Da Rae Won and Kogiya

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.

Da Rae Won panchan

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.

Da Rae Won pork dumplings

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.

Da Rae Won Spicy Seafood and Vegetable Soup

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.

Da Rae Won Noodles with Black Bean Sauce

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 Noodles with Black Bean Sauce
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.

Best Bite
Paul: Noodles with Black Bean Sauce
Marnay: Spicy Seafood and Vegetable Soup

Address
Da Rae Won: 5013 Garrett Ave Beltsville, MD 20705
Closest Metro: Greenbelt, 3.5 miles away

 


 

KOGIYA

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 panchan

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.

Kogiya soy-garlic ribeye

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.

Kogiya miso pork belly

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.

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Soy-garlic ribeye

Address
Kogiya: 4220-A Annandale Road, Annandale, VA 22003
Closest Metro: East Falls Church, 5.5 miles away

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Bonchon

On one of the first warm Sunday nights of the year, we worked up an appetite walking around Yards Park and then headed over to Bonchon. There are multiple Bonchons in the DC area and we have been to the one in Rockville and the one in Hyattsville, but the Navy Yard location is by far the most modern and has the nicest bar.

This location has a good beer selection, so Marnay got a Hardywood Singel on draft while I got a bottle of Victory Golden Monkey, a Belgian Tripel.   There are a few other choices on the menu, but you cannot go to Bonchon without getting their signature dish.  The point of going to Bonchon is to eat the golden, double-fried Korean Fried Chicken.

Because the chicken is made to order, it can take a while.  We ordered edamame to tide us over.  The soybeans were nicely salted and went well with our cold beers.

Twenty-five to thirty minutes after we ordered our small combo of wings and drumsticks with soy garlic glaze arrived.  Biting into Bonchon fried chicken is one of the most satisfying culinary experiences that I can think of. The glaze has a garlicky flavor which comes out initially but then moves to more sweet and salty. The chicken is fresh and piping hot, the crust shattering as soon as you bite into it.

Our server was very friendly and engaging.  My only qualms were that the last drumstick I ate tasted a little burnt and the Golden Monkey tasted slightly old.  All in all, this is some incredible fried chicken and a great value.

Best Bite
The chicken, obviously!

Best Sip
Hardywood Singel

Address
Bonchon: 1015 Half St. SE, Washington, DC 20003
Closest Metro: Navy Yard