Tim Carman wrote about Khan's Bar and Grill for a April 20, 2011 First Bite column.
Copping a squat on a stool at Khan's Bar and Grill on H Street NE, I'm experiencing the kind of cultural dissonance usually reserved for Korean soondae shops in Annandale, where your pig-intestine blood sausages come with a side order of Toni Basil's "Mickey" and other 1980s-era pop songs floating over the sound system.
At Khan's, the cultural mash-ups hit you with the ferocity of a Mike Tyson sucker punch. In front of me is a plate of stir-fry beef that I concocted with all the skill and insight that I possess in pan-Asian cooking, which is, as you might expect, zilch. Next to my plate is a dry martini, suggested by general manager Carmin Ruggiero II, prepared with organic Death's Door gin from Wisconsin. In front of me is a wall of flat-screen TVs showing pro basketball, baseball and a soccer match from some godforsaken patch of earth. The tunes thumping overhead bounce from Rush's "Tom Sawyer" to Alice in Chains' "I Stay Away."
The only thing missing is a mosh pit.
The variety shouldn't come as a surprise given that Khan's is the brainchild of James Lee, the Korean who knows how to lay out a spread at his cafeterias, like the Salad Too Grill, where the salads are served by the pound and the menu freely mixes American and Chinese influences.
Khan's is a so-called Mongolian barbecue joint, which means almost nothing, since it serves neither Mongolian cuisine nor barbecue. It's mostly a design-your-own stir-fry restaurant, where you pick your protein (beef, chicken or shrimp), stuff a bowl with your desired veggies and noodles and then hand the raw ingredients to one of the dudes working the giant circular flattop. They'll chop-chop their way through your meal while you select a main sauce (Szechuan, teriyaki, bulgogi or, for a real territorial shift, Buffalo) and a second sauce (honey-mustard, lemon-orange, chili or garlic).
Because the concept can be confusing - and because Ruggiero serves not only a killer martini but also a concise list of wines as well as American and Japanese beers - Khan's has just instituted an a la carte menu for the evening hours. In other words, if you're too tied up in a soccer match or too trashed on organic gin, the cooks will create some bites for you.
And if you like what they make, you can leave a tip and bang a small gong next to the grill.
"You can hit it as loud as you want," Ruggiero promises.