Welcome to the third round of the Annandale Patch Korean Restaurant Battle.
We’re pitting eight local Korean restaurants in the Annandale area against a crack team of reviewers, and we’re asking our readers to weigh in on which restaurant is the best.
In round two Honey Pig Gooldaegee Korean Grill and Seoul Soon Dae faced off. Based on input from readers in the comments section and elsewhere, Honey Pig was the winner.
This week, we’re asking you to vote for either , 7243 Little River Tpke., or , 7331 Little River Tpke.
Read what our reviewers had to say, and then tell us which restaurant you think should win this round by “voting” in the comments, in our shout box or through Facebook or Twitter. Voting will close at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, April 27. The winner from Round 3 and the reviews for Round 4 will appear next Friday, April 29.
Han Gang Korean Restaurant
Reviewer Ben Joyce ate here at 7 p.m. April 20, and reviewer Erica Laxson ate here at 4:30 p.m. April 16.
Environment, Décor, Location
Ben: Although easily visible and accessible at the intersection of Columbia Pike and Little River Turnpike, Han Gang has a generally unassuming exterior and sits just next to Annandale Sport and Health. More accustomed to the industrial interior of Honey Pig, I was pleasantly surprised at Han Gang’s modern interior, featuring black silestone tables, a terrarium-like trim around the walls, and even metal chopsticks. As with any Korean barbecue restaurant though, there comes a certain guaranteed casualness with a place that cooks your meal at your table, and I felt adequately dressed in a t-shirt, jeans, and flip-flops. The spacious dining room is split into two sides, with a private room also available. While it was by no means packed on a Wednesday night, there were at least a half dozen other tables occupied, but the spacing of the tables ensured conversations could be had at normal volumes.
Erica: Apparently the restaurant has been recently redecorated and it really shows. The inside is luxuriant and beautiful, and very large. It seemed like there wouldn't bee enough parking spaces to account for the number of tables but it was nearly empty in the afternoon. The whole table set up was very classy, but it seemed like you were paying a lot more for the atmosphere than for the food or service.
What We Ate
Ben: I was with my mom, a newbie to the Korean BBQ scene and a light eater, so we stuck to the basics. Han Gang is a bit pricey, but at $22, one order of bulgogi proved to be enough to share. Most other entrees neared the $30 mark, so despite a typical late closing time, it definitely shouldn’t qualify as an after hours option, my favorite time for Korean BBQ. The banchan was some of the best I’ve had though, with the pickled radish, pickled cucumber, and kimchi all refreshingly tangy. The meat was decently flavorful and sweet, but could have been cut a bit thinner, as some of the thicker pieces were a little chewy. There was also a complete lack of sauces for dipping, which I consider essential. We did mango ice cream ($5) for dessert, which was very good, and with the check, a server brought us both a cold rice drink, which I had never tasted anything like but was very refreshing. I wasn’t sure if this is standard fare for Han Gang, but I prefer to think they just liked us.
Erica: I ate the Bulgoki (Marinated black beef) $22 (served with banchan). The banchan that were served were all familiar and none of them are even memorable. The kimchi was a little too spicy and the noodles were good but drenched in liquid. The meat was marinated for who knows how long and was so juicy and flavorful. The portion size was a little small compared to other establishments, which was a letdown considering the high prices they charged. By the time you finished eating, you were almost full and it was hard to look at the empty grill without wanting more. The rice was the only part of the meal that had nothing wrong with it and was perfect, despite many restaurants making rice too sticky or dry.
Quality of Service
Ben: I usually don’t drink a lot of water with meals, but I was particularly thirsty this time, and while it took a while to get a refill the first time around, our server was quick to make sure my cup was never empty after that. A manager came by at one point to make sure everything was alright, and instructed my mom on the finer points of making a lettuce wrap. They were both very polite, and spoke pretty much perfect English. While I speak no Korean and don’t mind if there’s a language barrier, I realize that this can be a sticking point for many people, especially the older generation. Unfortunately, as the meal progressed, service dropped off. We had been done with our entrée for about 10 minutes before anyone came to clear plates, and there was another wait between the ice cream and the check. It was kind of disappointing considering the volume of business, but despite coming from a serving background, I’m a pretty amicable diner and don’t get upset with slow service.
