Normally I hate driving on the weekends. I sit in traffic for sometimes close to two hours each work day as I commute out of the city into the heart of Maryland’s surburbia. By the time the weekend rolls around, the last thing I want to do is get into my car. I want to make the most of my two day break from traffic, rude drivers, people who do not understand merge lanes, speed cameras and cab drivers going 15 miles below the limit. Occasionally however, I have a craving for good Asian food which cannot be found in DC (of course I would love it if someone could prove me wrong on that point) and that requires driving out of the city. Whether it is going to Rockville for Chinese, Eden Center for Vietnamese food, or Falls Church for dim sum, A is the person I always turn to for company during these trips. It has become a ritual: one of us suggests a Saturday or Sunday lunch trip for Asian food, I wake up early to work out while thinking of every dish I am going to order, we binge until our stomachs cannot take it anymore, and then we head to the closest international grocery store (H-Mart, Lotte, GrandMart) to load up on cheap vegetables and necessary cooking supplies (sesame oil, fresh noodles, Hello Panda cookies). When I was marathon training last summer, these Saturday lunches got me through several brutal 18 mile runs in 90 degree weather.
A sign that a relationship is going well is when either A or I suggest bringing a third person on these Asian food Asian girl dates. Another person is always welcome, but they will definitely be judged on how well they handle eating crispy quail or if they can stomach the smell of a durian smoothie in the banh mi shop. A and U have been dating for over a year now, and U has occasionally been coming with us on these outings. He has passed the Asian food outing test, and it is nice to have him because this increases the ordering opportunities: the more people, the more dishes you can share!
After finishing up graduate school, U recently accepted a new job, and suggested we celebrate. To be fair, he mentioned that “we” should celebrate, and he may have been talking only to A, but I overheard this and included myself in his “we” because third wheeling is my specialty. “We” decided to go to Annandale for Korean barbecue at Kogiya. Adrienne and Uri had gone once before a few months before, and wanted to return because they did not feel like they did an adequate job conquering the menu. So we headed there on a cold Sunday afternoon, eager to take on the meats. Being a Kogiya expert, A knew to call ahead of time to ask them to set up the table with all of the banchan and we arrived to this spread:
Banchan are the cold Korean small plates that are served as appetizers before the main course (the meats) arrive. There were plates of kimchi, pickled radish, potato salad, fermented black beans, and a soybean salad (my favorite). These are also all you can eat, and I went through three bowls of seawood salad. In addition, there is a tray of pepper paste and garlic, along with three sauces: salted sesame oil, and two sweet and salty house sauces.
We decided to go with the all-you-can-eat meat option for $23 per person (great deal). First was the chadol bahki (fatty brisket). Then came the dak galbi (spicy chicken), which they cook in the back kitchen and bring to the table on a sizzling platter. In addition, we ordered a kimchi pancake before I realized that the meat is also served with a bowl of steam egg and a tofu soup. I don’t regret this decision because the crunchy pancake was lighter and more flavorful than other Korean pancakes I have have, and I quickly munched away on two slices with the salted sesame oil. Next up was the sam kyup sal (pork belly), followed by the jang kyup sal (spicy pork belly). Pretty soon our table was looking just a little full:
Surprisingly, we were starting to feel a little full. A and I decided to go back to the brisket after these, finding the the pork belly cuts a little too fatty. They brought out a fresh grill top to cook the meat for us and we dug in, this time just a little slower. After polishing that off, we had to throw in the towel. Still, I feel relatively impressed with our efforts (five meats for three people!), and very pleased with the food there. They provide a generous selection of banchan, the meats are well flavored, and the service is excellent. At the end of the meal, they also provide a small complimentary shot of iced coffee, the perfect sweet note to end our savory bingefest. Also, that coffee may have been an important factor in keeping my eyes open while I roamed the aisles of H-mart, trying to fight off both the meat sweats and the itis.
I should note that I literally could not eat again until 1pm the following day (and even then it was only a banana… okay a banana with cookie spread). I would not recommend that meal to anyone on diet, but I would recommend that to anyone who wants to experience some amazing Korean bbq.