This Korean barbecue hub stays open all night.

From June 2006 Cheap Eats

Just as Georgetown undergrads have Five Guys, young Korean-Americans in Northern Virginia have Yechon. Sure, there are older folks unwinding over steaming casseroles and smoking cigarettes in back, and the gray wood paneling and leather chairs lend an air of formality. But at night this 24-hour bulgogi-and-sushi house fills with teens and twentysomethings in denim skirts and stocking caps and buzzes like a school cafeteria.

Japanese/Korean restaurants are a familiar sight around Annandale's Koreatown. But while Yechon's sushi and sashimi are fine, you won't see Volcano Rolls on many tables. Instead, waitresses in billowing robes deliver trays stacked with panchan, the tiny tastes that come free with every Korean meal. Of the nine items, fiery pickled radishes, sesame-dusted seaweed, sweetly vinegared cucumbers, and mild cabbage kimchee are all standouts. A TV-dinner-like mashed-potato salad dotted with peas and carrots seems out of place.

Korean barbecue–a grill is inlaid in many tables–is a feast for two. The traditional bulgogi–a wild mess of thinly shaved beef, mushrooms, and leeks–is grilled, then bundled into a lettuce leaf with a dollop of nutty soybean paste. Lusher versions are made with short ribs, slices of pork, or spicy squid.

Soups, generally served as side dishes rather than starters, tend to be more about their aromatic broths than the meat cuts, leeks, and other vegetables that flavor them. An exception is the clam stew–you'll want to savor every littleneck that turns up in the sweet, briny liquid.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.