If you’re a fan of Kogiya in Annandale, there’s a new Korean barbecue restaurant for you to try. The family behind one of Washingtonian‘s 100 Very Best Restaurants and a favorite on our Cheap Eats list opened a second, larger Korean barbecue spot near their home in Centreville a few months ago.
Sylvia Cho, who runs the restaurant with her parents and brother, says many customers have asked whether they planned to expand or franchise the restaurant since they debuted in 2013. “There should always just be one Kogiya,” she says. “It’s a family-run restaurant, and I never want it to be anything beyond that.” But the Annandale space is relatively small, and the family wanted to accommodate more people and offer a wider selection of food and drinks.
The result is So Korean BBQ, which is three-to-four times the size as Kogiya. The total capacity is over 250 with a bar area and two private dining rooms. The expanded space also means the kitchen can offer a larger menu. “So”—which translates simply to “cow”—specializes in beef cooked over tabletop grills, but the menu also features much more seafood. A new menu of bar snacks includes tater tots with gochujang and Korean fried chicken.
Like Kogiya, So Korean BBQ offers all-you-can-eat options for as little as $25 per person. Groups can also choose from one of four six-course tasting sets, which center around beef, pork, seafood, or “prime” ingredients (a mix of proteins including duck, short ribs, and shrimp). The new seafood option ($70 for two, $135 for four) comes with lobster, clams, shrimp, marinated spicy octopus, a choice of grilled fish, and a fiery seafood soup.
“That’s probably the best part about the entire meal,” Cho says of that last course. “It’s this refreshing, spicy seafood soup that has a depth to it, because we actually cook it for hours.”
Fans of Kogiya’s miso pork belly can explore new pork options, including an herb pork belly that Cho says tastes like Thanksgiving because of the rosemary and thyme. There’s also curry pork belly and garlic pork belly, as well as a pork jowl—”it’s like butter, it melts in your mouth,” Cho says.
Chef Sang Cho, who’s not related to the owners, comes from a more traditional Korean cooking background. However, Sylvia Cho worked with him on some more fusion-y dishes, such as the bar menu’s short rib sliders and kale chips with seasoned nori.
The bar stocks bottles of soju and Korean beers, but you’ll also find a number of cocktails (including an aloe martini) and craft brews like Port City Downright Pilsner and Raven’s Roost Baltic Porter. While you wouldn’t normally find bottles of wine in a Korean barbecue restaurant, So offers six reds and six whites.
The space itself has more of a minimalist, modern look with cedar and concrete. The doors, shelves, and metal work were all custom-made by Sylvia’s father Chong Cho, who has a background in construction.
“My mom was like, ‘Are you going to put picture frames up?'” Sylvia Cho says. “She’s still very much in the first generation mindset. But for me, I wanted it to be a little bit more understated, simple, cleaner.”
Fairy lights strung from the ceiling brighten up the room. “I feel like the Korean barbecue experience shouldn’t be in a dark, dingy place. There’s so much color on the table, there’s so much going on, that it should all be taken in with the experience,” Cho says.
Even though the place is bigger and sleeker, Cho hopes it doesn’t feel impersonal.
“At the end of the day, what we want the customer to experience is just genuine good Korean food from our hearts, from our family,” she says. “It’s still very near and dear, heart-felt operation that we run.”
So Korean BBQ. 5728 Pickwick Road, Centreville, Va.; 571-446-4950. Open Sunday through Thursday from 11 am to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 2 am.