Go to a restaurant specializing in all-you-can-eat anything and you will walk through the door knowing that you’re not in for a meal of staggering quality. What you’re there for is variety. The goal of Kiwa Korean Grill in Sterling, the first AYCE KBBQ restaurant and only one of two Korean barbecues in Loudoun County at the moment, is to serve a little bit of both.
The business is registered to Kibum Kim and his brother Sam, the same team behind Puzukan Tan Korean Grill in Falls Church. Though Puzukan opened with a roster of unusual, higher-end meats that spent time smoking or dry-aging before hitting the grill, its menu is now almost identical to the one at Kiwa. The giant rib galbi that won me over for its over-the-top tenderness is available at Kiwa on the priciest AYCE option, the $54.99 “Signature AYCE.”
But I wanted to see what the simpler folk eat. I tried the mid-range “AYCE B” for $39.99. My first impression? There is certainly no skimping on portions. The frozen strips of brisket that my inexperienced server threw on the grill first obscured every bit of metal in more than one layer. My dining companion and I would have been heartily fed if we’d stopped there.
Fortunately, we didn’t. The marinated meats are the way to go at Kiwa. There are two reasons for this: First, each that we tried, from garlicky bulgogi to earthy curry-rubbed pork belly, was exceptionally well-flavored. But the three dipping sauces provided are a disappointment. My dining companion compared the sticky-sweet chile sauce to something you’d find at a luau-theme restaurant. A bland peanut sauce wasn’t much better. That left traditional salted sesame oil.
A combo meal comes with unlimited banchan, my favorite of which was radish kimchi (cabbage kimchi is available upon request). Soybean stew, rice, and steamed egg are also all-you-can-eat, but corn cheese, which often comes with KBBQ meals is an additional $6.
A month into service, it’s clear that the Kiwa team is still finding its footing. But for diners craving tabletop-grilled meats west of Annandale and even Centreville, it’s a pleasure to welcome the restaurant to the neighborhood.
21438 Epicerie Plz., Sterling
See this: Colorful neon signs light up the bar, while the tables run alongside a barrier decorated with faux bonsais and miniature stone pagodas.
Eat this: Curry pork belly, bulgogi, spicy pork bulgogi
Open 11 a.m.–3 p.m., 4–10 p.m. Monday–Thursday; 11 a.m.–3 p.m., 4–11 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Sunday
Feature image by Tyson Bateman
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