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Albert Yi

Iron Age Asian Grill, Korean BBQ in Rockville and Centreville

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There's a dearth of good Korean BBQ places in Rockville so I was excited to hear about Iron Age, which opened up about a year ago. Unfortunately my experience here wasn't positive.


I went with about seven other people for a meetup group. Between us we split a shabu shabu pot and the pork BBQ set. The BBQ portion is all you can eat for $18-$22 per person. For this reason they were really strict about the shabu shabu people not sampling any grilled meats.


Service was poor. Our server seemed incapable of multitasking, despite the fact that the restaurant was nearly empty. He flat out refused to take orders when he was busy doing something else. We didn't even get our first glass of water until the grill and the shabu shabu had been set up. On the plus side, he was prompt once he decided to graciously accept our request.


But I'm willing to forgive bad service for good food, and the food was not good. We asked for lettuce and we got this sad looking bowl of diced up greens dressed in a sweet soy sauce. I'm accustom to having some sort of wrapper (lettuce or wontons or something) for KBBQ and we didn't get anything like that. The dipping sauces were anemic: both the ssamjang and the chili sauce were watery. The complimentary gyeran jjim was a joke: completely flavorless. The other banchan were mostly misses: a potato salad that was too sweet and a sludgy kimchee that, while sour (the way I like it), had no texture and tasted mushy.


As for the meats: the pork belly was expected. Thankfully it's hard to mess up. Next came the beef brisket, which was still frozen and the fat parts were disintegrating. The soy marinated pork had an off taste. I was disappointed they didn't offer a gochujang-based daeji bulgogi which would've been a better use for the meat.


So this place is a far cry from Honey Pig or Shin Chon, which are my primary experiences with good KBBQ. Based on my experience here I can't reccommend it, but I wanted to do a write up in case someone does a search.

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I've had better experiences than you. Service has always been friendly and efficient. I agree that the banchan are just ok, though I like the egg souffle and the radishes (which I use to wrap the meats).

I think the quality of the meats is fine. I particularly like the garlic marinated pork, ribeye, and tender.

It's not worth driving across town for, but I can actually take my 6'+ teenager here and he leaves full, which is a pretty rare occurrence for $22.

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the radishes (which I use to wrap the meats).

Do you have a picture of this? I can't visualize it. Radish greens, maybe?

There's a second (perhaps the original) outlet of Iron Age in Duluth, GA.

Also, Yelp has a pretty thorough set of photos if anyone is looking for a visual feel of this restaurant. It doesn't look all that bad to me - really, not that much different than Honey Pig except of course the atmosphere isn't as electric. But I trust Albert and his opinion is worth more to me than a few pictures of frozen meat.

Nearby, don't forget Hwa Gae Jang Tuh.

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Albert, Have you ever tried Lighthouse/Vit Goel on Twinbrook (also Rockville)? It used to get more love here before being more maligned more recently. At minimum, I'd think you'd find the service somewhat better and the BBQ way better than what you describe here without having to drive to VA. FWIW.

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Do you have a picture of this? I can't visualize it. Radish greens, maybe?

One of the banchan is radish very thinly sliced, but the slices are a good 3-4" in diameter.

Albert, Have you ever tried Lighthouse/Vit Goel on Twinbrook (also Rockville)? It used to get more love here before being more maligned more recently. At minimum, I'd think you'd find the service somewhat better and the BBQ way better than what you describe here without having to drive to VA. FWIW.

I don't remember Vit Goel's BBQ as being anything better than ok, and they don't have BBQ burners at the table. Unless you order a lot of BBQ, in which case they bring a portable burner to the table, they cook it in the back and bring it to the table. Their tofu soup, of course, is spectacular, and the seafood pancake and spicy octopus are also excellent.

But I think the BBQ at Iron Age was better than what I've had at Vit Goel.

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One of the banchan is radish very thinly sliced, but the slices are a good 3-4" in diameter.

Diagonal cut? Or curly? Or just nuclear radishes? You've piqued my attention with this because I don't think I've ever seen such a thing.

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...I don't remember Vit Goel's BBQ as being anything better than ok, and they don't have BBQ burners at the table. Unless you order a lot of BBQ, in which case they bring a portable burner to the table, they cook it in the back and bring it to the table. Their tofu soup, of course, is spectacular, and the seafood pancake and spicy octopus are also excellent.

