100 Very Best Restaurants: #1 – Anju

Photograph by Scott Suchman

About Anju

1805 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

It feels important to say: Anju never set out to be number-one anything. The modern-Korean restaurant’s name means “food to consume while drinking.” The idea for it was born out of late-night chef gatherings. Service is pleasant but not pampering. Really, Danny Lee, Scott Drewno, and Angel Barreto—also behind the fast-casual Chiko—just want you to have a good time. Yet when we thought about the food that brought us the most joy in 2019, dish after dish from this plant-filled spot came to mind. The dumplings and kimchee pancakes. The fried rice and gochujang-glazed chicken! Even the kimchee-topped hot dog, $5 at happy hour, is memorable. As freewheeling as the place seems, nothing is an accident. Lee’s mother, Yesoon, keeps an eye on the ambitious fermentation program, which produces kimchees you’ll want to eat with everything. The beef tartare took two years to perfect. Is Anju the place for your next special occasion? If you want a night defined by luxury, maybe not. Will it prove as consistent as the fine-dining rooms that turned José Andrés and Johnny Monis into legends? Time will tell. But right now, we want to eat here every night we can. Moderate.