Hours: 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Prices: Dinner for two with appetizers and drinks costs $35-$40 including tax and tip. Cards: Mastercard, Visa.
What a curious restaurant this is, what an unusual mix of cultures. In fact, the setting is more interesting than the food. Once upon a time, the building housed a Swiss chalet-style restaurant, and it still shows. There are the artificial stained glass windows, the peaked cathedral ceilings, the ersatz wooden beams -- only now it's a Korean "Seafood and Steak House," and the bar is draped with plastic ivy, and every night at 9 the restaurant becomes a dance hall. The disco lights start flashing and the parquet dance floor flickers shades of blue and red. One of those great mirrored disco balls twirls around and shatters the lights into a million shooting fragments, and a dance band plays tranquil, tame fox trots to a (frequently) empty dance floor.
If you plan to dance a lot (and especially plan to dance slowly), Washington House can be a pretty good deal. But if you're mainly looking for fine Korean food, the prospects are a bit more iffy. We've had good dishes here, but a lot of mediocre ones, too. If the prices were cheaper, you might just say, oh, what a nice, quirky restaurant, and leave it at that. But the prices here are too high for that -- many of the dishes run around $9 or $10, higher than most Korean restaurants in the area.
The menu is part English, part Korean with no translation. We've tried quite a few dishes from both, and here are the results: Start with fried meat dumplings, Korean-style -- very thin, very crispy dough, stuffed with crumbled pork but mostly spinach. It is a nice touch that makes these dumplings very light. Also be sure to get a Korean pancake (don't look for it on the menu unless you read Korean), a big omelette made with eggs and rice flour and fat stalks of scallion. You dip the pieces in sesame and soy sauce -- delicious.
You can order an extremely generous sashimi assortment (again, not listed in English) for $14.95, plenty of raw seafood for six; but if you're at all squeamish, ask the waitress to substitute more flounder or some other fish for the sea cucumber that often comes with the platter.
Note: If the waitress hasn't brought them by now, ask for an assortment of traditional, spicy kimchee -- hot pickled cabbage and turnips -- and a plateful of cold spinach and big, crunchy bean sprouts.
Those are really the only "appetizers" worth ordering; all the other dishes are considered equal parts of the meal. Order a few mild dishes, such as classic Korean kalbi, grilled beef ribs -- a pretty good version here -- and twice cooked pork, good little meatballs and carrots in a pleasant (if nondescript) brown sauce. Also get a cold dish, which isn't listed in English, phonetically pronounced "bee beem bop" -- cooked spinach and shredded carrots and crunchy bean sprouts and strips of grilled beef, topped by a fried egg that you toss with everything else (plus a red pepper sauce). Refreshing.
Now go a bit spicy with one of our favorite dishes, spicy pork (again, not listed in English), tender long strips of pork rubbed with a red pepper paste and then grilled. Also try a red-peppery fish soup, nicely flavored and full of big, creamy lumps of bean curd. Also, especially if you love mustard, try a cold plate with mustard sauce, which is like a salad of julienned pork and cucumbers and . . . and what? The waitress said it was seaweed, but our friend, an expert on such things, insisted it's jellyfish. In any case, those chewy strips are in the dish for texture.
The menu lists a handful of seafood dishes, which sound good, but we've generally been disappointed. Perhaps the best is called all kinds seafood and vegetables.
Dinner for two can easily cost $40. Get your money's worth: Put on a pair of flashy shoes, take your honey, and, after the last chunk of pickled radish is gone, get on that dance floor and shuffle to the theme from "Dr. Zhivago."