Cheap Eats 2007: Gom Ba Woo

The name of this Little Korea gem means “bear”; a smiling ursine image is stenciled on the main window. The restaurant is just as big-hearted, a cheery, plant-lined bandbox with the clatter of dishes coming from the open kitchen, a TV tuned to Korean cooking shows, and the casual feel of a night out at a friend’s apartment. The staff, not merely eager, seems truly to want to make you happy.

The food is a mood enhancer, too. The seafood pancake—fluffy, veined with scallions, and studded with tender baby octopus—is as good as we’ve found. So are the complex chili-stoked tofu-and-oyster soup called soon doo boo and the house-made kimchee, those bands of fiery, pickled crunch. Barbecue is done in the kitchen, which cuts down on tableside theatrics, but the luscious, crisp-edged pork belly is compensation enough.

There’s also excellent bul goki and big, comforting bowls of seul-lung-tang, a long-cooked shinbone soup laced with egg, scallion, and chewy rice cakes.

The ingredients are always fresh, the portions generous, the flavors deep and satisfying. This bear is meant for cuddling.

Open daily for dinner, weekdays for lunch.

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 Logan Circle.