But I think the BBQ at Iron Age was better than what I've had at Vit Goel.

How long since you were last at Vit Goel? I haven't yet been to Iron Age. Wouldn't go based on Albert's review but will now try based on yours, Daniel. That said, will say that I've had the kalbi at Vit Goel many times including recently. My standard order there (simply because closer than getting out to Annandale) is kalbi and a tofu pot (agree excellent). They don't have grills at the table but guess I care less about that than the quality of what's served. Bulgogi is nothing special but I'd be interested to hear if you dislike the kalbi if you give it another try. I think it better than okay. At the risk of getting seriously flamed, I'll even come clean and proclaim Vit Goel's kalbi better than even To Sok Jip in Annandale (though To Sok Jip isn't BBQ focused so maybe that won't be as controversial as I think). Think you're going to To Sok Jip tomorrow. Be sure and try the kalbi there (it was good) and then maybe compare to Vit Goel if inclined. Finally, for the record and all the above notwithstanding, Honey Pig ranks higher than all three spots above imho on BBQ.

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Diagonal cut? Or curly? Or just nuclear radishes? You've piqued my attention with this because I don't think I've ever seen such a thing.

Not diagonal cut. Just a large diameter radish sliced thin. If you look at image #9 of those Yelp pictures, it's in the silver tin on the right wall of the picture just below the grill.

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How long since you were last at Vit Goel? I haven't yet been to Iron Age. Wouldn't go based on Albert's review but will now try based on yours, Daniel. That said, will say that I've had the kalbi at Vit Goel many times including recently. My standard order there (simply because closer than getting out to Annandale) is kalbi and a tofu pot (agree excellent). They don't have grills at the table but guess I care less about that than the quality of what's served. Bulgogi is nothing special but I'd be interested to hear if you dislike the kalbi if you give it another try. I think it better than okay. At the risk of getting seriously flamed, I'll even come clean and proclaim Vit Goel's kalbi better than even To Sok Jip in Annandale (though To Sok Jip isn't BBQ focused so maybe that won't be as controversial as I think). Think you're going to To Sok Jip tomorrow. Be sure and try the kalbi there (it was good) and then maybe compare to Vit Goel if inclined. Finally, for the record and all the above notwithstanding, Honey Pig ranks higher than all three spots above imho on BBQ.

It's been a few months since I was at Vit Goel, but we haven't ordered BBQ there in years. Once each person gets a soondooboo, and we add a seafood pancake and some octopus, we're all rolling away from the table. I used to order BBQ for the kids before they decided that soondooboo was good.

I agree that Honey Pig has better BBQ than Iron Age. Iron Age has the distinction of being <10 minutes from my house. Honey Pig would take me 30-40 minutes at 2am when nobody is on the road, and an hour+ on a weeknight.

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...I don't remember Vit Goel's BBQ as being anything better than ok, and they don't have BBQ burners at the table. ...

But I think the BBQ at Iron Age was better than what I've had at Vit Goel.

It's been a few months since I was at Vit Goel, but we haven't ordered BBQ there in years. .

With all due respect, this website has more than 10,000 unique visitors. Small businesses can feel impact from thoughts posted here whether or not they're evidenced. That's yelp's MO; not as much dr.com as I've understood it. Maybe a refresh on Vit Goel's BBQ (kalbi especially) is only fair.

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Do you have a picture of this? I can't visualize it. Radish greens, maybe?

Korean radish is sliced horizontally into very thin slices and then marinated. You use them just like lettuce or cabbage leaves.

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With all due respect, this website has more than 10,000 unique visitors. Small businesses can feel impact from thoughts posted here whether or not they're evidenced. That's yelp's MO; not as much dr.com as I've understood it. Maybe a refresh on Vit Goel's BBQ (kalbi especially) is only fair.

With all due respect in return, even if I went to Vit Goel every week, I'd have no obligation to the business or DR to order anything other than what I want to order. Until someone is paying me for my even-handed reviews, my biases, stated as they are, remain my own.

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With all due respect in return, even if I went to Vit Goel every week, I'd have no obligation to the business or DR to order anything other than what I want to order. Until someone is paying me for my even-handed reviews, my biases, stated as they are, remain my own.

