A North Korean restaurant in Dubai

Pyongyang Okyru Gwan - Dubai

Dubai is a city of superlatives, sometimes reaching extremes and others on the edge of the absurd, to the extent that today, it has become the most international city in the world and where you can do whatever your imagination brings you.

In only one day you can go skiing, ride a camel, go to the beach, party in a gay club, swim with dolphins, go on a safari, buy gold from a machine, go up the tallest building on Earth, the biggest mall and the most expensive hotel.

And what if I tell you that in this city you can also go to a North Korean restaurant, eat North Korean food and be served by authentic North Koreans?

If you can’t find it in Dubai it means that it doesn’t exist, and that’s why in this Arab city from the Gulf, you can even find a North Korean restaurant owned by the very same Kim Jong-un. Its name is Pyongyang Okryu-gwan.

Dubai is a city of superlatives, sometimes reaching extremes and others on the edge of the absurd, to the extent that today, it has become the most international city in the world and where you can do whatever your imagination brings you.

In only one day you can go skiing, ride a camel, go to the beach, party in a gay club, swim with dolphins, go on a safari, buy gold from a machine, go up the tallest building on Earth, the biggest mall and the most expensive hotel.

And what if I tell you that in this city you can also go to a North Korean restaurant, eat North Korean food and be served by authentic North Koreans?

If you can’t find it in Dubai it means that it doesn’t exist, and that’s why in this Arab city from the Gulf, you can even find a North Korean restaurant owned by the very same Kim Jong-un. Its name is Pyongyang Okryu-gwan.

 

A North Korean restaurant in Dubai: Why is that?

Why does Kim Jong-un need to open a restaurant in Dubai? The answer is simpler than it looks like. Due to its nuclear and missile program, North Korea has received strong sanctions from the UN and it’s banned from the international monetary system.

That’s why one of the ways they have to earn foreign currency is by opening restaurants in different parts of Asia. Most of them are opened in China, but also Cambodia, Thailand, Japan and even South Korea, and of course Dubai.

They are all run by the government and belong to a chain called Okryugwan (Pyongyang Okryu-gwan abroad). The restaurant was originally opened in Pyongyang in 1960, and for many years it has been one of the top restaurants in the whole country.

 

How is the experience of eating at a North Korean restaurant?

As you can expect, a North Korean restaurant in Dubai not only sells food but also tries to sell a good image of the country. But unlike what you may think, they don’t try to sell communist propaganda or show you how cool Kim Jong-un is. Instead, they want you to see how great (and harmless) their culture can be.

The walls are decorated with waterfalls and misty mountains, there’s a screen where North Korean music video clips are played and they sell North Korean literature and calendars. They basically want to tell you:

‘Hey, you see how innocent are we? We are a normal harmless country that really likes foreigners and take care of them’

A North Korean videoclip in a North Korean restaurant in Dubai
A strange North Korean video clip

 

Beautiful girls and an excellent service

As soon as you step into the restaurant, two beautiful North Korean girls invite you to sit down. Normally, the restaurant is pretty empty so you get all  the girls’  attention. They are extremely nice and ask you a lot of questions. ”Hey, where are you from? What do you in Dubai?”

They bring you the menu and explain to you each dish in detail. They smile and laugh openly at any comment or joke you say. No, they aren’t flirting with you. They have just been trained to be like that with each and every customer.

The North Korean restaurant in Dubai
The North Korean restaurant

When they bring you the food the service can’t be better. Most of the plates are for sharing and they even bother to serve equal proportions to each one of the guests. They pay attention to each and every detail and when the desert comes and you think that everything is over, they switch off the lights and the show begins. All the waitresses dress up and start performing a traditional North Korean dance.

By the way check this out: The 13 most authentic restaurants in Dubai

 

A live show with traditional North Korean music

At the end of the dinner, all waitresses go to a room, dress up and go to the stage to perform some sort of traditional dance. They sing, dance and play instruments. They dress up over and over to perform different shows.

In the end, they take someone randomly from the public and invite him or her to dance. Do you want to be one of the few foreigners who has ever danced with a North Korean lady? Come to Pyongyang Okryu-gwan and you might do it. By the way, pictures are not allowed, so you need to take them discretely.

The performance of the North Korean restaurant in Dubai
The performance

 

Are the employees free?

No, they are not. No one knows whether they were forced to come to Dubai or not. But what is for sure, is that their families are threatened in case they plan to escape or do anything silly. If they did, their relatives would go to jail or even get killed.

It’s not hard to believe. Since it was the first time ever I met a North Korean, I tried to ask loads of questions. Do you like Dubai? How long have you been here? How often do you go back home? Do you prefer living in Dubai or in North Korea? As soon as my questions got a bit sensitive, she refused to answer and only smiled.

And what about the food?

I’ve never been to South Korea, but apparently, North Korean food is almost the same as the South Korean one, except for a few specialties. You definitely need to try Koryo Royal Sinsollo, which is Kim Jong-un favorite’s dish. That’s what the waitresses told us. It’s similar to a Chinese hot pot, but they use a fancier recipient and the ingredients are already inside.

It’s a mix of seafood and mushrooms and it’s quite pricey (300AED), but it’s a dish for sharing with a lot of people and it’s Kim Jong-un’s favorite, so you must try it.

Koryo Royal Sinsollo, Kim Jong-un's favorite dish
Koryo Royal Sinsollo, Kim Jong-un’s favorite dish

Moreover, I recommend trying kimchi (a traditional side dish consisting of pickled cabbage), rice cake (similar to noodles) and the amazing barbecued beef (cooked to perfection and super tender).

Kimchi, pickled cabbage
Kimchi
Barbecued beef
Barbecued beef

 

Conclusion: Is it ethical to eat at this restaurant?

If you start thinking about it, by eating at Pyongyang Okryu-gwan you are contributing to one of the most authoritarian regimes that has ever existed. This is absolutely true. Your foreign currency is helping their economy to grow. But which sort of activity or thing you buy doesn’t contribute to the evil?

Aren’t the clothes and electronics you buy made by poor children in Vietnamese factories? We could debate this topic for ages. So, is it ethical or not? No, it’s not, but unless you travel to North Korea, this is the closest you’ll ever get to their culture.

Prices: Starters (40AED), Main Courses (70AED)  
Where: Deira City Center

The cost the North Korean restaurant in Dubai
The bill, we were 10 people 🙂

 

More about the UAE

Remember that, if you want to use Skype, Whatsapp Call or Tinder you will need a VPN. Read: How to find the right VPN in Dubai

Are you on a budget? Read how to travel in Dubai on a budget

Traveling to Saudi Arabia? Here you can find all my articles and guides to Saudi Arabia

Traveling to Oman? Here you can find all my articles and guides to Oman

And remember to check how to find the best accommodation per area in Dubai

 

North Korean restaurant Dubai

 

 

3 comments

  1. This is pretty Epic Joan.
    Super random and fun.
    I like the way to put philosophical stuff there, keep coming with more stories and stuff like this!

    BTW the beginning “Dubai is a city of superlatives” is repeated twice above and below the photo.

    Saludos!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SUBSCRIBE! 

and get a FREE copy of my book + travel updates + offbeat tips

GET A FREE COPY OF MY BOOK NOW