I just had Korean barbecue for the first time and it was AMAZING! This was definitely one of the best eating-out experiences I’ve ever had. Imagine tray after tray of all-you-can-eat meat being delivered to your table, cooking the meat on a table-top grill and combining it with a smorgasbord of endless sauces and sides. This is how eating out should be all of the time.
I lost my KBBQ virginity at Kogiya in Annandale, VA, aka Koreatown. It’s debatably the best all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ in the area. Honey Pig, Kogiya’s competition, is located around the corner, but my Korean friend who took me claims Kogiya is better. Go hungry and you will surprise yourself with how much you’re able to consume. I did.
Before the meal:
Kogiya is very popular, so wait times can be long. Although they don’t take reservations, customers can call ahead with an expected arrival time and put their name on the waiting list. The restaurant also recommends carpooling because the parking lot is small and fills up.
Getting to Annandale can be tricky if you don’t have a car, as it is a half hour drive away from downtown DC. I’ve been told that an Uber ride over there will cost you about $40, so get a bunch of friends together to split the fare and use my promo code for $20 off your first Uber ride! Trust me, it’s worth the trek.
During the Meal:
This is how all-you-can-eat dinner works at Kogiya:
First, you and your party choose from one of two menus: Option A ($23 per person) — featuring one beef dish, three pork dishes and one chicken dish — or Option B ($29 per person) — all of the dishes from Option A plus intestines and tripe. Intestines are a specialty of the Serbian kitchen that I’ve been avoiding since I was a child, so I went with Option A. You can also order a la carte, but everyone at the table has to order from the All You Can Eat Menu once it’s been selected.
Rather than leaving a Jose Andres restaurant hungry because your $20 could only get you four bites on a “small plate,” the $23 you spend at Kogiya will guarantee you leave stuffed. My good friend and Korean expert for the night, Judy, explained to me that a meal at a Korean restaurant typically includes free pickled veggies and rice to make sure you don’t leave hungry. I like how Koreans think!
After you choose which option your party will go with, you can order as many servings from the menu you choose. Don’t order all at once, but wait until you know you’ll finish a round to order the next serving.
The meat comes raw (and typically marinated) to your table, where the waiter places it onto the grill on your table. Because the meat is sliced very thinly, it typically cooks very quickly. The waiter will help move the meat around the grill as it cooks for a little bit and you do the rest.
As soon as a slice of meat is cooked, take it off the grill with your chopsticks and combine it with one of the many Korean side dishes — banchan — on your table. The side dishes include various sauces, kimchi and other pickles, Korean potato salad, rice and fresh lettuce leaves (perfect for rolling up like a lettuce wrap with the rest of the items).
The whole experience is fast-paced, fresh and incredibly delicious. I had a round of every type of meat on the Option A menu. First came the Chadol Bakgi, or fatty brisket. All of the dishes (except the chicken) were very fatty, which I love. The fattiness of the meat was balanced out by the thinness of the slices, as well as the refreshing-ness of the side dishes.
After the brisket came three courses of pork belly: Sam Kyup Sal (3-layered pork belly), Jang Sam Kyup Sal (spicy pork belly) and Miso Sam Kyup Sal (miso pork belly). My favorites were the spicy pork belly and miso pork belly because they were marinated in amazing sauces.
The last item on the Option A menu, Dak Galbi (spicy chicken) was the only meat not delivered raw. It was cooked in a spicy (more spiced than hot spicy), curry-like sauce and served in a casserole dish. Every option on the menu was great!
One of my favorite parts of the meal was pairing the meat with the side dishes. The options are endless (as are refills!). These were my favorite sides and pairing techniques:
- Korean potato salad – This stuff is like sweet, cold mashed potatoes with a crunch and it’s delicious.
- Pickled radish – They’re crunchy, refreshing, sweet and irresistible. I couldn’t get enough so I bought myself two packs of these pickles at H-Mart.
- Kimchi – Koreans eat this spicy, pickled cabbage with everything. It’s an acquired taste, but no Korean meal is complete without it.
- Pickled garlic – You wouldn’t put a whole clove of garlic in your mouth, unless it was pickled. The vinegar calms down the garlic’s acridity and makes a tasty, harmless addition to your bite of meat.
- Lettuce wraps – Each table is given leaves of lettuce, which are perfect for making quick lettuce wraps. Hold the lettuce in your hand, add a slice or two of meat, then add rice, pickles and your favorite sauce. Roll the lettuce up into a tight ball and eat it all at once. So yummy!
After the meal:
At the end of your meal, you are served either sliced oranges or a small glass of delicious iced coffee to refresh you after your carnivorous feast. They think of everything!
You will carry the smell of Korean BBQ home with you, as the restaurant gets smoky from the table-top cooking going on all around.
Let the K-Pop videos playing at Kogiya inspire you to end the night with karaoke. I recommend stopping by a karaoke bar in the neighborhood and renting a private room for you and your friends for an hour. Drinks may help your voices sound better. It will be legendary.
The Bottom Line:
4220-A Annandale Rd
Annandale, VA 22003