Thursday, December 11, 2008

Return to China Star

We hit China Star again last night with our buddy SV, a true-blue fan of Hong Kong Palace.

We ordered the eggplant with garlic sauce in clay pot that Pleen enjoyed last time along with a pressed tofu dish and the cumin lamb.

Pleen & I will be back. SV, not so much.

SV didn’t appreciate the hellacious rush hour drive to the place and found the food underwhelming. Pleen and I liked what we had and saw a number of things to try next. Besides, it's an easy drive for us.

China Star

9600G Main Street

Fairfax, VA 22031


Discovering Korean Comfort Food in Annandale: Dduck Sa Rang

So, we know NOTHING about Korean food. Given that we live down the street from an enormous concentration of Korean eats, this always strikes me as a shame. Thus, imagine my excitement when Pleen agreed to go chowhounding around the back lots along Little River Turnpike.

We were running errands and needed something hot for lunch. Before falling back on a tried and true pho place along our route, we decided to snoop ‘round the back of a block just west of Annendale Road. We saw a storefront wedged between a dodgy looking gaming room and a hair
salon. The sign said “Korean porridge”.

Porridge? Hmmm. The Chinese do great porridge. The Japanese versions are a bit more refined. But Korean porridge? Well, one way to find out.

Bottom line up front:

Wow. This place is impressive. The food kicks butt. The place itself is sparkling clean, contemporary d├ęcor, brand new. We’ll definitely be back.


Mid 30s and pouring rain. Blech. No fun.

The cure? A big steaming bowl of richly flavored rice porridge accompanied by brightly spiced sides and warming barley tea. Yea baby!

Now, as romantic as it may seem to be an explorer of other cuisines, the fact of the matter is that NoVA is so multi-ethnic that everybody’s eating everybody else’s food. You’re never the only outsider in a restaurant. Hell, all the best Vienamese joints have their menus in Spanish since so much of their trade is Hispanic. Well, we were the only non-Koreans in Dduck Sa Rang.

The menu had English translations, but they were pretty non-explanatory. Still, the food on other tables looked good. We smiled, pointed, shrugged, questioned, and got what we thought was an appropriate order going. When the food came, it was accompanied by the restaurant’s owner. He quickly demoed how to serve and consume the various dishes and left us to it.

Porridge and a few accompaniments is a relatively simple meal. Still, the preparations showed care and even elegance. The banchan (side dish) included what I assumed were soya beans softened and dressed in a sweet-ish glaze, a conventional sour and spicy kimchi, a sweeter spicy kimchi, and a bowl of clear brine referred to as “white” kimchi. All were useful in highlighting the gentle flavors of the porridge. The white kimchi in particular was absolutely elegant.

But the main event was definitely the porridge itself. Pleen’s was mixed with vegetables and mine with veggies and tuna. The flavors were mild and fresh and remained distinct rather than being subsumed into the background. I had to force myself to take small bites as the soft porridge chased away the chills of the wet afternoon. While the ingredients and presentation were novel, the dish struck a familiar and comforting tone. This was universal comfort food.

As you can seen, it went down pretty easy

And Pleen’s attitude towards Korean food? You be the judge.

Dduck Sa Rang

4231 Markham Street, #N

Annnendale, VA 22003