Chung Gi Wa celebrated its 20th anniversary last March 1, making it one of the oldest Korean restaurants in the CNMI. And for those who wonder what the term means, Chung Gi Wa roughly translates to “blue roof” in Korean, which alludes to the executive office and official residence of South Korea’s head of state.
Restaurant owner Kim Hye Young said her husband, Hong Jin Gyou, established the Korean restaurant back in 2001 because he saw the enormous potential of the island when it comes to drawing not only Korean tourists but Chinese and Japanese tourists as well.
Two decades and three addresses later (it used to be located in the building in front of the old Dai-ichi Hotel and then the building across DFS Galleria along Beach Road before moving again seven years ago behind DFS Galleria), Chung Gi Wa is trying to weather the COVID-19 pandemic by depending exclusively on its loyal local customers.
Kim said they were forced to shutter Chung Gi Wa’s doors for two months after the CNMI recorded its first case of COVID-19 in March 2020. They eventually reopened for to-go meals and then eventually welcomed dine-in customers back in June when the Community Alert Level was downgraded to Code Blue.
“Business has been very hard but thank goodness we still have our regular local customers—local Koreans, local Chinese, local Filipinos, and Chamorros and Carolinians. Our sales are not really good but we just continue as we have longtime employees that also depend on us to stay open,” said Kim.
The most popular dishes these customers order from Chung Gi Wa’s menu is their $12 lunch specials that come in six varieties—Galbi Set, Bulgogi Set, Chicken Teriyaki Set, Pork Cutlet Set, Spicy Squid Set, and Spicy Pork Set. The bento set is a complete meal with fresh salad, soup, rice, fish, the main viand, and of course plenty of side dishes called banchan in Korean.
“Other Korean restaurants don’t have bento like us. We have bento as we have lunch specials everyday,” added Kim.
Chung Gi Wa is open from Monday to Saturday, 10:30am-1:30pm and 5pm-9pm, and Sunday, 5pm-9pm. Its capacity is 60 customers under COVID-19 guidelines.
For more information, reservations, and advance orders, call 233-0033 or 483-8158. You can also reach them through their Facebook page: Chung Gi Wa Saipan.