Han Gang - Chow Lunch in Annandale Report
Eight Chowhounds gathered for a truly impressive meal at Han Gang, the brand new Korean restaurant in Annandale. Finally, FINALLY, I got to eat Korean BBQ that was exceptional.
Our elaborate meal started off with a black sesame porridge and a fruit salad and then came the Panchan, about a dozen very high quality dishes. A+. These included small mackerel, sauteed mushrooms, a slaw with a touch of horseradish, and several delicious pickled dishes, each unique and tasty. Completely outstanding.
The first three dishes that we ordered came out: a nice seafood pancake (very greaseless), jap chae in which you really tasted the noodles, and a stir fry of abalone and mushrooms. The stir fry was exceptional.
Next came three bbq meats. We were given both lettuce and large marinated radish slices to wrap. The galbi #1 (Spacial chef's sauce) was so rich and tender and juicy, it was the bbq of my dreams and my first really exceptional experiance with Korean bbq. The #2 galbi was very good, among the best you'll have here, but still second fiddle to #1. Our one mistake in ordering was the #10 daeji (pork) which we should have ordered spicy. It would have countered some of the sweetness. The meat was supremely tender, had some nice crackle from the bbq, and I bet if ordered spicy would be sensational.
Three final orders were: rice cake soup, monkfish stew ordered spicy, and soon doo boo (tofu stew). The rice cake soup was simple, restorative, and delicious, the monkfish was hard to eat the way it was chopped up - this would have been better as a seafood stew, and the tofu was very simple and supremely fresh tasting.
We ended up with small cups of cold cinammon soup.
It was spectacular.
We did the #2 and #10 BBQ last night. The pork was spicy and good but I believe my dining companions enjoyed #2 even more. Both were really good although I'm not entirely sure that they're better than other Korean restaurants. We did have to ask for lettuce. The seafood pancake was excellent. I've never been a fan of bibimbap - and the one we got here did not rock my world. At 6 p.m. on a Sunday evening, there's no line out the door although the restaurant was mostly full.
Thanks to the OP for this original report. I'm a Boston hound visiting extended family in Annandale, and after a 9-hr drive today, I was so happy to find this rec for a joint near the house.
We had a very good meal. I got the bbq pork (ordered spicy, as suggested by the OP); my companions got the seafood bibimbap, and the tofu doo boo. We started with a mung bean and vegetable pancake.
I found the spicy bbq pork to be excellent -- good caramelization, great flavor and texture. (I asked for a bowl of rice to accompany so I could thoroughly enjoy the meal.) The veg pancake was, as noted before, greaseless and light. Nicely executed. The doo boo was spicy and flavorful, but only had one shrimp hiding in the bottom of the bowl -- the mussels and single scallop were so-so. The seafood bibimbap was appreciated by the person who ordered it, but I had a sampling, and found that (like the seafood in the doo boo) it seems to be frozen seafood mix (chewy calamari, rubbery scallops, mussels that are a little fishy). The head-on shrimp, however (one each in the bibimbap and the doo boo), was proclaimed very tasty.
The banchan were excellent. I particularly loved a few things I hadn't experienced before: a ice-cream-scoop of a delicately flavored butternut squash and sweet potato mash; super-thin rounds of daikon in a lemony vinegar; and my bar-none favorite, raw oysters and squares of veg (cabbage of some kind?) in a spicy kimchi-like sauce that was thicker and slightly sweeter than standard kimchi. Wow. Wow wow. I could eat that all day.
The staff was friendly, helpful, and attentive. One young man went so far as to write out the Korean characters for a particular paste I want to locate at H-Mart down the street.
The cinnamon soup was damn good too.
Thanks DC-area Hounds!
The kimchi itself was more fermented than hot, so it would be a matter of taste as to whether you like it that way.
We received a full dozen banchan. Of special note: a small grilled fish, perhaps a mackerel of some sort, with dark, very oily, flesh; marinated mushrooms and garlic; mashed pumpkin salad, and spicy cucumber chunks. The spicy cucumbers are one of my favorite banchan and this was a particularly good rendition of them. Overall the quality was very high. My favorite two banchan were the intensely flavored marinated mushrooms and the cucumbers.
Staff were very attentive, and this is a high-end space, not a dive.
As to whether this is the best galbi in town, I'm not positive---the super-duper marbled prime short rib at soo wan galbi out in Centerville is also fantastic, and I'm not likely to have a chance to try the two versions side by side to ever be certain.
But I'll be back, quite possibly with my Korean clients in tow.