Saturday, October 27, 2007

That's Using Your Noodle

Here’s a great restaurant suggestion for the more adventurous among you. Da Rae Won Korean Restaurant in Beltsville, MD serves up the best hand-made noodles this is side of Seoul. The first thing you’ll notice upon being seated at Da Rae Won is the rather loud “thwacking” noise coming from the kitchen. That, my friends, is the sound of the chef preparing each noodle dish, by hand, to order. It doesn’t get any fresher than this.

There’s a small window so you can peek at the noodle making progress if you are so inclined. We never do. We’re too busy eating the small array of panchan, house made pickles. We love the pickled daikon radish with onions and black bean dipping sauce. The kimchi is wonderfully crisp and spicy with the effervescent tingle of fermentation.

For those of you familiar with Korean cuisine, you will not find Bulgogi, Bulkalbi or Be Bim Bop here. Da Rae Won is actually a Korean style Chinese restaurant and as such offers a wide range of dishes that could be found on any typical Chinese menu. The presentations however are decidedly Korean without being too unfamiliar. There are some exotic choices to be discovered, such as the shredded or braised sea cucumber and it’s anyone’s guess what you’ll get if the menu item says simply “seafood” . On our first visit to Da Rae Won, I ordered the Noodle with Spicy Seafood Soup and honestly, I could only identify about half of the what I ate.

There is really only one appetizer on the menu: Fried Dumpling ($6.95). It’s not listed as an appetizer; you find it under “Pork”. You definitely want to order it. Large thin wrappers are filled with ground pork and scallions then fried so that they are crisp and hot. The order comes with 8 pieces so there is plenty to share. Your table is equipped with soy sauce and vinegar so you can make your own dipping sauce. If you like a little kick you can add some sambal, garlic chili sauce, or ask the waitress to bring you some of the dried pepper if you really want some heat.

But the real reason to try Da Rae Won is the noodles. Nine different variations are offered and most of those come out as some sort of spicy soup with seafood. They all cost around nine dollars. Our favorite, is the Noodles with Fresh Black Bean Sauce ($8.95). A large bowl of noodles arrive with a side bowl of the black bean sauce. It is studded with a copious amount of sautéed onions, bits of barbecued pork and potato. The noodles are thick, chewy and delicious. The black sauce makes them silky and unctuous.

Service at Da Rae Won is friendly and efficient. The servers are more than happy to help you understand what you are ordering, but not are proficient in English. Ultimately, this is a Korean restaurant for Koreans. On our last visit, Steve, Carlos and I were the only non-Koreans in the place and the restaurant was hopping. Still, you won’t feel unwelcome and if you like good noodles, you won’t be disappointed.

Da Rae Won Korean Restaurant
5013 Garrett Ave
Beltsville, MD 20705

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