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Women rock out 'Pyongyang Style' at restaurant

By Matt Hodges ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-04-20 15:52:46

Certain topics are off-menu at the Pyongyang Koryo restaurant in Shanghai, such as DPRK leader Kim Jong-un's ex-wife, or late uncle, or even the reclusive leader's relationship with former NBA player Dennis Rodman.

Women rock out 'Pyongyang Style' at restaurant

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Women rock out 'Pyongyang Style' at restaurant

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So with lower expectations amid the barbecued bulgogi, pan-fried cod and blood-red kimchi, I waved over one of the flower petal-pretty waitresses at the chain's Tongmao Hotel branch for a less controversial enquiry-about her musical tastes.

"Have you listened to Gangnam Style"? I asked, referring to ROK singer Psy's parody of wealthy Seoul residents' love of conspicuous consumption. Released in July 2012, it still ranks as the most-viewed video on YouTube with over 1.9 billion hits.

She hesitated, smiled, nodded and began backing away, leading me to press my luck. "What do you think of it?" But she was gone, and with her my last chance of the night to learn more about what goes on inside the minds of those who inhabit the reclusive state. Or so I thought.

In the end, grilling the wait staff for clues and watching the propaganda-laced singing and dancing routines proved more appetizing than the restaurant's pan-Northeast Asian menu. The chain has three outlets in Shanghai, plus a separate cafe bar at the aforementioned hotel.

There are two reasons for this. First, like the prevailing mindset, the portions of samgyopsal (pork belly) and galbi-sal (beef ribs) are served precooked, which takes the fun out of eating Korean barbecue in the first place.

We ordered plates of meat ranging from 40-180 yuan ($6-29) a portion, but you can get the whole shebang in an assorted, albeit lukewarm, mix for 228 yuan. An assorted plate of kimchi, or spicy fermented vegetables, costs 40 yuan, and a steak 128 yuan. But most people don't come here for the food.

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