So the recommendations from the Korean folks in your life are piling up. They all say that for a more refined Korean barbecue experience, you simply must head to Han Gang Korean Cuisine in Annandale. At Hang Gang, there’s no K-pop blaring, no crowds of soju-addled 20-somethings, and no long wait for a table. There’s also no corn cheese or steamed egg, two of my favorite things about trendier KBBQ spots. This is Korean barbecue as I remember it when I was a kid in the ’90s, captivated by bulgogi.
As at my favorite childhood restaurants (particularly Aria, which later became Kang Suh, in Yonkers, New York), the servers are all older women, but unlike back in the day, the ladies are English speakers, ready to guide you on your meaty journey. My server was very careful to make sure that we really wanted the Modeum Gui combination, the more expensive of two KBBQ combos, retailing at upwards of $80.
Han Gang isn’t cheap, but the meats are a thing of beauty. The server cooks the combo in two parts. First, she removes the short ribs from the bone and cooks the marbled beef alongside fingers of juicy seasoned jumulleok, or short steak, listed on the menu as the chef’s specialty. But if I were to ascribe the term “specialty” to something I tried at Han Gang, the ribeye that finished the meal is most deserving.
Despite the fact that many KBBQ meats are on the thin side to ensure quick cooking (there are few pleasures greater than the crispies that accumulate on the grill at the end of a round of shaved brisket), the thick-cut steak takes to the grill most admirably. Fat and muscle meld into bite-sized orgasms of succulent beefiness.
My dining companion was disappointed that the only dips provided are salted sesame oil and ssamjang. But the meat is so flavorful, it requires nothing else to vivify it. A bite of effervescent kimchi here, some garlicky spinach and pickled daikon there, to provide the palate a break is plenty meal for me.
Of course, when I’m not cooking KBBQ at home, I’ll still head to the Gogivilles and Meokja Meokjas of the world. But when I’m looking for a literal cut above the others, Han Gang is the place. 7243 Little River Turnpike, Annandale
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