Tuesday, November 9, 2010


No, that's not a western wear store or a country music bar. Hidden behind the wooden exterior is Yechon, a 24-hour Korean BBQ and Japanese Restaurant.

Yechon is one of those places in Virginia that I've always heard of but had no concept of where it was or what it was all about. In the mood for Korean BBQ, I convinced B to drive out to Annandale. Since Annandale is not on the way to A) the airport or B) Tysons Corner, we had never been before. However, we'll drive anywhere in search of tasty - and quirky - eats. Upon pulling into the busy parking lot, I knew I was going to like Yechon. I like my restaurants as quirky as possible, and a wood/neon exterior is a good indicator of quirky.

Some confusion ensued when we were seated at a table without a grill and without a vent hood. However, they explained that a grill could be brought out to the table if we wanted to order BBQ.

Korean BBQ can be an overwhelming experience for first timers. Within minutes of being seated, your table is covered with small dishes called banchan. The first time this happened to us, we thought we accidentally ordered each of the dishes and were worried our bill would be a zillion dollars. However, we learned that banchan come standard with Korean BBQ and are included in the price.

My all-time favorite Korean dish is bi bim bap (veggies, meat, an egg, and rice cooked in a hot stone bowl). Yechon's version did not disappoint. I know B loves me because he let me eat the best part: the rice at the bottom of the bowl that has become crispy from the heat.

We ordered two meat dishes to be grilled at our table. At Yechon, the wait staff performs a dizzying dance of meat babysitting. No fewer than five women came over to our table to turn the meat and ensure we weren't cooking it to death. While some of the fun hands-on aspect is lacking, I appreciate eating meat that is cooked with love. When left to our own devices, we have a tendency to overcook the meat on the grill.

The bul gogi (finely sliced tender beef) and daeji bul gogi (sliced tender prime pork marinated in a spicy sauce) were nicely seasoned and very tender. Taking cues from the tables next to us, we loaded up the iceberg lettuce leaves with meat, hot sauce, and veggies, and made our own wraps. Yechon does not skimp on the portions. Two meat dishes plus bi bim bap plus all of the banchan left us wishing we wore our Thanksgiving pants.

If you're craving Korean BBQ at 4 a.m. or need a unique place to take a big group, look no further than the wooden palace that is Yechon.

Second Thoughts from B

There is a place in LA (plus NYC, Hawaii, and Chicago) called Gyu Kaku that can be blamed for our fondness for Korean BBQ grilled at the table. It is also responsible for J's bi bim bap obsession. Needless to say, it sets a high bar...

It would not be fair to compare Yechon with Gyu Kaku. One is a 24hr wood paneled shack in a Virginia suburb, while the other is a sleek chain in Beverly Hills. Still, if you close your eyes and let your taste buds do the talking, it is a much closer contest.

I don't know what the appeal of Korean BBQ grilled at your table is, but I know I like it. Cooking and assembling your own food creates a familiar, casual, and comfortable atmosphere akin to a family cookout. At the same time, the foreign flavors and ingredients introduce some excitement that usually isn't found when eating slightly charred drumsticks over red and white checkered table cloths.

And now that I think of it, that combination reminds me of holiday dinners growing up. Sure, we had the traditional Thanksgiving turkey with all the fixings, but we also incorporated Chinese food into the spread to represent that side of the family. I'm sure it sounds weird, but sometimes time-honored traditions can use a little bit of the unexpected. Just like chow mein is a welcome sight among the mashed potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie, Yechon is a wonderfully unexpected change of pace in Annandale.
Yechon on Urbanspoon


Amy said...

Glad to hear I'm not the only one who thinks Chinese food should be an integral part of every Thanksgiving meal. Turkey, stuffing, and fried rice with Chinese sausage...yum!

Anonymous said...

Wow small world, I was just there on Sunday as well! It was my first ever Korean BBQ experience! We got the daeji bul gogi, which we loved... but I had been wanting the bi bim bap. We were sitting alone in a corner - wish we could have been sitting near someone to know what to do with all of the banchan.

Karena said...

LOVE Yechon...too bad it's such a trek from DC. Their bibimbap has never disappointed me and from what I remember, their banchan is always plentiful and varied...there's always something new to try!

Katherine said...

Just ate here Friday even though I read your post months ago. Drove about 45 minutes and would repeat often! Yum! Thanks!
Foodbykatherine.word press.com