Hee Been, Annandale, VA

(Hee Been may be officially in Alexandria, but anything on Route 236 west of I-395 gets rolled into Annandale in my book.)

I’m not sure whether or not Hee Been is the largest Korean restaurant in the DC area (I’d be interested in a square footage comparison between Hee Been and Ega), but it must surely have the largest dinner buffet. Il Mee’s is large, but manages to be compact; Hee Been’s is vast and sprawling, and it’s very possible to go through an entire meal without noticing every station.

I’ve had the 22-ounce can of Sapporo at various points in my life, but I don’t ever recall paying double-digits for it (it’s $10.50 here). Does this not seem expensive? My young dining companion had his Diet Coke ($1.99 with endless refills from a gentleman walking around with a pitcher).

Our server waved the green flag for the Dinner Buffet ($27.95 Fri-Sun, $25.95 Mon-Thu, children 3(?!)-8 half-price), and it was off to the races. You can load up on salad and sushi here (and if you cared about a balanced meal, you probably would), but other than a share-plate of banchan, we skipped the cold vegetables and dove into the meat of things.

I highly recommend getting a bowl of soup. Just point to the one you want, and a server will boil it for you and bring it to the table – I’m not quite sure how they manage this system in a full restaurant, but it worked well enough for us.

Against the side of the wall sits the pot of gold: a single station of meat, meat, and more meat. There’s raw, bone-in steak (which they take back to the kitchen and cook for you – it arrives marinated in something that tastes a lot like A-1), and there are about ten huge trays filled with raw, sliced meats. Numerous types of beef including marinated and non-marinated galbi and bulgogi, short ribs, pork tenderloin, raw pork belly (oversized strips of bacon), marinated chicken, shrimp, and even marinated squid.

Yes, I know, it’s quantity over quality, but now that Chung Dai Kam (the only charcoal Korean barbecue that I knew of in the area) has closed, you should at least consider the buffet at Hee Been the next time you want to go running off to Honey Pig. I like the vibrant atmosphere at Honey Pig (and the owner was very nice to my son once which I haven’t forgotten), but Hee Been can satisfy everyone from an elderly grandparent to the all-state high school football player. One thing’s for sure: if you leave hungry, it’s your own fault!

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