KIMCHEE AND COMPANY: As a world capital, Washington dishes up plenty of global cooking, be it the stews of Ethiopia, the curries of India or the potato dishes made famous by Peru. One cuisine that is abundant in the suburbs of Northern Virgina but pretty much missing from the city is Korean -- until last month when Yee Hwa (202-833-1244) opened downtown at 1009 21st St. NW and began offering spicy codfish soup, marinated short ribs, the signature kimchee (pungent pickled vegetables) and even Korean wine, or soju, on its menu. A weave of hearty and bold flavors, the cooking at Yee Hwa unfolds in a dining room of warm wood, sea-blue carpet and pale-rose booths; glass partitions between the tables are etched with the name of the restaurant in Korean characters. Part of the menu is Japanese, but Japanese food is not the reason to come here. Bibimbap -- that lusty marriage of rice, shredded beef and vegetables, served with hot chili paste in a heavy stone bowl -- definitely is. At night, the table grills come out, allowing diners the chance to stir-cook their way to a meal of barbecue, Korean-style. Lunch entrees $8.95-$16.95; dinner entrees $12.95-$25.95.
FAKE HEAT, REAL EATS: Even from across the street, people notice the brick fireplace of Olazzo (7921 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda; 301-654-9496) through the windows of the small Italian restaurant. It's an inviting design detail that draws in diners and elicits more than a few requests for a brick-oven pizza. The only problem? The flames aren't real. "It's a DVD of a fire that runs all night on a TV screen," explains co-owner Roberto Pietrobono, whose father, a construction worker, built a hearth to frame the realistic picture. While there might not be pizza at the year-old Olazzo, there is lots of homey Italian fare, served in gigantic portions by friendly servers. Think lasagna, chicken Parmesan and calamari, the last trotted out in what looks like a martini glass for the Hulk -- and everything prepared by Roberto's brother and partner, Riccardo Pietrobono. Our favorite dish: wedding soup, with tiny beef meatballs and a delicate broth. Best time to drop by: Monday night, when all the wine by the bottle is sold at half price. Lunch entrees $5.50-$10; dinner entrees $10-$14.
-- Tom Sietsema