by Chevalier Wesley Jefferies
Amid a rainy summer evening, the Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C. was treated to an exploration of Chef Justin Ahn’s creative take on Korean cuisine in a six-course dinner at Incheon, his restaurant in Annandale, Virginia. Rooted in the traditional flavors of Korean cuisine, Chef Ahn’s culinary style elegantly blends several influences including those of California, Italy, and Southeast Asia. The resulting dishes, shaped by his lived experiences and personal touches, are what Ahn likes to call “me on a plate.”
Members and guests of the bailliage gathered in Incheon’s intimate dining room where they started their evening with lively conversation and a glass of Joseph Perrier Champagne Cuvée Royále France, NV. Dinner began with a light lamb dish served with quail egg, polenta, and kimchi topped with chojang sauce – a brilliant introduction to Chef Ahn’s unique medley of flavors. The next dish was a savory egg custard topped with sesame oil and a Thai fish sauce known as prik nam pla. A 2019 Vinyes Singulars Minipuca Pet Nat, a sparkling Catalonian wine with subtle minerality and notes of pear and green apple gently balanced the savory egg custard.
The custard was followed by brisket and soy cured shrimp served on a soft and plump bed of glistening white rice. Paired with a 2020 Francisco Cirelli Cerasuolo DOC Montepulciano, the wine’s silky and fruity notes of provided the perfect riposte to this saucy tango of flavors.
As the dinner reached a crescendo, diners were served a grand dish of pork belly, kimchi, and a walnut ssamjang sauce. The walnuts were a notably special touch as they danced and embraced the gentle spices in the ssamjang in a lively and intimate waltz for the discerning palate. Accompanying this culinary masterpiece was a 2020 Celler des Foes Fabulero, a distinctive Valencian rosé with a delightfully surprising mix of both berry and earthy tones.
Dinner continued with fried cod served with pickled radish and Chinese cabbage expertly paired with a 2020 Domaine Philippe Tessier Cheverny Blanc from the Loire Valley, another surprising rosé with notes of dark fruit and rose petals. Finally, in a spectacular coda to an epic symphony of culinary delights, Chef Ahn presented members with dish of fluffy scallops, juicy mushrooms, and a velvety risotto that was fabulously complemented by the limestone and dark cherry notes of a 2020 Iuli Umberto Rosso, a 100% Barbera wine from Piedmont.
At the evening’s end, Bailli Judy Mazza introduced Chef Justin Ahn to the attendees where he explained how the unique combinations of his life’s experiences led him to create his distinctive and elegant fusion take on Korean cuisine that diners had just enjoyed. Judy presented Chef Ahn with a Chaine plate to mark the occasion as attendees thanked him and his staff with robust applause.