49 B eyond Dongdaemun History and Cul- ture Park Station, away from the hide- ous alien monstrosity that has replaced Dongdaemun Stadium, lies a largely undiscovered piece of multicultural Seoul: Little Russia. There are Mongolian textile shops, Uzbek travel agents and Russian minimarts selling vodka, cavi- ar and pickled beets. Though many of the denizens look Korean, they speak a polyphony of Central Asian and Eastern European languages: Russian, Ukrainian, Tajik, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Uzbek and Mongolian. In fact, most residents of Little Russia are not Russian at all, but come from former Soviet states once dominated by the Eurasian nation. It’s exotic but not overly so — like the French community in Sorae or Chinatown in Daelim, you always know you are in Korea. Walking around is fun for the people watching, but the real reason to come here is for the food. We took a Korean, a New Zealander, two Americans and a Russo-Ukrainian guide to try out three of Little Rus- sia’s restaurants; what we got was an afternoon of reasonably priced culinary joy and a few insights on the area’s surprising authenticity. gaRLic, peppeR and oLd-fashioned chaRm Samarqand, named after the historic city in Uzbekistan, is prob- ably the most famous of the Little Russia restaurants. “You can smell it from down the street and it smells incredible,” said Sonja Butler, one of our American friends. We ordered three types of shashlik, or grilled meat on skewers, which is the restaurant’s specialty: two lamb, two beef and two minced beef. The food came with pickled carrots and onion, something our Korean friend, Wayne Jeong, thought Koreans would appreciate. “I believe Koreans will love this. Garlic, pepper — good combina- tion.” The lamb was especially popular. “The garlic hits you first, along with the rich, buttery lamb flavor,” Butler said with a mouthful of lamb. “It’s quickly followed by a quick punch of cumin. The meat is exceptionally well cooked and tender.” James Wright, our other American, agreed, hailing the lamb as “perfectly cooked, way better than the Chinese anything in your district. Amazing marinade — juicy, not overpowering. Very sa- vory.” The minced beef was well marinated in a rich brown sauce with onions and garlic. On its own, the meat was a bit chewy, but like all shashlik, the creamy tomato and dill dipping sauce is needed for the full experience –– after a quick dip, the meat had a bal- anced, clean taste. The waitress, a Tajik student, was pleasant and attentive, and the restaurant was very pretty inside. Looking around, Jeong pointed out, “I like it here because the customers are mixed with foreigners and locals. The interior is a bit old-fashioned, but I think it is what it is.” ‘you can smeLL it fRom down the stReet and it smeLLs incRedibLe.’ sonja butLeR