When it comes to Korean barbecue, I’m very specific about how I like my meat cooked. It must be supple and moist in the middle, but crisped on the grill, finished with perhaps a bit more char than some other diners would prefer. I’ve been doing it that way since I was a regular at a cook-your-own place when I was 9. The burnt bits that fall to the side of the grill? Worth more than their weight in gold. That’s why I can chafe a bit at places that cook my KBBQ for me.
You know where that’s not a problem? Sō Korean Barbeque, where diners are handed cards that let servers know if their help is wanted in grilling up their meat or not. I am firmly in the red camp. Green (for “go ahead and cook for me”) is for amateurs.
Not that Sō is my favorite spot for Korean barbecue that I’ve tried in NoVA. It’s not even my all-you-can-eat spot. I’ll gladly drive to Eden Center in Falls Church for a taste of Firepan Korean BBQ‘s excellent marinades on most occasions when I’m craving AYCEKBBQ. The meat at Sō simply isn’t as flavorful, even if I’m grateful for a shower of salt that coats the fatty brisket. But my predilection for cooking my own is now amplified by the need for social distancing, the real reason that Sō has instituted the colored card system. It’s safer, more fun and plenty tasty to satisfy my needs right now.
Another plus? The variety, including a slew of banchan. Spicy slabs of tofu, golden pickled daikon and intensely garlicky spinach are my favorites among the 10 I tried. There are also a dozen choices when it comes to meat. Upgrade from the $26 A menu to the $29 B option and you’ve got seven more, including spicy baby octopus and short rib patties. But my favorite is the spicy bulgogi. Imagine sweet and savory bulgogi made fiery with chile flakes and jalapenos, and you’ve got an idea. It’s pretty irresistible, especially when I picked up a bite of meat with thinly sliced radish and a bit of sticky rice. All-you-can-eat meals also come with bubbling pots of soybean soup and sizzling steamed egg.
Whether diners are looking to avoid a little bit of extra contact with servers or are just KBBQ perfectionists like me, Sō is a welcome addition to the cook-your-own landscape. // 5728 Pickwick Road, Centreville
Craving more Meaty Monday posts? Subscribe to our Food newsletter.