Sapphire in the mud

After reading Garlic and Sapphires for my book club, I’ve been craving Asian food like something intense. Ruth Reichl’s exploration of Japanese, Korean and Chinese restaurants, while restaurant critic of the New York Times, was remarkable and mouth-watering. While at the NYT, she was criticized for her time spent reviewing small, ethnic establishments, but I admire her attitude toward food — especially her view that she didn’t have to review restaurants just for rich people.

Desperate to satisfy my craving, friends and I tried Yechon over the weekend. Located in the suburbs of Washington, DC, in an area engulfed by strip malls, I knew ahead of time that looks would be deceiving. It did, however, meet every expectation of deliciousness. Truly a sapphire in the mud, whether that was T. S. Eliot’s intention for the phrase or not. For dinner, we shared the bul kalbi, beef short ribs marinated in chef’s special sauce. The meat was a little sweet and a little salty, and grilled right at the table. Wrap it in crisp lettuce with fiery cabbage kimchi and you wonder why you haven’t been eating this food all along. The bowls of panchan were plentiful, and maybe next time I’ll get the nerve to ask which each of them are. Like the kimchi, they are the cold dishes Korean restaurants offer with every meal.

And, what do you drink with a feast like this? White wine and lagers are the most fitting accompaniments. The food is spicy and flavorful and you’ll be happier with a refreshing beverage. Most of us drank Hite and Kirin, beers of Korea and Japan that taste just like American lagers Budweiser and Miller. We also tried Soju, a traditional Korean liquor similar to vodka but sweeter as it is distilled from sweet potatoes. Soju is served chilled and in shot glasses, and should be consumed in one gulp, preferably after toasting to good friends around the table.


Our beverages at Yechon: Soju, Korean beer Hite
and Japanese beer Kirin

posted by Ms. S&C

4 responses to “Sapphire in the mud

  1. One more thing about Yechon: recession-friendly prices–six of us gorged ourselves for less than $200 total! Sometimes when it is just Mr. and Ms. S&C we end up spending close to that. Incredible deal.

  2. i may be a sucker, but i can swear that kirin tastes different and way better than miller and bud. TASTE TEST!

  3. I loved that book, too! It is always so amazing to find a great cheap & cheerful place! My favorite in NYC is Saigon Grill.

  4. Great to hear from you Isabelle!
    Not sure I loved the “alter ego” portion of the book; thought those sections were a bit too self-indulgent. But, I did LOVE her food writing and her coverage of NYC in general. In addition to craving Asian, I very much craved a trip to the city!

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