We were in the mood for Korean food last weekend so we ate two different styles: Korean noodles and Korean BBQ. Here are our thoughts on Da Rae Won and Kogiya, combined into one review.
DA RAE WON
We worked up quite an appetite after going hiking in Greenbelt Park, so we headed for Da Rae Won. Da Rae Won is a popular Korean restaurant in a strip-mall along Route 1 in Beltsvile. They specialize in handmade noodles, which are made fresh throughout the day.
The restaurant has been open since 2003. It’s an attractive space that shows few signs of wear, despite its age. The menu, mostly in Korean, has short English descriptions below. This can make it a little tricky to get a full understanding of what you are ordering based solely off the description. We found the staff tremendously helpful and eager to explain the dishes, though. For example, there were two “Noodles with Black Bean Sauce” on the menu, items “1” and” 2” in the numeric listing, so I asked our server to explain the difference. One was more like a soup, she said, and the other had more onions and was saltier. Plus, they both contained pork unless you tell them otherwise. I chose the latter, while Marnay went for the Spicy Seafood and Vegetable Soup.
The selection of panchan, or free side dishes, was a little small but the quality was high. The four dishes included radish kimchi, daikon, raw onion and an umami-packed black bean paste. Marnay described the thick, slightly sweet paste as tasting a bit like dark chocolate, almost like a mole sauce.
We also ordered four huge pork dumplings, or mandu, crispy from their brief swim in the deep-fryer but not greasy.
If you go to Da Rae Won, you may notice a constant “wapping” noise coming from the kitchen. This is the sound of the noodle dough being constantly worked and stretched. It is a welcome reminder of the freshness of the noodles you are about to enjoy.
The best part of our dishes was the texture and chew from the handmade noodles. For Marnay, next best was the tender squid in her soup. On the other hand, the octopus was so chewy it was nearly inedible. The spicy soup’s broth had a burn but it did not set our mouths on fire.
The noodles and the black bean sauce were served in separate bowls. (Check out the before picture above and the after picture below). I mixed in the bean paste, onions and pork on top of the noodles, creating something that looked like an oil slick. The mole-like sauce and the snap of the noodles combined to make a delectable dish.
Da Rae Won is a friendly strip-mall restaurant with a dedication to the art of making noodles by hand. It is well worth a drive or an Uber trip from the Greenbelt Metro.
Paul: Noodles with Black Bean Sauce
Marnay: Spicy Seafood and Vegetable Soup
Da Rae Won: 5013 Garrett Ave Beltsville, MD 20705
Closest Metro: Greenbelt, 3.5 miles away
The day after Da Rae Won, we still had not had our fill of Korean food. So, we headed to Annandale, the DC area’s unofficial Koreatown. The first thing you will notice at Kogiya is the massive amount of panchan that awaits you at your communal table. It reminded me of the free snacks that were part of aperitvo in Milan.
Kogiya is a Korean BBQ restaurant with tabletop grills, which are manned by your server. The panchan selection was so vast that we only had to order two kinds of meats, and you could still do well with one meat between two people. We chose soy-garlic ribeye and miso pork belly.
We grazed on the panchan and sipped on some Korean beer as our server cooked the thin slices of ribeye in front of us. In about five minutes, it was done and we attacked it with our chopsticks with reckless abandon. The ribeye was sweet from the marinade but still meaty. Of the three dipping sauces available, my favorite was the gochujang, a spicy fermented bean paste.
There was a bit of an execution problem with the pork belly. Our server came over to start cooking while we were still eating the ribeye. The only thing is, he walked away and never told us when it was done. Almost 20 minutes later, we flagged down another server and asked him if our food was finished cooking. He took a look at the pork belly, fiddled with the grill and poked at the meat a few times and then declared it done. By now, though, the pork wasn’t that hot. We liked the sweet and nutty flavor from the miso, but a few pieces were so chewy as to be inedible.
Pork belly confusion aside, we would be willing to go back to Kogiya. We may go to another Korean BBQ restaurant first, though, and then compare.
Paul and Marnay: Soy-garlic ribeye
Kogiya: 4220-A Annandale Road, Annandale, VA 22003
Closest Metro: East Falls Church, 5.5 miles away