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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Sun–Thu 10:30am–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 10:30am–2:00am

Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted

Annandale, VA
4231 Markham St.
Annandale, VA
(703) 642-2220
Seoul Soondae
If you’re here for an ice-cream sundae, you’re pretty far off

If you’re not Korean, here’s a good game to play: tell one of your Korean friends that you love soondae. She probably won’t believe you at first, but once you convince her that you’re for real, you’ll probably be greeted by a combination of incredulity, newfound respect, and the sense that you’re a slight freak—but in the best possible sense of the word “freak.”

That might be what happens, too, with the staff at this simple, pleasant, gently upmarket restaurant. They’ll certainly consent to bring it out, but they might at first do so skeptically. But once they’re witness to your obvious pleasure in devouring it—and, trust us, the pleasure will be obvious—you’ll all be one big, happy family.

Until you try to order the jok bar (steamed pig’s feet), that is.

Seoul Soondae definitely has more atmosphere than much of the local competition. There’s a hilarious collection of cartoonish wall art, soju (Korean rice-wine) specials, the Korean pop/rap medley piped through the speakers, and the requisite huge-screen LCD flat-panel.

By this point, you must be wondering what soondae is. It’s a type of blood sausage, made from pig’s intestine and congealed pig’s blood, that’s actually not all that different from the British black pudding, the French boudin noir, or the Spanish or South American morcilla. However, it’s also more exotic than those two versions, stuffed with glass noodles, redolent of sweet spice and black pepper. It’s best on its own, served in the soondae platter (which also comes with tripe, hearts, and kidneys) rather than in a soup, because it holds it texture better.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try the soup, too—Seoul soondae jung shik, which integrates soondae plus the above innards—because it’s extraordinary. The steaming bowl, which contains enough for two to three people, takes at least 15 minutes to cool to the point of edibility, during which time you can snack on your soondae platter. Once it’s cool enough, the broth is deep and spicily delicious.

The starters are decent, three varieties of kimchi, but we’ve seen better. And skip the “American style dishes,” which are breaded fried meats. Big casseroles (e.g. sausage, bacon, ham, and kimchi casserole, or spicy pork rib and potato casserole) are good, too, and they can feed a whole party for a few bucks a head. Jjol myun (spicy cold thick chewy noodles) is a classic, and young yang taang (rarely seen spicy goat soup). But none of this is the point. If you don’t order the soondae, the joke’s on you.

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