Stars of Heaven Restaurant
|The Good||+ Delicious duck bulgogi|
+ Plus rabbit, pheasant and chicken!
+ Fresh side dishes
+ Private dining rooms
|The Bad||- Pricey|
- Far away
Best for: Groups, dates, drinking, trying new meats, a meal after hiking/sightseeing
Nestled on the scenic slopes of Palgongsan lies "Stars of Heaven." A reputable restaurant for more than 20 years, at first glance it appears to be a petting zoo. But instead of petting, their packs of small creatures are strictly for eating. The menu includes rabbits (토끼), pheasants (꿩), chicken (닭) and their specialty, sulfur duck (유황오리).
Stars of Heaven's menu [see below] is divided into the four species served. For the sulfur duck bulgogi, the focus of this article, order the 유황오리 양념 불고기. This seems to be their most popular dish, revered by hordes of Naver food critics. This delicious stir-fry is marinated in a spicy sauce along with two types of 버섯 (mushrooms), 감자 (potatoes), 양파 (onions) and 대파 (leeks).
Why is it called "sulfur" duck? It's because particular duck farms feed sulfur to their livestock.
Why feed a toxin to animals meant for human consumption? Another brilliant question. Sulfur (유황) is "hot" and can cure a "cold" stomach, which is oriental medicinal lingo for relieving ailments like diarrhea or hemorrhoids. An occidental explanation is sulfur may increase blood circulation to the digestive system. However, directly ingesting a toxin for its alleged health benefits is universally frowned upon by doctors. Even a quack knows that.
Enter the duck. Aside from being reliable witch-detectors, they are also extremely resistant to poison. The theory goes that when ducks eat sulfur, they are able to process it, detoxify themselves, and absorb the health benefits into their meaty bodies without croaking. Then we kill and eat them. In addition to the sulfur remnants, we also consume the duck's qualities of fortitude and strength, according to oriental medicine. Or science could explain these qualities as vitamins and proteins. Semantics aside, sulfur duck is sold as a grand recipe for medicinal benefits.
The sulfur duck meat is lean yet tough. I'd equate its texture to steak, except for the rubbery pieces of skin, which I'd recommend avoiding like a duck's single pooing-peeing-babymaking hole [fun fact]. As for flavor the meat itself is nothing spectacular. It has no distinct flavor, at least not as profound as smoked duck I've tried elsewhere, which tastes almost ham-like. Although combined with the 양념 (spicy sauce), 된장 (bean paste) and 반찬 (side dishes) of your choosing, it still makes a scrumptious meal.
If you're still not 배불러 (full) upon nearing completion of your meal, order fried rice for \2,000 per serving. Just like Dalk Galbi, prolong your meal by mixing rice with the remaining sauce and veggies. Just ask 볶음밥 주세요 ("bokkuem bap joosayo"). Remember, excess sauce drips out of the pan's poohole while cooking. Be sure not to move or drink from the poocup.
반찬 (side dishes) include a respectable armament of fermented and pickled veggies. Stars of Heaven is owned and operated by an elderly couple in lush farmlands. So naturally fresh produce proliferates on your table.
They offer the usual lineup of Korean alcohol, including 맥주 (beer), 소주 (soju), 막걸리 (rice wine), 대나무술 (bamboo alcohol), and 복분주 (black raspberry alcohol).
For this special meal we decided on some special beverages. 막걸리 (rice wine) is the usual alcohol consumed after a hike, due to its ability to circulate blood through the body without dehydrating. So we went with the 우포 brand of 막걸리, the local brand fresh from nearby 팔공산 (Palgongsan). We also tried the 대나무술 (bamboo alcohol), which is sweet and tangy and complimented the duck bulgogi. We didn't try the Red Scandal Wine....
The menu is divided into green for 꿩 (pheasant), blue for 토끼 (rabbit), purple for 닭 (chicken) and orange for 유황오리 (sulfur duck). Each animal is served mostly in similar styles, including 옻 (with vegetables) 백숙 (a soup) and 도리탕 (a spicy broth).
The sulfur duck also comes in 훈제 (smoked), 양념 불고기 (marinated bulgogi, pictured above) and 소금구이 (fried and salted). These last three are priced at \28,000 for 2-3 people and \40,000 for 3-4 people. When ordering you must declare 소짜 ("so-jjah") or 대짜 ("dae-jjah"), small or large, respectively.
Stars of Heaven has four private dining rooms. They are all floor seating, and contain a T.V. and air conditioning. The phone on the wall is for calling the chicken.... I mean kitchen, located in the main building.
The first thing you may notice are the cages. Friendly rabbits, frightened pheasants, and who-cares chicken are all raised on the premises, giving the impression of being freshly slaughtered upon ordering. The ducks, however, are imported from sulfur farms.
Stars of Heaven is located on the northern outskirts of Daegu, directly north of 칠곡 (Chilgok). It's near 팔공산 (Palgongsan), although it's far to the west of of the mountain's main peak. See map
The easiest way to find it is to enter the following address into a GPS, or show it to a cab driver:
경상북도 칠곡군 동명면 기성리 127-1
Be warned though. It's way far from the city, probably 30 mins and 30 chuns in a cab from downtown. I recommend making a whole day out of it and doing some hiking/sightseeing around the beautiful and nationally-famed Palgongsan. A lengthy hike from the main peak, west along the ridges, to 치커봉 (the peak just north of the restaurant) is doable, probably in ~4 hours.
By bus directly to the restaurant take bus routes 101 or 101-1 (search those routes here). To the main area of Palgongsan, take the 급행-1 (Express Bus 1), 401, or 131.
[Check out Craig's site for tons of info on the Palgongsan area]
For a taste of duck bulgogi closer to civilization try 오소오리, located in 서남시장 (Seonam Market).