Editors' pick

Sorak Garden

Korean, Sushi
$$$$ ($15-$24)

Editorial Review

2004 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Magazine
Sunday, October 17, 2004

Part of the fun of visiting a Korean restaurant with friends who have never experienced the cuisine is to watch their faces when the customary panchan show up. Those are the myriad little salads and nibbles that arrive after you've placed your order -- and a measuring stick used by devotees of Korean restaurants. On my most recent visit to Sorak Garden, my friend's eyes widened as our waitress appeared with a platter of tiny bowls moments after we'd been seated. "Dried squid," she said, introducing one snack. "Kimchi," she continued, placing a bowl of fermented cabbage on the table. "Eggplant." "Black beans." "Bean sprouts." "Mushrooms." She rattled off 10 different tastes, leaving us to graze on the mini-banquet and sip our beers. The table got more crowded as our appetizers and entrees arrived in quick succession. A strapping bowl of porridge with bits of pleasantly chewy abalone grew tedious after a few spoonfuls, but we eagerly downed half-moon-shaped dumplings filled with crumbled beef. Shredded beef and thin strips of bell peppers and onions were heaped over glassy noodles. It was a filling and homey dish. My friend and I were also looking for some fire, and we found it, in an entree of spicy squid tossed with cucumbers and a wicked red sauce. Sorak Garden has a lot of competition among Korean restaurants in Northern Virginia, but it remains the most stylish.