Six chowhounds gathered yesterday for lunch at Yee Hwa in Herndon. Many thanks to Polly G for organizing it. As the newbie to these lunches, I was drafted to write the report. (Well, it beats doing two hundred push-ups.) Others will please chime in with their own opinions, particularly where they differ from mine. I meant to post this yesterday evening, but just as I was revising it, my DSL line went down.
As I am not at all experienced with Korean food, it was nice to have Polly's guidance, and she did most of the communicating with the waitress and the ordering for the table.
After a cup of miso (or the Korean equivalent), we moved on to two appetizers. One of these was jab chae, a very pleasant dish of stir fried noodles with beef and vegetables. The noodles were the clear ones that are similar or identical to those in other Asian cuisines. The other appetizer was hae mul pa jeon, a pancake with scallions, vegetables, and seafood, including little squid and octopus. This dish brought a chorus of "ummm" when we first bit into it. It's best eaten right away but was still tasty at the end of the meal.
Next we had 4 entree dishes, which were served with rice. Two were traditional barbecue dishes, which we wrapped in lettuce leaves with bean paste. At lunch, these are cooked in the kitchen, but at dinner they use the grills at the tables. We had kal bi, which is boneless beef short rib pieces. We chose the boneless version instead of the bone-in so we wouldn't have to fight over which hound got to chew the bones. This was very good. I found it more flavorful and the meat more substantial than the more common bulgoki. There were some onions in with the beef, and the beef was tender and not at all fatty. Even better was the kaeji book go ki, sliced pork in a spicy sauce with onion and sweet pepper. This was excellent, with a medium heat level.
We also had a seasonal noodle dish with soup, bee beem naeng myun. Served cool, the tiny noodles made from yam were topped with slices of beef, cucumber, radish, cabbage and (the surprise) pear, in addition to a spicy broth. This dish also had a medium heat level. We had actually wanted to try the version with marinated raw fish, but there is always a next time.
The best dish of the lot was nak gi bok kum, which is stir fried octopus and vegetables in a spicy sauce. This also was excellent. Although the menu says "sweet hot sauce," I didn't find the sauce sweet, certainly not compared with some Thai food. While it was pretty spicy, it wasn't overwhelming, and several of us could have taken it spicier. I suspect if someone wanted to order it spicier, the kitchen would oblige. The octopus was pretty tender--a big plus.
As is usual with Korean food, an assortment of side dishes (can not recall what this is called)was served, including cabbage kim chee, several pickles including daikon and fern fronds, broccoli, and another small pancake of some sort. I think there was another dish or two, as well(watercress??).
To finish, they brought us cups of two cold drinks they called "punch." Both had pine nuts in them and were pretty sweet. I don't recall the base of one (rice?), but the other was fruity and spicy, with heavy cinnamon and ginger taste. Most of us preferred this one, and we speculated on how it would be hot, diluted with sparkling water, or with rum.
The restaurant itself was very pleasant and nice. Service was very helpful, including cutting things up for us to make it easier to share six ways, serving the noodles and soup for us, explaining the dishes, etc.
In summary, I thought everything was very good, with two standout dishes being the hae mul pa jeon (pancake) and the nak gi bok kum (octopus).
Certainly a good chowhound find, it is good Korean cuisine in Herndon.