Take care if you are hungry when you enter the Yijo Restaurant, an authentic Korean restaurant in the College Park Days Inn. As you look around, you'll see a multitude of menu items on the tables of the other customers, and it all looks wonderful and smells delicious. Unless you're familiar with Korean cooking, you may find yourself ordering by saying, "I'll take one of those and that noodle thing," pointing at other patrons' food. But, on a recent visit, our neighbors at the next table didn't seem to mind and were happy to guide us. So was our waitress, who made great recommendations including vetoing a choice or two as too spicy or too large and wisely recommending the beef dumpling soup, steaming hot with a wonderfully unique flavor.
The main entrees, from $10.95 to $26.95, include ahnshim sogum (beef tenderloin with sesame oil); tahng soo yook (deep-fried pork with sweet and sour sauce); and Yijo jungol, the chef's special casserole with thin-sliced beef and vegetables.
The seafood pancake, haemool-pahjun, was excellent. It's served with Yijo's special spicy sauce, which is so good you may end up putting it on almost everything you order. (The pancake is also available as an appetizer.)
The saewoo bokum (braised shrimp with scallions and vegetables), a slightly more conservative choice from the menu, was delicious. But the more adventurous can order nackji-bokum (braised small octopus with spicy sauce).
The side dishes included tofu with the spicy house sauce, bean sprouts, and cold mashed potatoes with shredded carrots and cucumbers.
All of this dining takes place in a lovely Asian atmosphere. The 15 tables are leaf green with bamboo-colored trim, the bare walls are painted white and cherry blossom pink and screens with Asian symbols are scattered throughout.
Several of the tables have a gas grill in the middle for the menu's barbecue selections. The exhaust fans above these tables can get a bit noisy when they come on. But even when the room is three-quarters full, it's a fairly quiet place.
Cold ginger and cinnamon tea is served after the meal and is so pleasantly sweet you almost don't need dessert, but ice cream is available at $2.50.
Moo Il Moon, the owner for more than 10 years, says his clientele is diverse: "We get Chinese, Japanese and Koreans from all over the area," as well as families from nearby neighborhoods, professors from the University of Maryland.
Yijo Korean Restaurant, 9137 Baltimore Ave., College Park, Md. 20740. Call 301-345-6500. Open seven days, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
CAPTION: Yijo Restaurant's owners, Moo Il Moon, left, and his wife, Hyo-Sook Moon, prepare their specialty version of bool kalbi, beef short ribs marinated in Yijo's spicy sauce and cooked on a table-top grill.