Update: Seoulspice officially opened on Feb. 26.
The rest, says owner Eric Shin, will be prepared in-house based on traditional recipes like his family's four-generation-old method for making kimchi. A second generation Korean-American whose family immigrated from Seoul to Atlanta in the 1970's, Shin works as a percussionist for the National Symphony Orchestra. But his roots are deeply entrenched in the restaurant industry. In Atlanta, his parents owned a Korean restaurant called Garam, where Shin learned about cooking and the hospitality business.
After moving to D.C. in 2012 for his NSO job, the Juilliard graduate was disappointed to find few Korean restaurants outside of Annandale and Centreville. So the 34-year-old started toying with the idea of opening a fast-casual shop that could serve the traditional flavors of his family's cooking but with a modern twist. "That's been the greatest challenge," Shin says, "coming up with a recipe that will pass my mother's and grandmother's approval."
He came up with his recipe for Korean-style sushi burritos while troubleshooting a piece of kitchen equipment. After purchasing a pricey sushi cutter for his kimbap -- a cousin to the maki roll -- Shin realized his nori-wrapped rolls were too big for slicing. When his wife picked one up whole and bit into it like a burrito, the Korrito was born.
Besides the Korrito, Seoulspice will offer tacos, salads and bibimbap-like rice bowls, all of which you can order with a choice of four proteins -- beef, chicken, pork or tofu. Banchan-inspired toppings include kale slaw, Korean radish, kimchi and fresh vegetables like bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers and corn, accompanied by sauces like creamy Sriracha, cilantro-lime ranch, ginger-carrot and Korean hot sauce, and sides like avocado and a sweet tamari-marinated egg.
The latter isn't a traditional addition to bibimbap, which is typically crowned by a fried or raw egg. Shin borrowed the idea of using halved soft-boiled eggs from the ramen bowls he had while living in Hawaii, where he worked for the Honolulu Symphony. His choice isn't sitting too well with everyone in the family though. "My grandma isn't too happy about that," he jokes.
Seoulspice, 145 N St. NE, seoulspice.com.
[This post was originally published Dec. 2, 2015 and has been updated]