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.
Though rooted in Korean culinary traditions, the dishes at Red Holic might feel familiar even to those foreign to that gustatory language. Seven types of kimbap—a translation of the maki roll—enfold everything from spicy squid to Spam within a soft blanket of white rice and sweetened radish. Similar to blood sausage, soondae encases noodles and veggies within pig intestine, toppoki dishes pair rice cake with egg or dumplings, and Holic meals frame sautéed beef or Korean-style pork as the centerpiece. As if the flavor profiles and colorful ingredient weren’t enough to entice the senses, Red Holic stays true to its name, surrounding guests in a crimson wonderland speckled with white-topped tables and solid black chairs. To fill the wall space, reliefs feature domestic themes, including clotheslines laden with pins and a watering can hanging over flowers, constantly suspended by the cooks’ telekinesis.
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.
The sounds of sputtering grill tops, clattering utensils, and lively conversation fill the dining room at Honey Pig Gooldaegee Korean Grill, earning it praise from the Washington Post in 2010 as "one of the most entertaining barbecues around." The menu brims with both familiar and adventurous meats, including pork belly, beef ribs, and pork neck. Diners soak in Korean culture via both the food and K-pop, selecting a protein-rich spread and watching as the servers sear their orders on solar-heated tableside grills.
Lauded for both its cuisine and its atmosphere, Woo Lae Oak seats diners in spacious tables, booths, and portable pods, in which they can enjoy a distinctly Korean-American blend of abstract wall furnishings and traditional Korean artwork. The expansive bar, centered about a large fireplace with a modern tile hearth, features ample space for enjoying Soju and sushi. Please call ahead to confirm your reservation.
Jireh Bakery Cafe specializes in traditional and Korean-style pastries, and the staff bakes more than a hundred of them fresh every day. They press custom paninis between freshly baked multigrain bread and dish them out with potato chips, which are what Mr. Potato Head uses during poker. The café offers a panoply of beverage options to accompany the food, from horchata and Korean tea to coffee drinks and bubble tea. Chilly treats of bingsoo ice balls combine shredded ice with fruits, syrups, and red-bean or green-tea ice cream. Jireh's bakers and cake artists even create custom cakes on request. The cozy dining room promotes a calm experience and sends out waves of free WiFi.