After we moved to the DC metro area a couple of years ago, my wife and I have often visited Annandale in Virginia for weekend grocery shopping. Having done a Korean grocery shopping at a tiny H Mart store in Koreatown when we lived in Manhattan, Jun was pleasantly shocked to see gigantic Korean grocery stores in this town with a large Korean immigrant population. On the other hand, we struggled to find a go-to Korean restaurant in the area. Part of that has to do with Jun’s awesome cooking at home, but also given our Korean heritage the bar we set for a Korean restaurant can be impossibly high at times. Could Incheon, which was featured in Washington Post’s 2021 Fall Dining Guide, finally break the spell of mediocre Korean restaurants in Annandale? Our recent visit unfortunately left us wanting for more.

We were hoping that the five-course tasting menu from the kitchen led by chef Justin Ahn (a relative bargain at $70 per person at the time of our visit) would show a nice combination of traditional and modern in our native cuisine. What we didn’t expect was that the menu was geared a lot more toward pan-Asian than Korean. Yes, we grew up eating fried snacks, but the lamb croquette with mushroom and parmigiano was unmistakably Italian in its essence, even though it was actually quite delicious. While the second dish of green curry noodle with an assortment of seafood was also capably executed, it brought us memory of our college years when we first countered Thai food instead of our childhood when we would’ve had Korean noodle dishes such as kalgooksoo. Things started to go downhill from there. While Jun and I both love duck breast, we weren’t sure it was the best match to the lettuce ssam where we would normally have pork or beef. The worst dish was the last savory course, a version of Hainanese chicken rice that didn’t really have anything Korean in its plating or flavor. It was a very puzzling decision to put this on the menu at a Korean restaurant. The dessert of the night, a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, was solid on the other hand.

The restaurant is open only three days a week from Thursday through Saturday, but it won’t be terribly difficult to secure a reservation so long as you don’t book at the last minute. The atmosphere of the restaurant was also somewhat strange; Jun thought this place might’ve originally been a Korean pub that got re-purposed into a restaurant. You can complement your meal with Korean-inspired cocktails or spirits, and there is a wine pairing at $55 per person too that was decent but not particularly memorable. Maybe we showed up on the wrong night but we sincerely wished Incheon showed us more in terms of what the kitchen do with Korean flavor and ingredients. It was certainly hard to characterize the restaurant, at least based on our visit, as a quintessential Korean restaurant. Our search for a favorite Korean restaurant in the DC area continues (yes, it didn’t help that Magpie and the Tiger, which we absolutely loved on our visit last year, abruptly closed and is still looking for a permanent home).

KenScale: 7.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.5/10)

Address: 7118 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003


Reservation via Tock

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