Gom Ba Woo, Annandale, VA

Gom Ba Woo has been touted (including by me) as the best Korean restaurant in the area for homestyle cooking. In fact, I’ve never seen a less than flattering review of it – so I may as well be the first.

It had been over a year since I’d been here, perhaps two years, and my expectations were fairly high since this restaurant has been consistent for me in the past.

I walked over to the cooler and grabbed a bottle of Saab Soju, a sweet potato alcohol with green tea extract added, that packs a walloping 21% alcohol content, and yes, my server laughed.

The panchan arrived, and were adequate, with nothing standing out as great except perhaps the sliced turnips. Glasses of “ice water” were actually very dilute, smokey green tea, or at least they certainly tasted like it.

I’m not sure I’ve ever had great Bul Go Gi ($16.95) at a non-barbeque restaurant in Annandale, and this did nothing to change that. The marinated, sliced “rib-eye” (which, let’s face it, often translates into something resembling Steak-Umms) was just bad meat, bathing in a sugary, watery broth. While tasty, there was really nothing here at all of interest.

My go-to dish here has traditionally been Kimchi Jae Yuk Bokum ($16.95) which is stir-fried kimchi and sliced pork, along with some little disks of rice gluten. I’ve always enjoyed this dish in the past for it’s ability to retain a certain sparkle – a crispness to the bright red kimchi despite it being fried – but on this evening, it was dull and lifeless, with a very meager portion of sliced pork.

A disappointing showing for what has been one of my favorite Korean restaurants in the area. Again, I should point out that quite often, a little restaurant such as this will have one stud cook in the kitchen, and when (s)he isn’t working, it can be Russian roulette – perhaps that was the case here.

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