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Cho's Garden, Fairfax Blvd and Rebel Run in Fairfax - Korean with Outdoor Seating and Lunch Buffet - Closed Dec 20, 2013

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It's been a while since I've been to Cho's Garden. Over the past several years, food quality can be inconsistent here, ranging from great to simply OK.

Yesterday was "Great!" shouted from the rooftop of this former Denny's location, next to PJ Skidoo's on Route 29.

After a long, warm, morning hike in Hemlock Overlook, Cho's hit the spot for casual dining with a dog in tow. The recently upgraded patio features better tables and brighter feel, with a cooling cross-breeze and outdoor speakers. Banchan is always diverse here, and yesterday's was especially fresh. 15 small plates of yeongeun (lotus root), melchi (tiny fish), numerous kimchee, nokdumuk (mung bean jelly), and other piquant tidbits refilled upon request.

Many diners do not know this, but "Garden" is no misnomer. As you walk in, look to the left for the fenced in area surrounding what becomes garden-to-table leafy greens. I always keep my fingers crossed that my favorite of the bunch, perilla, will thrive. But alas, no appearance in yesterday's dishes.

Our late lunch included an especially fresh rendition of bibimbap, although with a slightly overcooked egg. Forgivable, still outstanding. The surprise flavor punch of the meal came from the pork, kimchee, and tofu (non-stew) dish, exceptional in it's massive portion. The exact name is escaping me in busy weekend recall block, but it was the last item on the "All Time Favorites" section of the recently updated menu. The website menu and the hard copy one are no longer in synch, by the way, the print copy features more variety.

Indoor dining at Cho's shows a bit more upscale environment than one might expect, with etched glass and a borderline chic soju bar. Open until 2AM most nights (perhaps later on weekends), it's an unexpected convenience when in Fairfax.

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They have a decent lunch buffet, $15.25 with tax, so $18 with tip added. From my perspective, I want to see more banchans and dishes with veggies. Here they have 3 or 4 soups, some kind of porridge, miso, and the one I did try was the fishcake soup. They have quite a bit of sushi, some nigiri but mostly rolls (I don't really eat sushi buffet but they look on the small side). The banchans choices were few and the ones I tried were bean sprouts, jap chae, kim chi of cabbage (all very good), they also have marinated cucumber and what looks like slice pork, bo ssam style (but I didn't try any). A nice selection of tempura veggies, including onions and broccoli and I have to say these were the best tempura veggies at a buffet that I tried - not greasy, crispy and light batter. There were also a good selection of meats - short rib on the bone, braised beef on the bone (I tried one piece and it was tender and flavorful), sweet & sour pork, etc. There was one stir-fried assorted mushrooms dish that I ate quite a bit of. The two pancake dishes seemed rather eggy so I didn't try them. Now that I'm really watching what I eat, Cho's Garden isn't a great deal for me but if you're into sushi and bbq, I think it's worth a try.

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I was in the vicinity around lunch time so I stopped by. The clientele is mostly Asian, and I spotted wood charcoal being carried out for BBQ. A couple of Korean ladies had eschewed the buffet and ordered table top BBQ. I went for the buffet and stuck to a pescatarian diet, eating mostly veggies. I liked their peppery jap chae, crispy tempura broccoli, and sauteed bok choy.

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