At HeeBeen Asian Bistro, visitors delight in a culinary exploration that’s aided by a wide buffet counter topped with myriad dishes that invite sampling. Trays of Korean barbecue meats lay next to hot entrees of ramen, teriyaki, tempura, and oysters rockefeller. After trips to the sushi section, patrons’ chopsticks grip morsels of unagi nigiri, slices of sashimi, or pieces of a smoked sake crunch roll. While enjoying their spread, patrons sit beneath ceiling-mounted cubes lit from within, comforted by sleek woods that dominate the dining room. And behind one of the buffets, a glass case shows off small pieces of art beneath clusters of small fairy lights.
Born and raised in Seoul, Yesoon Lee grew up learning how to cook traditional Korean comfort foods. Today, she continues to embrace the recipes and the flavors of her homeland by recreating those dishes at Mandu: the restaurant she opened with her children, Jean and Danny. With locations in Dupont Circle and the Mount Vernon Triangle, Mandu also tempts patrons with an inviting charm that led The Washington Post to claim that the eatery, “knows how to make a diner feel good.” In addition to steaming or pan-frying the dumplings— or mandu—that inspired the restaurant’s name, Chef Lee and her team forge a variety of iconic Korean dishes. Barbecued beef short ribs and stir-fried potato noodles appear alongside classics like bibim bap. The mixed meat, veggie, and egg dish is served in a hot stone bowl, which helps to heat the rice from the bottom and explains why all of Mandu's tables look so relaxed. And although each location features a small selection of wines by the bottle or glass, they pair meals with a handful of Korean beers as well as soju—Korea’s most famous distilled spirit.
The first thing you should do upon stepping inside sunny Rice Bar is examine the chalkboard menu, which will lead you step by step through the creation of your own bibimbap. Start with white, black, or brown rice, then choose from toppings such as roasted seaweed, bamboo shoots, and teriyaki chicken.
Spinach tofucakes, seaweed bibimbap, veggie burgers—the meat-free options abound at Mark’s Kitchen, and many are even vegan. Every third Thursday of the month, the obvious appreciation for the planet extends to the community, as Mark’s channels a perfect of its profits back into local charities.
At Palace Korean BBQ, diners watch as meats sizzle atop tableside barbecue pits, flanked by a colorful mélange of marinated vegetables, rice, and Korean condiments. In addition to Korean barbecue, kim-chi, and bi bim bop dishes, Palace’s expert chefs chop fresh ingredients and simmer them in teriyaki sauce or roll them into fresh sushi and sashimi. Their sharable Japanese shabu-shabu dishes also warm empty bellies.
Decorated with minimalistic earth tones, Asian masks, and dark wooden tables and chairs, the dining room fuses traditional and contemporary elements better than a supercomputer glued to a horse-drawn carriage. Throughout the eatery, bamboo stalks spring up from square pots, glowing in the same neon lights that illuminate the fully-stocked bar.
Korean specialties such as barbecue short ribs, kimchi, and?of course?tofu soup fill the menu at this casual restaurant with outposts in Annandale and Centreville. Among the chefs' crowning offerings are steaming bowls of bi bim bap that cradle bulgogi (Korean-style marinated beef) as well as heaps of bean sprouts, corn, and fried egg. Depending on personal tastes, the spice levels of each dish can be custom calibrated from ultra-mild ?white? to three-alarm ?spicy spicy.? But not all dishes served here come to the table piping hot, including the cool naegn myun soup, a refreshing summer dish loaded with buckwheat noodles, slices of beef, and hints of Noreaster.