie, which by the way is already on DVD at Walmart here), or has a good command of Chinese, and dosen't mind attentive staff to the point of being slightly overbearing. I had a good experience, if nothing else for the atmosphere and some good bibimbap.