Wara Wara pairs karaoke with izakaya-style snacks like this pork-belly skewer. Photograph by Scott Suchman.
On weekend evenings at Wara Wara—a karaoke bar and Japanese-style izakaya from the owners of the barbecue destination Honey Pig—most patrons aren’t coming for a feast. They come instead to sip beer and soju (a distilled Korean beverage) and maybe eat a few chicken wings. And they come to sing: Weekend patrons seem to make more use of the karaoke facilities than of the kitchen. One Saturday, just two parties were dining beneath the color-changing bulbs that bathed tables in shades of red and blue.
If it’s food you’re after, there’s plenty to choose from. A menu of skewers, a stalwart of Japanese snack-bar menus, includes barbecue pork belly—a fatty delight that’s more sweet than spicy and is satisfying when washed down with beer. Fried-chicken sticks have tended to have too much barbecue sauce and a too-soft texture.
A pork-packed omelet sprinkled with bonito flakes and green onion could feed a family of four, and scallion-studded pancakes rival Neapolitan-style pizzas in size. The seafood version of the pancakes, packed with bits of squid, is tastier than the kimchee-stuffed one, which lacks the Korean condiment’s signature funk and spice.
At lunchtime, the low-lit karaoke club converts itself into a no-frills cheap-eats spot with such Korean mainstays as bibim bap (best when topped with tender chunks of short rib) and soft-tofu stew. When getting the tofu stew, go again with seafood. Whole mussels and chunks of squid lend a briny complexity to the classic comfort soup that renders it irresistible—it was our only dish that didn’t wind up in a to-go box.
Wara Wara, 4231 Markham St., Annandale; 703-942-5950. Open daily 11 am to 2 am. Skewers $1.25 to $2.99, soups $12.99 to $15.99, entrées $9.99 to $19.99.
This article appears in the February 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.