Korean food was always on our dining table when I grew up because my father is Korean. But until he took over as family chef, we used to go out to a Korean BBQ restaurant a lot. Korean cuisine is not as big as Japanese cuisine in the U.S. so since I left Japan, I don't get to eat Korean food much. But thanks to the recent Korean tacos boom, there are several Korean food trucks operating in the city. And even better, there is a large Korean community in Annandale, Virginia not too far from Washington, DC. It was there that I discovered a wonderful Korean BBQ restaurant called Honey Pig.
Because of the location, we could not go there for a while, but finally we made it last week. Korean BBQ is always better to go with a group so we invited another couple and I recommend you to do the same if you want to try many different things.
It is not a fancy place but it is very clean and lively. When we got there around 12:30 pm, there were only a few customers but by 1:30pm, the place was packed. I can't imagine this place in the evening. Just to let you know, this restaurant is open 24 hours and I have heard that after midnight is the funnest time.
At a Korean restaurant, you always get many small plates of pickles (kimchee) and condiments right after you arrive. I am quite happy just to have a bowl of rice with these pickles actually.
We started with the seafood pancake (pajeon). Super crispy outside and soft inside with lots of seafood and Chinese chives. Absolutely my favorite Korean food.
That was followed by the special marinated beef rib (Galbi). All the bbq items are cooked by the workers. They take care of you so you don't have to worry about cooking yourself. The meat was so juicy and soft. It was an excellent choice.
Next, we had grilled sliced pork belly. When cooked, the edge of the pork is charred and it gave it a wonderful flavor and texture. They cook with spicy kimchee and I love to eat this on lettuce leaf with some rice and a small amount of Korean condiment called gochujang.
We also had a squid, pork and vegetable dish with spicy sauce. At this point we regretted that we ordered this because we were full, but it was still tasty.
This huge lunch with one beer each was about $20/person. Honey Pig did not disappoint me at all. If you have a chance and want to try some authentic Korean food, I really recommend this place.
7220-C Columbia Pike
Annandale, VA 22003
My husband and I took a five-day road trip to North Carolina last week. On day one, we made a big detour to stay overnight at a little town in the very south of Virgina called Abignon. Our mission was to have dinner at the Town House restaurant in nearby Chilhowie. In Chilhowie, there was no hotel that allowed us to stay with our dog but if you are traveling dogless, there are other options.
Town House has received some of the most positive reviews of any restaurant on the East Coast, so it was worth a detour to see what all the fuss was about. The restaurant is very cozy and cute, upscale but laid back - similar to Komi in DC. They placed only five or six large round tables and several more smaller tables in the whole restaurant so the next table is quite far away and you feel your dinner is very private. We were there on Thursday evening and there were three other groups in the dining area and a separate group at the party room. But not a sell-out like we had thought.
As soon as we sat at the table, their sommelier approached and offered us a glass of sparking wine. We were not so sure if they are offering them for free but I automatically said "of course!".
While we were sipping the glass of sparking wine, we examined the menu. There were a few items from their a la carte menu and a four course menu ($58) and a ten course tasting menu ($110). We decided to go with a four course menu and each of us got different dishes from the two choices for each course so we could try everything.
First we received the amuse bouche, A hazelnut turoni with honey. I really don't know exactly what "turoni" is but it tasted like ground nuts flower moistened with oil or butter, like cookie dough. I wouldn't call it delicious but I liked it. It was different.
Then the first course:
- Fallen From The Tree (heirloom apple, sassafras, hazelnuts, wild licorice, black malt)
- Maine Lobster & Delicata Squash (young coconut with aromas of geranium, rose & lemon verbena)
The second course:
- Ocean Trout with the Juices from Mussels (butter milk whey, dill, smoked ikura row & vinegar, lardo)
- Peekytoe Crab in Brown Butter & Lime (onions, dried scallop, banana, milk skin, sunchocke)
The third course:
- Border Springs Farm Lamb Shank Cooked in Ash (sesame, smoked eggplant, a dressing of bonito, black garlic)
- Monterey Bay Abalone & Chicken Confit (the seaweed it feeds upon)
The fourth course:
- Parsnip Candy (aerated coconut, yeast sponge, banana, maca crumbs, lemongrass)
- Powdered Chocolates (steamed yuzu sponge, bergamot & an aromatic "salad" of herbs
The last complimentary dessert was an olive oil and chocolate truffle (left).
The whole meal was very interesting and experimental. However, to be honest, some of the dishes were quite delicious and some were not. I loved the Maine lobster dish, the Peekytoe crab dish, and the parsnip candy a lot but the ocean trout and abalone dishes were not my favorite. All in all, I enjoyed the entire experience and I liked the challenge of introducing so many new flavors, texture and aromas into the dining experience. In that sense, This is a meal for someone interested in a gastronomical experience - with all the risks involved - rather than simple, well-executed and familiar dishes.
I do have to compliment the sommalier for the wine pairing. All of the wines were very special and unique and the sommalier was very kind and thorough about the explanations. Unfortunately, although I asked him to write down the wines that we tried so I could highlight the good ones, apparenly he forgot so I was not able to share with you some of the terrific wines that he chose.
Finally, it goes without saying: the restaurant is located in middle of nowhere. Most likely, you have to drive a long way or stay overnight. And I know some of you are wondering whether or not the restaurant is worth the effort. I would say "yes" if you have never experienced this type of food before and there is no place like this around where you live. And If you live not so far from Chilhowie, go for it!
