Saturday, July 25, 2009

On the Road: Yechon in Annandale, VA

4121 Hummer Road
Annandale, VA

When our friends invited us at the last minute to join them for Korean food in Annandale, I could not contain my excitement. Not only would it be my first experience with Korean cuisine, it would be my first "road trip" to Annandale (and therefore providing a story perhaps for this blog's "On the Road" series). I am always up for a food adventure! We were going to Yechon on Hummer Drive. Immediately, I began to research - reading reviews, about the service, decor, and what to order. Before even setting foot in the restaurant, it seemed we had picked a winner. Armed with this knowledge and GoogleMaps directions we set out for dinner.

Only about a 1/2 hour outside of D.C., it barely constitutes a road trip, but we don't go to Virginia very often so it was an adventure nevertheless. We reach the parking lot and it looked packed with people hanging out around their cars and under the neon signs on the exterior of the otherwise nondescript building. I assumed there must be a long wait. It got great reviews, it is open 24/7, so why not? That's when we saw the flashing blue lights and police tape. There was a serious investigation going on, complete with Mobile Command Centers. In fact, the police tape stretched right up to the restaurant door.

After some inquiry and a quick fact check on, we learned that earlier in the day a woman had been found bound and stabbed down the street. Horrible. Nevertheless, the pleasant wait staff ushered us inside and apologized for the commotion. They were eager to serve us, though, and oddly I thought, they sat us right in the front window, with a view of the action. It was, I admit, a bit disconcerting when the police passed by our window with flashlights, peering into the news stands (perhaps looking for the murder weapon)?

We tried hard to direct our attention to the food, and with the pleasing aromas coming from the kitchen, it wasn't too difficult. Multiple waitresses came to our table to take our order and we had to keep explaining that we needed "just one more minute." Perhaps there was a general anxiety because of all the police activity? For a newbie like me, I needed some serious time to digest my options. I got a brief navigation to the 10+ page menu from our waitress (the restaurant also serves Japanese cuisine) and ultimately settled my focus on the Korean Traditional Dinner page, Kal Bi Dolsot Bibim Bap (Bibim Bap with marinated ribs served in a hot stone bowl) to be exact. Bibim Bap, for those totally new to Korean food like I was, is the Korean's version of "everything but the kitchen sink" - rice loaded with a mix of vegetables and bean sprouts and topped with an egg.

The service was incredibly fast (perhaps because it wasn't too crowded). Within an instant, the real fun began. Soon we were greeted each with a bowl of miso soup, and 10-15 small plates to share, along with our Mung Bean Pancake appetizer. At this point I start wondering whether we really needed to order an entree! I'm afraid I won't remember all of the small plates we received by some of them were kimchi, fried squid, noodles, potato salad of sorts, and an egg dish similar to a quiche. Each delicious and varied enough in spice and texture so there was something for everyone. The miso soup was light and flavorful with a generous portion of tofu cubes.

Within our next breath, our entrees arrived, before we barely had two bites of the small plates. Generally, I'd balk at the overly fast service, but it all seemed appropriate here. A celebration of variety, excess, and sharing food with good friends. Plus, my Bibam Bap was served in a hot stone pot, so it wasn't going to get cold anytime soon.

I sparingly added the accompanying sauce and stirred all of the ingredients together. I steer clear from the overly spicy, generally, but I was soon to learn that although the sauce had some heat to it, it was more tangy/ sweet than anything and a perfect accompaniment to the marinated ribs over vegetables and rice. (The Kal Bi Dolsot Bibim Bap does not come topped with an egg). There was so much in this hot stone bowl that it was hard to get tired of any one flavor: rice, bean sprouts, carrots, noodles, zucchini. Each bite provided a new adventure. The marinated short ribs were sweet and paired nicely with the tangy sauce and the heat of the bowl gave an interesting yet unexpected crunch to the rice at the bottom (I don't know if that is intentional, but I'm not sure how you would get around it, eating out of a bowl that is still cooking your food).

I'm officially a fan of Korean food and Yechon in Annandale. Not only did they handle a very unconventional evening with grace, but delivered a tasty and satisfying dining experience to a newcomer to Korean cuisine.


Elyssa said...

Great review! Everything sounds like it was delicious. I wish it was closer to DC. I've only had Korean food once or twice but I really enjoy it.

Thrifty DC Cook said...

Sounds so good. Normally, I get the marinated short ribs and just enjoy the little plates they give you. Have you ever eaten spicy tofu soup? The flavors are intense but addicting. btw...I got to make my roast chicken tonight!

Beets and Bonbons said...

Thrifty - My husband got the marinated short ribs - they were delicious! I'll have to try the soup next time. Thanks for the recommendation.

Elyssa - we'll have to take a road trip! They're open 24/7!

Teanna said...

WOW. I am moving back to NYC from DC in two weeks, and I have a list of places I want to try before I leave. This has just been added to my list. Hopefully the investigation will be over by then :)

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