Vilkommen, Arirang

Vilkommen, Arirang

As a general rule, Restaurantarama doesn’t visit restaurants on opening day. We’d rather not risk being forever biased against a place because the servers don’t yet have the menu memorized upside down and backwards. It takes time for restaurants to become well-oiled machines, and we like to hold out for full lubrication. Last week, however, we broke our own rule and waltzed into Arirang Restaurant about 30 minutes after the Korean and Japanese outfit threw open its doors. The reason is, General Manager Ho Lee had told us that, initially, no renovations would be made to the former Ludwig’s Schnitzelhouse space. “We’re concentrating on just getting open,” he’d said.

General Manager Ho Lee and the rest of the folks at Arirang Restaurant are so eager to get their delicious Korean food to the folks in Charlottesville that, for now, the old Ludwig’s Schnitzelhouse decor is still there.

Now, this is something we had to see. Kimchee in the shadow of the old cuckoo clocks? That’s priceless. What if we waited too long to visit and the German beer hall aesthetic already was replaced by dragon motifs and a new pagoda roof? We’d probably have missed our only chance at a Korean-German fusion experience in these parts.

The funny thing is, save for the lingering Bavarian floral design on the exterior of the building, if we hadn’t known of Arirang’s Deutsch past, we would have noticed nothing out of place. Well, almost nothing. We did spot one cuckoo clock. But Ludwig’s wood paneling and rustic wood tables and chairs actually do work really well with the cuisine. It reminded us of the dark wooded neighborhood restaurants we’ve visited in Kyoto. Also, there’s cool, graffiti-esque Korean writing on one of the dining room walls, which confirms you’ll be eating potstickers, and not maultaschen.

And speaking of dumplings—they were huge! Too huge to be the Sam’s Club version we’re pretty certain some other local dumpling peddlers use. Our server confirmed that our seven-piece steamed pork dumpling appetizer was, in fact, made completely fresh and from scratch. “The chef doesn’t like anything frozen,” she told us. 

Our piping hot bowl of udon also hit the spot, as did our dining companion’s bulgogi lunch box.

Restaurantarama will be back soon to sample other Korean dishes such as bibimbob and galbi, as well as the Japanese lineup of katsu and yakisoba. And we really hope the cuckoo clock is still there.

Tax man cometh
By now you may have heard that Outback Lodge owner Terry Martin has had some tax troubles. He was in court two weeks ago to settle failure to remit meals tax—a 4 percent levy on the purchase of prepared foods, which is collected by restaurateurs and remitted to the city. Martin is all settled up now, but Tom Fussell, owner of now-defunct Bohéme, also was issued a meals tax summons this month. Could the city be undergoing a concerted crackdown?  With over $7 million in revenue budgeted for meals tax receipts this year, we wouldn’t be surprised. But no, says Commissioner of Revenue Lee Richards. “This is not a big deal,” he says. The tax is owed monthly, and when payments are late, Richards sends reminder letters to the restaurateurs. When those are ignored, a summons is issued. The city isn’t necessarily getting more aggressive. However, Richards expects that with the economic downtown, he might get busier with those nasty-grams. “We’re not trying to put people out of business. We recognize they have to make choices when times are tough, we just have to make sure they’re not doing it with taxpayers’ money.”

Meat’s on
Lastly, the new burger joint in the old Orbit Billiards space on the corner is finally open. But it’s not called the Burger Joint, as we previously reported likely would be the name. It’s called Boylan Heights, which co-owner John Adamson tells us comes from the title of a late ’80s album by Raleigh-based band, the Connells. We like the name change—it’s atypical for a burgers and fries place kind of place, which makes sense because these aren’t typical burgers. All of Boylan Height’s beef burgers are made from organic Virginia beef from our very own Organic Butcher. Notable among its other local, organic and/or from-scratch fare is the veggie burger, which is not that Sysco hockey puck patty, but rather is made on premises.

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