No argument here on that. Of course everyone should and does order whatever they want wherever and whenever. My point was about the underlying philosophy that I think (thought) drives this website. Whether negative, positive or other, opinions are usually supported. One of the main reasons why I engage here is that it's not yelp. It's generally not a place where people hurl asserted criticism or hype without some support for why they feel the way they do. It might be brief; scant even. It might be based on second hand or visual only (weaker but still something). I've seen restauranteurs quoted as saying that's why they respect dr.com more than other online destinations. Posters here are more balanced, knowledgeable, fair, etc. That was the point with Vit Goel. Your negative view surprised me a bit in that it came without any support and then detached from any experience with the dish criticized "for years." Not a huge deal as a one off but doesn't usually happen with other more popular spots and chefs. To my way of thinking, small ethnic places should be treated the same as anywhere else. But, yes, clearly to each his or her own whatever the topic or point.

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We have been to Iron Age a couple of time.  We are addicted to the Korean pop music videos they play on the 7 or so giant TV screens in the dining room.  Tragic young love mixed with young Madonna-likemoves and either more tragedy or a fight tot he death.  What fun!  But to digress back to the food...

Our first visit was OK, notable more for the amount and closeness than the quality.  But each back time it seems as if they switch their menus a little and the last time a few weeks ago, they had a "new menu"  again with the A course and B course options but now the more expensive course has a lot more steak options.  The new manu makes Iron Age a contender.  The meats were if anything, up there with the meats at Anangol or Kogiya.  The dipping sauces still {they serve 4} are a weak point.  The banchan are good.  You get steamed egg {really good} bean past stew {not as good as on our first visit but really good} an pancake that we always regret not telling them to skip.  It is a waste of calories and stomach space.

With the new menu, I much prefer them to Honey Pig which I have really felt has gone down hill from when it first opened.  I have not been to HP anywhere but Annandale and not been back since discovering Anangol.  I also would not drive from home {10 miuntes} to Annandale to go to Kogiya or Anangol {45 minutes} and from Dino, we go to one or the others depending on what vibe we want and how tired we are for the longer drive home.

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I recently went to the HP in Germantown, and it is a shadow of the HP in Annandale that I visited a couple of years ago. Iron Age is definitely ahead of them in my book as well. The banchan are pretty good and quickly refilled, but I miss that they don't offer a kimchi.

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With all due respect, this website has more than 10,000 unique visitors. 

63,000 last quarter. :)

I recently went to the HP in Germantown, and it is a shadow of the HP in Annandale that I visited a couple of years ago. Iron Age is definitely ahead of them in my book as well. The banchan are pretty good and quickly refilled, but I miss that they don't offer a kimchi.

In all seriousness, how hard is it to screw up cheap, frozen meats on a gas grill?

Does anyone here miss Chung Dai Kam as much as I do? :( Not a single critic caught on to this place, but people that knew, knew: there was no other contender even close for the area Korean BBQ crown.

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63,000 last quarter. :)

In all seriousness, how hard is it to screw up cheap, frozen meats on a gas grill?

Does anyone here miss Chung Dai Kam as much as I do? :( Not a single critic caught on to this place, but people that knew, knew: there was no other contender even close for the area Korean BBQ crown.

I think that HP is exactly that, cheap frozen meats. They did not start that way.

I think that Anangol, Kogiya and Iron age are using a cheaper product but not as industrial as HP, and they handle it better... perhaps getting it fresh and freezing it for a short while to get it firm enough to slice on a  rotary sliver.  But to me the real test if how the juices coagulate or not on the grill.  Large globs of grey coagulated uice that wont crsip is the sine of temperature abuse of meat.

Iron Age has kimchee if you ask, can be ok to great depending on if you like it crisp {ok} or old{very good} or fizzy {even better}

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I think that HP is exactly that, cheap frozen meats....I think that Anangol, Kogiya and Iron age are using a cheaper product but not as industrial as HP, and they handle it better... perhaps getting it fresh and freezing it for a short while to get it firm enough to slice on a rotary sliver.

Based on my one visits to Kogiya and HP Annandale, my stomach knows Kogiya used much better meats than HP. I got pretty ill from my one HP visit because the meats were sub-standard. Didn't have this issue with Kogiya post-meal. I have this problem with fish joints too--super fresh or tummy goes on violent protest. Sensitive stomachs are no fun, but at least it tells me which places to avoid, such as HP.

