Dukbaeki Maeul / Suldoga, Annandale, VA

We were thinking of going to Gooldaegee last night, but as I was driving, I shouted, “Charcoal barbecue!” as I noticed a new restaurant was open in the old Chung Dai Kam space.

The sign outside says Suldoga, but the menu inside says Dukbaeki Maeul Suldoga, so I was at something of a loss. However, all it took was a bit of Google-digging, and loku.com cleared it right up. There’s also an annandaleva.blogspot.com article about the pre-restaurant days.

Sadly, gone are the charcoal barbecues – perhaps sold at auction when Chung Dai Kam closed; perhaps removed when Suldoga originally opened as a bar – but either way, they are sadly gone.

My young dining companion had only one guideline: “I don’t mind odd flavors or textures, but I’m not in the mood for odd body parts,” he said, thus leaving out the “Ox Knee” and various other menu items offered – although I think that ox knee might be a type of root.

I started with my usual non-ethnic ethnic beer, a bottle of the benign OB Golden Lager ($4.99). One thing I learned last night is that “OB” stands for “Oriental Brewery.”

Five different Banchan arrived, all vegan, and not all that good. There were two greens, two chili-reds, and one white (bean sprouts). As I’ve seen at other Korean restaurants, including Gamasot, the table was equipped with (instead of salt and pepper) MSG and pepper, as well as a wooden box of metal spoons for the two white boys.

Before the entrees arrived, a post-banchan bowl of Beef Broth was served, so they weren’t vegan after all.

The first dish that came, came out sizzling and spattering, the LA Galbi ($16.99) served on a huge, oval metallic plate plunked into a form-fitting wooden exterior. The short ribs, about a dozen of them, were marinated in “house sauce” which looked dangerously like a brownish gravy, but on the palate, the marinade was very normal tasting. Along with the onions, long past caramelization, to the point where they had charred and were sticking to the plate, this was a tasty platter, served with some white rice on the side.

I thought the Dolsot Bibimbap ($8.99) was going to be vegetarian, the menu advertising it as being served with “mixed vegetables and fried egg,” but there was also a little pocket of beef to be found. I added a little chili sauce, dressed it like a salad, and asked Matt for his opinion – we both felt it could go just a notch higher, so I added a little more to season it to perfection. At $8.99, this was an outstanding value (I thought the Dolsot version said $9.99 on the menu, but we were charged $8.99). The only problem was the inevitable hard-cooking of the egg which was so overdone and browned that I had trouble finding where the yolk used to be.

Service was courteous, if a little brusque, and this was a pleasant meal that both of us agreed was a “repeat but not a rush back.”

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