For years, I’ve talked half-jokingly about my dream restaurant specializing in ribs of every animal imaginable. It makes sense—the cut is one of the most versatile of all the beasts. After all, it serves everything from rib-eye steaks to short ribs.
Restaurateur James Jang and his butcher friend Mark Kim had similar ideas. But their Ingle Korean Steakhouse, located in the same Tysons mall as China Wok, doesn’t have the bear or elk ribs I’m expecting. Instead, diners are greeted as they enter the modern, white-and-wood dining room with a rib of a cow that hangs in a brightly lit place of honor, somewhat like a religious ceremony altar. Almost all the premium Angus beef they eat at Ingle is cut from those big bones, usually from animals raised in Virginia.
The smartest way to dine at Ingle Korean Steakhouse is to order prix fixe. For lunch, this is three courses, and for dinner, it increases to five courses. I recommend going for lunch to take advantage of the bright restaurant space and pay $20 less per person for an already appetizing meal.
As soon as diners arrive at their tables, staff turn on the grill and serve the banchan. These petite plates always include funky kimchi and tangy pickled fish dishes, both of which serve as a nice foil to the coming fat. Jang says his chef, Jay Youn, recently added sesame-studded broccoli, my least favorite of the three, and I found it best dipped in a tangy onion-flavored salad dressing that also goes over the meat. Before.
Jang added that Youn will add a banchan option in the future, as well as more hot dishes. Current options include asparagus and corn cheese, the latter topped with breadcrumbs, a fusion of Korean bulgogi and earthy American macaroni and cheese.
The meat is also served with a pebble-sized ball of wasabi, sesame salt and ssamjang, a tangy fermented soybean paste dip that adds just the right amount of salt to the meat. The waiters are highly trained in preparing the mouth-watering beef, beginning the ritual of grilling each piece of meat by rubbing a hunk of tallow on a wire grill to keep it from sticking. They start with boneless short ribs and skirts from never marinated.
I ordered the complimentary rice bowls to soak up the gravy as they hit the succulent meat. But it might have been a mistake. I also ordered Maigusu, cold soba noodles in a spicy sauce, topped with cucumber, pickled radish, nori, and a hard-boiled egg. With the hearty corn cheese, it’s more than enough starch and a lot more interesting than white rice. In fact, I took home a whole bowl of makosu (each diner got one) and devoured it wholeheartedly the next day, just as I did when I piled it with sizzling beef.
Of these cuts, I love the pickled option. Galbi and rib fingers are served after a bath of sweet soy sauce, making them softer and more flavorful than the already tempting cuts of unmarinated beef.
The meal ends with a choice of dessert. Using hazelnut shortbread if he can, Zhang plans to import from Japan until he finds a reliable local cake supplier. Its cloudy texture holds up to a drizzle of homemade chocolate ganache, but feels too light for it to be.
Until recently, the tabletop grill was the only way to enjoy ribs at Ingle’s. But, thinking more of a takeaway business, Youn adds a big pot of galbi jjim, a stew of braised pork ribs. Its sweet and slightly spicy broth can compete with marinated barbecue for the delicious award. I’d say buy both, but the galbi jjim is sized for two or three, maybe feed four in a pinch.
Chunks of short rib are undoubtedly the main draw of the stew, but that doesn’t mean the chewy wood ear mushrooms and morsels of rice cakes don’t get their due, subtly soaking up the complex liquid. Potatoes, onions, carrots, peppers, and scallions can also be combined into a dish that’s especially good on colder days, but I’ll be craving it year-round.
For something more suitable for summer, I recommend hwe moo-chim. The dish is essentially Korean-style poke, made with raw salmon and fresh vegetables, served in a refreshing and fiery red chili sauce.
Jang, who also owns the Japanese fast-casual mini-chain Donburi, grew up in McLean and said his goal is to bring Korean food back home. But not just any Korean restaurant. “I wanted to build a restaurant where I could take my parents or friends for special occasions,” he said. He succeeded in both goals.
And Ingle is still growing. You continued to hone and expand the menu, thanks in part to the addition of an oven in the kitchen. Beyond that, in the next month or so, the restaurant will launch a new drink program based on traditional Korean spirits sourced from breweries in South Korea. But I don’t need all these bells and whistles to bring me back to Ingles. Ribs are tempting enough.
Ingle Korean Steak House
See this:The ribs you want to eat are displayed at the front of the restaurant. High ceilings create an open feel, and white marble tables are inlaid with Korean BBQ grills.
eat this:Hwe moo-chim, galbi jjim, marinated galbi
a la carte:$16–$110
Fixed price:Lunch $55, Dinner $75
Lunch and dinner are served daily.
8369 Leesburg Pk., Ste. A, Vienna
Featured image courtesy of Alice Levitt
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