The best known of the restaurants are Sorak Garden (4308 Backlick Rd., Annandale, 703-916-7600), which specializes in hot pots and serves sushi; Ye Chon (4121 Hummer Rd., Annandale, 703-914-4646), where barbecue and soup are the dishes to order (it's open 24 hours); and Choong Hwa Won (4409 John Marr Dr., Annandale, 703-256-8006), which is known for its jja jang myun, a Korean/Chinese dish of noodles with black bean sauce, meat and vegetables.
Several of the Korean restaurants offer sushi. Others have grills set into the tables on which you can cook your own dinner. The best way to explore the area is simply to start at one end and sample several restaurants.
But you don't have to go to Annandale for good Korean food. Yee Hwa opened last year in downtown Herndon (645 Elden St., 703-787-7604, www.yeehwa.com) in a cavernous building. The decor is restrained, though it retains a bit of its subsequent suburban steakhouse look, service is pleasant and attentive, and the variety of banchan (small side dishes) that accompany the bul go ki (a barbecue beef dish) is one of the most interesting aspects of the meal.
In addition to the requisite kimchi, which is something like the Korean national condiment, there might be fiery cucumbers, seaweed salad, sesame spinach and potato salads. This is a gentle way to learn about Korean food.
One place that definitely hasn't toned down the fieriness of Thai cuisine is Thai Basil (14511 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy., Chantilly, 703-631-8277). You can specify how spicy you want your food: from one to four peppers, the latter being Laos hot, hotter than most mortals can stand.
One of the main attractions at Sakoontra, (12300-C Price Club Plaza, Fairfax, 703-818-8886, www.sakoontra.com) is the tuk-tuk (Thai taxi) at the entrance. But Sakoontra is so much more. There are enough gems on the appetizer menu to make a full meal, but then you would miss the yum watercress and the shrimp stir-fried with ginger and garlic.
Tachibana (6715 Lowell Ave., McLean, 703-847-1771, www.j-netusa.com/com/tachibana/) has an extensive menu and often-yummy specials, such as soft-shell crabs. Mikaku (3065 Centreville Rd., Herndon, 703-467-0220) is a good place to expand beyond sushi to small plates and especially noodle dishes. The noodles are all made in-house.
Yamazato (6303 Little River Tpk., 703-914-8877, www.yamazato.net), all blond and trendy, is tucked into an office building just barely inside Fairfax County, near Landmark Shopping Center in Alexandria. The fish is pristine, and it's a welcoming place to try new combinations.
Most of the diners at Yama Japanese Restaurant (328 Maple Ave. W., Vienna, 703-242-7703) seem to know each other and the three chefs at the sushi bar. If you don't have a reservation, prepare to wait. Yama serves a variety of inventive rolls. The sunomono alone is enough for lunch, but there are so many other good things on the menu it would be a shame to pass them up.
Mark's Duck House began life in Eden Center but has moved to a nearby shopping center that fronts Route 50 (6184-A Arlington Blvd., Willston Center I, 703-532-2125, www.marksduckhouse.com). As its name suggests, duck -- whether Peking style, braised or roasted -- is the dish to order. There are more than 400 items on the menu, including lots of dim sum.
Another favorite is Duck Chang (4427 John Marr Dr., Annandale, 703-941-9400) and its offspring, Peking Duck Restaurant (7531 Richmond Hwy., 703-678-2774), one of the first restaurants in the area that made its signature dish available without advance notice. Although both serve a full menu of Chinese favorites, the duck shines.