Family time usually involves gathering around a table and eating Korean BBQ. For my grandma’s birthday this week, we ventured near her home to a fairly new restaurant, BBQ 21, for a filling dinner.
The restaurant is located in a shopping center, but don’t let its outside appearance draw you away from this spot. Upon walking in, you’ll find a board listing all daily specials, Korean newspapers and magazines.
Enter the restaurant and you’ll find a contemporary look with modern decorations filling the walls. On a weekday evening, the venue fills with all ages from a group of teenagers to an elderly Korean couple.
The staff is friendly and clearly adjust from Korean-speaking waiters to English-speaking waiters based on customers. There’s never a real language barrier making the restaurant even more friendly and welcoming.
The menu comes in both Korean and English (extremely helpful for those of us who aren’t too familiar with the language!) and a variety of traditional Korean dishes, as well as a handful of other classic Asian meals, fill the pages. Whether you’re in the mood for sushi or you’re interested in classic Korean food, this restaurant satisfies all Asian cravings.
We started off with ika gesoage (fried squid legs) and a spicy roll combo. The squid came out with only enough for one piece per person, but tasted freshly fried.
The rolls came out in a beautiful presentation and had more fish than rice (always a good sign). The variety of fish is a great way for everyone to enjoy whatever they like (some people prefer salmon over tuna, etc.). If you’re still hungry after your appetizer, you can head to the salad bar, which comes complimentary with your meal.
Since the restaurant is still new, we received a complimentary shrimp roll. I recommend ordering a roll as an appetizer because it cools you off before you dive into the meat.
Banchan came out in a sleek presentation arranged on a cutting board with three different plates on each. When you ask for seconds, it comes more plentiful than the original givings.
But like all good K-meals, the meat is really what matters. At BBQ 21, the meat is flavorful and delicious.We ordered bulgogi (marinated grilled beef) and jumulleok (cubed beef) for our bbq entree. Oftentimes, marinated meat can be soaked in too much sugar and take away from the best flavors it can offer, but the bbq has such flavor that you can tell the recipe and preparation had been carefully thought out. I recommend both meats, as they equally tasted amazing.
Right about now when you’re done eating meat, head to the restroom and find a small hallways filled with unique paintings. The lighting comes down perfectly against the white walls so you can stare at something before entering the restroom.
If you’re a rice lover, then try the bimbimbap here. It’s pretty difficult to mess up this dish since it’s a crock pot of Korean goodness, but the ingredients tasted fresh and the pot came out sizzling hot (as always).
What better way to end a summer dinner than with mul-naengmyeon (cold noodle soup). This is truly the icing on the cake at BBQ 21. I would solely come here and order just this because the broth comes out unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. There’s just enough sweet mixed with the radish and Korean pear. You’re left feeling nothing but bliss (and a huge stomach) after finishing your meal with this dish.
Whether you’re enjoying a family meal or meeting with a group of friends, BBQ 21 is a great spot. The must-order dish: mul-naengmyeon.
BBQ 21 is located on 11272 James Swart Circle in Fairfax, VA. Call (703) 352-0092 to make reservations.