The Dish: Korean Fare in a Jiffy

by Catherine Trifiletti

New fast-casual spot Seoulspice in NoMa serves up Korean comfort food with a modern flare.

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By Catherine Trifiletti

The Seoul Train rice bowl (photo by Catherine Trifiletti)

The Seoul Train rice bowl (photo by Catherine Trifiletti)

Over the last year, while Eric Shin wasn’t working his day job as the principal percussionist for the National Symphony Orchestra, he was developing the idea for a casual restaurant that would pay tribute to his Korean heritage. Since moving to Washington in 2012, Shin noticed a lack of Korean dining options around town and craved somewhere accessible—a place he could go with friends without having to translate the menu.

With access in mind, Shin hopped on the fast-casual train that has gained momentum among Washington’s young-professional demographic and came up with the Seoulspice concept. He drew inspiration from his parents who owned a Korean restaurant in Atlanta, but made sure to add his own modern twist to classic recipes. Shin cites the Cilantro-Lime Ranch sauce as being a bit “horrifying” to his mom and grandmother, though he had no problem defending the nontraditional menu-add because he insists “ranch is good on everything.” Shin’s commitment to condiments goes well beyond ranch, as evident in his other gourmet homemade creations – Creamy Sriracha, Ginger-Carrot and Korean Hot Sauce.

The menu operates similar to that of Chipotle, first pick a style: rice bowl, Korrito aka Korean burrito, salad or street tacos, next choose a protein: bulgogi, spicy pork, chicken or tofu, then add sauces, veggies and toppings: think crispy garlic, cilantro, avocado and soy-marinated soft-boiled egg. If the options are overwhelming, Shin recommends trying a signature combination where the work is done for you (the “Seoul Train” is not to be missed). Regardless of your choice, the restaurant is proud to advertise that all ingredients are locally sourced, organic and gluten-free.

In terms of location, Shin relied on his retail broker to find the perfect space. The NoMa storefront, which was previously being built out by now-defunct Kraze Burger, fit the bill due to its close proximity to the metro and several large office buildings including the Department of Justice.

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Based on its central location, Shin hopes Seoulspice will be a force in the lunch business.

As long as you don’t follow Shin’s lead and drench your meal in ranch, Seoulspice can be a nutritious and delicious symphony of Korean flavors. It is no surprise after all, Shin knows how to play to the senses.

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