Erica: The banchan and meat arrived just moments after ordering, but once everything was there it was nearly impossible to get a server to come back. It took nearly ten minutes for someone to wander over even though the meal had obviously been over for a while.
Ben: 3. Atmosphere was great, banchan was great, staff was friendly, but I eat Korean BBQ for the BBQ, and as expensive as it is, Han Gang came up just short when there’s so much competition in the area.
Erica: 2. It is flat out over priced and the service was severely lacking. It seems like the restaurant is getting a lot of hype for the remodel and beautiful interior, but unless you are looking to impress someone with its design, the prices just aren't worth it.
Reviewer Ben Joyce ate here at 12:30 p.m. April 21, and reviewer Erica Laxson ate here April 20 at 12:30 p.m.
Environment, Décor, Location
Ben: You’re probably not going to stumble upon Oe Gad Gib, and even if you’re planning on eating there, you may have trouble finding it. Set behind the Jerry’s Subs on Little River Turnpike, you can just read the name of the restaurant in English on a small sign above the large Korean letters on the side of the building. That bit of English is pretty representative of an experience at Oe Gad Gib. The interior is quaint and authentic looking, with wooden walls adorned with Korean art. The dining room only seats about 50 people, and while I hear it can get busy at dinnertime, I just stopped in for a quick lunch and joined a table of Korean businesspeople as the only diners, with another group coming in shortly afterward.
Erica: The building in located behind a small row of shop and shares a location with a karaoke and a salon. Once you've found the place, there is a decent amount of parking, but on a busy night it would be a problem. The inside is traditionally decorated and can fit quite a few large parties. As it was lunch, a buffet was set up in the back of the restaurant and several customers
What We Ate
Ben: To my dismay, it takes two to qualify for BBQ, but Oe Gad Gib offers a lunch buffet for $8.99 that includes bulgogi and pork, already barbecued, in addition to various banchan. The banchan left something to be desired, but when the BBQ is all you can eat, you don’t want to be filling up on kim chi anyway. The meat, while definitely lacking that fresh-off-the-grill appeal, was delicious. Both were perfectly sliced and seasoned, which for me means bumping up the spiciness. I also received a bowl of a brothy stew that had the flavor of ocean water. That may sound like a bad thing, but in this case, it wasn’t necessarily – it was just a bit overpowering and three or four spoonfuls was enough for me. The rice water drink (apparently this is a normal thing) wasn’t quite as good as Han Gang’s, but it still got the job done of soothing the palate after eating such strong flavors. I did see the portion of pork that second table of four ordered, and I can understand why it takes at least two people to get it. It was a heaping mountain of meat that could probably feed a family.
Erica: I had the All-You-Can-Eat Meat $15.95 (served with banchan). The first round of water was quickly delivered, but they accidentally refilled the glasses with watery iced tea by mistake. There were fewer types of banchan, but the quality and flavor of the unlimited dishes available made up for the lack of variety. The cucumber dish in a red sauce was particularly tasty and a strange white, wiggling thing that was amazing. The all you can eat meat was made up of beef, pork belly and rib meat and was served in that order. The meat was flavorful and just salty enough to be delicious instead of overwhelming. At the end of the meal, they served a sweet rice drink that was refreshing and washed the smoky taste away.
Quality of Service
Ben: While limited in English, the staff was very polite and welcoming. Water was there right as I sat down, and refills were instantaneous. The manager took the time to explain to me what everything was (as he probably does for all Americans, but really, if you took the time to find this place, you probably already know what you’re getting), and everyone thanked me and wished me a good day as I left.
Erica: The staff was extremely welcoming and didn't hover around the table unnecessarily. They were extremely helpful with any questions and though there were several servers at the table, everyone of them knew exactly what was needed next.
Ben: 4. I’m tempted to give OeGadGib a 5, but a 4.5 might be more accurate. For $8.99, you really can’t go wrong for a buffet of Korean BBQ.
Erica: 4. Everything was wonderful, but nothing about the food or restaurant was incredibly impressive. This is a great place to take friends and family for a casual, gut-bursting meat feast.
So, readers, which restaurant do you think should win this round of Patch’s Korean Restaurant Battle: Han Gang Korean Restaurant or Oegadgib? Tell us in the comments.
About this column:
We’re pitting eight local Korean restaurants in the Annandale area against a crack team of reviewers, and we’re asking our readers to weigh in on which restaurant is the best. Who will reign supreme?