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Ara in Annandale

PollyG | | Nov 19, 2008 07:00 AM

Ara is a fairly new Korean place in Annandale on 236 near the Kmart plaza intersection. It advertises itself as a "Fusion Restaurant Karaoke Bar" We were dining at lunch time on a Sunday, so the place was fairly empty. I imagine it is pretty noisy on weekend evenings as the karaoke goes full swing.

The interior is attractive, with dark wooden tables. We noticed a few semi-private rooms with curtains. There is a fairly extensive lunch menu offered 7 days a week that runs towards soups, which should be a good match for our raw November weather. The 38 lunch specials run from 3.99 to 8.99. Some of the more interesting non-soup options were grilled fish for $6.99 (your choice of 3 kinds of mackerel), a Crab Noodle Soup which was pictured served with a whole blue crab on top, and the "Old Style Bento" which is depicted as spicy, and evidently comes with steamed rice, pan-fried kimchi, frank and egg.

Banchan came out in personal servings on trendy little plates that held three items. The first was a lightly seasoned cucumber, the second a very mild kimchi, and the third a seaweed salad. The attentive waitstaff provided a full replacement when one of us finished theirs quickly. We also got a communal tupperware container of crispy seaweed strips. The chowpup claimed them all and used them to scoop up her rice.

We ordered the grilled pork belly which came with a very generous portion of sliced jalepenos and grilled kimchi. At $12.99, it was a huge bargain. Ara does not appear to use table-top grills, so the platter came right from the kitchen.

We also got the Seafood Okonomiyaki at $16.99, listed as a two person serving. This came out as a large pizza-shaped concoction, totally covered in bonito shavings, which moved from the heat of the dish. Some people might find that a bit disturbing. Underneath was a mix of seafood and flour pancake, with a bit too much mayo for my taste. Unlike the seafood pancakes we often get at Korean places, this one was only crispy on the bottom; it was soft on the top, more like a pizza. Splitting this among 4 people would have been more appropriate. We'll have to try the crispy rice pizza on another visit.

We had the Fried Squid Legs, which were served with a wasabi mayo. These were good, and the legs were larger than I'd expected.

Naomi had a richly flavored chicken and noodle soup which was a special listed on the wall.

We'll be back. Both Ara and Hee Been cross-advertise for each other via posters inside; turns out they're owned by cousins.

7137D Little River Turnpike, Annandale