Last Updated: 6/21/2020
Current Status: The warren of rooms are closed off, but starting Wednesday June 24, the patio opens for reservations. Per their notice: Reservations will be available online via Resy starting at 5PM June 21, with three time slots for a four-course tasting menu: 5-6:45PM, 7-8:45PM and 9-11PM. Some of the best take-out and delivery continues to be available from this Korean spot as well, including the fried chicken and the dumplings pictured above.
Before Times Review:
Last Visited: October 2019
Anju occupies a warm, remodeled space on 18th Street. It serves Korean dishes with some modern touches. It is the latest effort from the team that brought us the well-regarded, fast-casual spot Chiko. That team includes Danny Lee of Mandu (the original Mandu occupied this spot until a fire hit and they decided to reboot as something new) and Scott Drewno (opening chef at The Source). To run the kitchen here, they brought Angel Barreto over from Chiko.
The food is a mix of classics – like the pork and Kimchi stuffed Mandu dumplings that manage to be just light enough to satisfy without a thud – and updated classics – Kimchi Bokum Bap (Wok-fried rice, shrimp, scallops, squid, buttered Kimchi). Panchan, the small sampling of dishes that commence a meal, can be ordered in groups of three. I’m not sure what the stuffed cucumbers were stuffed with, but they were a refreshing way to start. The flavors are more offbeat than spicy, though the Dak Jjim of chili-braised chicken can sneak up on you. The dessert of fascination is a waffle shaped like a fish that goes by the name Bungeoppang. The waffle is more pancake-y than crisp. With chocolate ganache and peanut butter mousse, it is substantial enough for two.
The name Anju comes from the name of food served at drinking spots in Korea. Consistent with the name, variations of distilled and fermented beverages, either straight up or mixed into cocktails, round out a solid drink list. There are both imported and homemade Soju options. There are also a handful of beers, red and white wines. The space is two stories, with a bar on one side of the ground floor and stools looking in on the kitchen on the other. The dining room is upstairs and there is seating outside, weather permitting.
It is worth making a trip out of the way. For the time being it is a little too busy to be a great neighborhood spot, but you can walk in and get a seat on off nights. It is a great addition to D.C. and to Dupont.
Other Guidance: It is a local spot, casual in setting and dress. GF can do well, vegetarians ok. Be sure to ask considering the layers of flavors.
Washingtonian: #1 in 2020, fulfilling the prediction from Ann Limpert who called it “a boundary-pushing, kaleidoscopic tour through Korean cuisine” and a strong contender for restaurant of the year in an earlier review. Preview
DonRockwell.com (still under the Mandu thread for now)