Tastes of Korea Enliven a Centreville Mini-Mall

Cook Pedro Chris, above, pours a batch of deep-fried chicken to be dipped in sauce. Cheogajip Chicken co-owners Kevin Kim, far left, and Sang Moon inside their store in Centreville. The Korean behemoth has three U.S. outlets.
Cook Pedro Chris, above, pours a batch of deep-fried chicken to be dipped in sauce. Cheogajip Chicken co-owners Kevin Kim, far left, and Sang Moon inside their store in Centreville. The Korean behemoth has three U.S. outlets. (Photos By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

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By Nancy Lewis
Thursday, June 29, 2006

Annandale has long been the epicenter for Korean food in Fairfax County, but now Centreville is gaining a Korean center, in the Old Centreville Crossing Shopping Center at Braddock Road and Route 29.

The anchor retailer for the shopping center is Grand Plaza, a mini-mall that caters to the area's large Korean population. Several Korean restaurants have opened in the past year, including the third U.S. location of Korea's premier fast-food fried chicken chain.

Cheogajip Chicken, which translates as mother-in-law's chicken, opened in March; the Korean behemoth has more than 1,200 outlets in Korea. Sang Moon, who owns the U.S. franchise, said that because the name might be difficult for non-Koreans to pronounce -- a good approximation is cho-ga-jeep -- he is trying to decide on a simpler name.

The first Virginia outlet opened in October in Annandale, where the store has drive-through service. The other U.S. location is in Flushing, N.Y.

Moon said that Cheogajip uses only fresh chickens, which are delivered daily, and that each chicken is cooked to order.

"We don't precook anything," he said.

The chicken is deep-fried under pressure and is ready about 15 minutes after it's ordered (usually by telephone). At Cheogajip, customers must order a whole chicken rather than pieces. Other than the drumstick, you won't recognize the pieces: Each chicken is cut into 14 to 16 of them.

Chickens are available plain, with hot or mild sauce (similar to hot wings) or herb fried with garlic and lemon sauce. Moon said Koreans prefer the pickled radish that comes with the chicken.

"Most Koreans ask for extra radish, but Americans find it too sour," he said.

For U.S. palates, there is coleslaw. Moon plans to add other side dishes and soon will offer smoked and barbecued chicken as well.

The chicken has a thin, crisp batter and is tender and juicy -- not greasy. I thought my plain chicken needed more salt (it came with a small container of salt and pepper); the spicy chicken was a good match for any Buffalo wing preparations.

For a more traditional Korean meal, Tae Hwa Won Restaurant next door has an extensive menu of Korean-Chinese favorites, and Hahmji Bahk BBQ, at the opposite end of the sprawling shopping center, specializes in Korean barbecue.


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