Lastly, the two glasses of sparkling wines were charged in our bill. They were not that expensive but I felt strange about the manner in which they were offered in such a complimentary way.
Town House Restaurant
132 E. Main Street
Chilhowie, Virginia 24319
These were some of our stops during the road trip to Irvington, VA on July 4th weekend in 2010.
Our last stop for this trip was Westmoreland Berry Farm. Berries are definitely in the top five of my favorite food items and the summertime is my happiest time of the year. When my husband planned this whole trip, he was excited to show me Westmoreland Berry Farm.
I brought a cooler and a bunch of tupperware in the trunk to bring back as many berries as possible. The month of July is in the middle of blackberry and blueberry season, the end of red raspberries and cherries, and the beginning of the peach season. Unfortunately, only blueberries, blackberries and peaches were available when we visited but their blackberries are so huge and amazingly sweet and juicy.
I purchased two buckets full of blueberries and blackberries and it all cost only $30. This is heaven.
Another exciting thing for me was they had a small cafe that offered fresh fruit sundaes and shortcakes. I had a "combo" and it came with shortcake and ice cream with whipped cream and fresh berries. It was the perfect size to share with another person but it was my lunch so I ate most of it by myself!
You can also pick your own berries. Visit their website for their crop report to check what fruits are available for PYO.
If you love berries, this is the time to visit them.
Westmoreland Berry Farm
1235 Berry Farm Lane
Oak Grove, VA 22443
One of the activities that I recommend to do in Eastern Virginia is going to Ingleside Winery. It is not really in Irvington but you may want to try to go there on the way. There is another winery in Irvington called White Fence but I recommend Ingleside much more.
When we got there on the way to Irvington, there was a large tour bus and both of their tasting rooms were full and it did not look like we could get to the tasting for a while so we decided to come back on Monday on the way back home.
There are three tasting selections. Basic ($3.00), Reserve ($7.00) and Full ($10.00). We did the full tasting with 6 white and blush and 10 reds including two sweet wines plus two extra wines (one is their Petit Verdot 2005 Special Reserve, which they don't usualy offer for tasting).
We both liked the 2008 Chardonnay and the 2005 Petit Verdot the best but I also enjoyed the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Sangiovese.
The staff was very educated and willing to share a lot of information about their wines but it was very casual so even though you don't know much about wine, you can absolutely enjoy it.
We purchased a case of mixed wine and got a 10% discount.
5872 Leedstown Rd.
Oak Grove, VA 22443
I am not a BBQ person and neither is my husband. But somehow, we were craving it in Virginia there were so many good looking places. And of course it was July 4th. We had seen the sign for Savanna Joe's BBQ many times near Irvington and we decided to get a quick lunch there.
It was already close to three o'clock but people were still eating and customers kept coming up for both eat-in and take-out.
I had a basic pulled pork sandwich ($3.99) with a very cold beer and my hustand chose the pulled chicken sandwitch combo with coleslaw and mac and chesse ($6.49).
The pork was very tender braised pork (shoulder, I beleive) and you add your choice of sauce at the sauce station. They have about 6 different kinds of sauce. The chicken was already seasoned with their sauce and coleslaw was on top. If I have to pick one, I liked the pork better but both were excellent.
Savannah Joe's Bar-B-Que
55 Irvington Rd.
Kilmarnoc, VA 22482
(three other locations)
Our first dinner in Irvington was at Nate's Trick Dog Cafe. The name comes from the dog statue rescued from the basement of the Opera House after the Great Fire in Irvington in 1917.
Their menu had a good selection of meat along with several seafood choices like tuna, salmon and shrimp. I was lucky to get the seasonal softshell crab special. I could choose either pan fry or deep fry for my softsheff crab and sides were fried green tomatoes and corn. I chose deep fried which was recommended by our waiter and it was very tasty but I was wondering if the pan fried version was better since it came with the fried green tomatoes. Both crab and tomatoes were seasoned very well and I enjoyed them a lot. Unfortunately, the corn was cooked with a massive amount of cumin and it was too strong to eat even though I love both corn and cumin.
My husband picked the Ribeye and the meat was tasty and cooked as he ordered. He enjoyed the meat itself but as you can see in the photo above, the pepper sauce on top was too thin - like a soup. If the sauce had been cooked right, the whole dish would have been better.
Before our entrees, we shared the Shrimp Matamoras (layered avocado, black beans, Tequila lime salsa and shrimp served with corn tortilla chips). I guess I expected something special but it was a layered avocado dip with a lots of sour cream. I did not detect much flavor from this dish, unfortunately.
The staff was very attentive and friendly and they have a modern interior with laid-back atmosphere.
They let you sit with your dog at their patio but not inside.
Nate's Trick Dog Cafe
4357 Irvington Road
Irvington, VA 22480
We stopped at Kinsale Harbour Yacht Club & Restaurant for lunch on our first day on the way to Irvington, VA. Kinsale Yacht Club has a small restaurant and bar. I was hoping for many selections of Chespeake Bay specialties but the menu was rather ordinary. However, they had a crab sandwich (Crabby Patty, $11.95) which sounded like what we were looking for. We also ordered the yacht "club" sandwich ($9.95). For two simple sandwiches, it took quite a long time to get the food but maybe they were making the crab cake from scratch.
The Crabby Patty was delicious. Simple, fresh and hot crab cake. I usually don't like the web crab cake made with a lots mayo so this one was very delightful. The club sandwitch was just average.
Kinsale Harbour Yacht Club
285 Kinsale Rd
Kinsale, VA 22488