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Alright, I feel obligated to post a review here, as it is one of my favorite restaurants in the area, and one which I frequent at least 2 to 3 times a month (I've been here at least 15 times).

Hailing from SoCal, where AYCE KBBQ can be found on every block, I have boiled down KBBQ to one of two options: Quality vs Quantity.

Iron Age falls under the Quantity group.  And for the price, they really can't be beat (though they've increased prices by about $2 / year).

My girlfriend I almost exclusively order Gogi A.

For $20, Gogi A includes:

  • Beef brisket
  • Garlic pork belly
  • Soy sauce marinated pork belly
  • Teriyaki pork

Banchan includes:

  • Kimchi
  • Pickled daikon
  • Potato salad
  • (Various other pickled vegetables)
  • Note: You can ask for whatever you're missing, they're really generous about it.

You also get:

  • Salad (lettuce salad with onion, sesame/ginger/fish/soy sauce, my GF loves this stuff).
  • Steamed egg (Gyeran Jjim)
  • Tofu soup (with bits of beef)
  • Bean sprouts (on grill)
  • Rice (optional, they used to give red bean fried rice, but people complained about how the rice was touching the meat while cooking)
  • Pancake (Pajeon)

Remember, this is ALL YOU CAN EAT, so you can get refills on EVERYTHING, without limit.

Gogi B is $25/person now, and I believe adds bulgogi, kalbi, chicken, and some other stuff (I've only ordered B once, and didn't feel it was worth the money).

When I go, I order roughly 5 to 6 rounds of brisket, with 2-3 rounds of garlic pork belly.  (After doing squats and deadlifts at the gym of course, gotta get my protein up). :ph34r:

I've had KBBQ at many places (I daresay, about 85% of the ones in Annandale and Rockville), and while Honeypig does marinated bulgogi extremely well (secret marinade recipe), it costs $14+ a plate.  If you compare quality, then yeah, Iron Age meat quality is not as good, but you're also paying 1/3 of the cost of a similar meal at another restaurant.

If you truly want quality meats indiscriminate of prices, I would recommend Yechon (Quality), where you can get lobster and all sorts of seafood.  Yechon probably has the best KBBQ in the area, and it's also one of the most expensive restaurants in Annandale.

So don't go to Iron Age if you're expecting gourmet food; go if you want to get stuffed on cheap KBBQ and banchan.

My average bill @ Iron Age: $42-50 (2 people).

My average bill @ Honey Pig/Yechon: $75 (2 people).  Usually go with a larger party, so the bill ends up being something like $200 between 4.

---

Aside:  The only other comparable KBBQ places are Hee Been, Il Mee, and Kogiya.  Of which you'd have to consider the distance from where you live, since AYCE bbq at low prices are all more or less the same.  Il Mee basically dumps their meat in the buffet "troughs" at 9PM and you can get AYCE (of many different kind of meats, and whatever dishes they have left over) for around $14.

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The new B course is much better and move the experience into the quality side.  I personally don't see the A course as any lower quality then Yechon.  And the banchan are in a some better, some not as good mode, but Yechon has a much wider selection.  Aside from the egg and the tofu soups, the other stuff at Iron Age are not that great.  Sauces and pancake are amateurish at best.  

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Centreville location Grand Opening tonight!  Similar all-you-can-eat offerings as their Rockville restaurant

From their facebook:

The time has finally arrived...

Iron Age Centreville will be having its Grand Opening tomorrow, December 30th!! Doors open at 5:00pm, see you there!!

6023 Centreville Crest Ln
Centreville, VA 20121
703-543-4103

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Ranged from good to very good.  These days they are using a tougher meat source but with a lot more flavor.  They mechanically tenderize.  So if your teeth are in good condition, its pretty darn tasty.  Very good banchan, ask for excellent kimchee.  The pancake is not good so we skip it.  THe marinades and ban chan are as good as KogiYa.  The drinks, meat itself not at that level, but as good/better than most.  I think it the best KBBQ is MOCO these days.  

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If what you want is mass quantities of Korean BBQ at a good price, it's very good. It won't compare to the better BBQ places in Annandale, but they are among the best in MoCo. Honey Pig (Germantown) has been a huge disappointment.

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