There is no better area to witness the melting pot of modern Washington, D.C., than Dupont Circle with its historic embassies and powerful think tanks alongside bubble tea shops and an underground arts scene. Just three blocks from the Dupont Circle fountain sits Anju, an inconspicuous and stylistically understated Korean restaurant. Since its opening, Anju has captivated D.C. food critics with its exciting fusion of modern and traditional Korean flavors. It is an ideal spot for a group of friends looking for an eatery that caters to each of their diverse tastes, and its proximity to Dupont attractions will complete the evening.
Being from the D.C. area, this column will explore D.C. food from a local guide perspective. Each neighborhood in the District offers something distinct from the others, and the density of attractions in any given spot means a dinner out can easily become an opportunity for scenic exploration. With an eye to Dupont Circle this week, a trip to Anju with its loud and animated atmosphere is complemented by nearby opportunities for more serene art and architectural appreciation.
At Anju, chefs Danny Lee and Scott Drewno have combined their decades of expertise to provide Washingtonians with a traditional Korean experience in an intimate Dupont circle space. The restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes aimed to satiate even the pickiest eater. For appetizers, long-time lovers of Korean food will find classics like kimchi pancakes and pork dumplings, as well as creative Americanized dishes. Those distinct dishes include Korean fried chicken with Alabama-style white BBQ sauce and the tornado potato, a Korean street food consisting of a spiral cut, deep-fried whole potato served on a skewer, each of which offers its own special culinary experience.
Entrees at Anju are moderately priced and especially filling. Favorites include the Ssam Board, a large plate of seared galbi, or Korean style short ribs, served with rice and kimchi, Dolsot Bibim Bap, a classic Korean dish served in a hot stone bowl with rice and either bulgogi beef or tofu and Kimchi Jjigae, a Korean stew served with tender pork belly or tofu and kimchi. Among the desserts, guests will find a Korean-influenced Bananas Foster, a waffle with chocolate sauce and peanut butter mousse, and various sorbets embracing Asian and American flavors.
I would suggest Anju to those who are entirely unfamiliar with Korean food or to individuals who generally wouldn’t consider eating at a Korean restaurant. For those unfamiliar with Korean food, Anju’s menu is a great way to experience Korean cuisine without a complete untethering from familiar American flavors and preferences. Likewise, meat lovers and vegetarians are sure to find something that suits their interests on Anju’s moderately sized yet exceptionally diverse menu.
I recommend going in a group of at least four to try a wider variety of dishes and mitigate the costs associated with dining out in the city. Larger groups will likely be given a circular table complete with a rotating turntable, adding to the Korean restaurant experience and making sharing dishes fun and easy.
After a sumptuous experience at Anju, nearby exploration of a few scenic spots in Dupont will complete the evening before returning to the seclusion of the Hilltop. The Dupont Underground is a fun and free experience that captures both the historical and contemporary culture of the neighborhood. This free art exhibit can be found in the heart of Dupont Circle and is housed inside an abandoned trolley car tunnel. Inside, the curved walls are covered with contemporary art, captivating light shows, and perplexing sculptures and the venue even features occasional live music. The Dupont Underground provides viewers with a host of postable moments and will surely intrigue followers with its artistic aesthetic.
For those looking for a more calming and tranquil scenic experience after their meal, a stroll along the Spanish Steps does just the trick. This shaded area, just one block from the bustling chaos of Connecticut Avenue, possesses an ambiance and serenity that rivals the cobblestone streets of Georgetown. One of the few true hidden gems of the District, the Spanish Steps are enjoyed almost exclusively by locals. Visitors will find the Spanish Steps to be a peaceful and picturesque respite from the orchestra of sounds and sights that pervade Dupont Circle.
Amid the architectural beauty and rich history of Dupont, a trip to Anju is a complete sensory experience of good food and aesthetic appreciation, combining the excitement of a tasty evening out with opportunities for thoughtful reflection.
Hal Rogers is a sophomore in the College. Exploring Eateries will appear in print and online every other Friday.