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Coming to Merrifield, new restaurant unites ramen and Korean BBQ

The new restaurant Rateba Grill and Ramen is coming to the Pan Am Shopping Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Historically, Korea and Japan have had an uneasy relationship, to put it mildly, but that doesn’t mean their food can’t coexist.

Kibum Kim isn’t trying to heal century-old wounds with his upcoming restaurant Rateba Grill & Ramen at the Pan Am Shopping Center in Merrifield. He’s simply looking to give people what they want.

“Everybody loves ramen, and everybody loves Korean barbecue, so how about we make it as one place, combine it?” Kim told FFXnow.

Taking the place of Lo’s Chinese Restaurant, which closed late last year, Rateba will be Kim’s third venture in Fairfax County. He already owns and operates Matsui Sushi & Ramen and Puzukan, which are both located in Newington’s Landsdowne Centre.

Kim envisions the new restaurant as a fusion of those concepts, with ramen noodle soups and Korean-style grilled meat, but much of the menu will be new. He says to expect a lot of bao — steamed buns typically filled with pork.

Kim says his team has long been interested in opening a restaurant in the Vienna or Falls Church area, and he regularly visits the Pan Am Shopping Center for Micro Center and other stores.

“We saw all these people in this area, a lot of cars, a lot of people come and go, and there’s…a lot of people in the residential area, so we thought it was a good opportunity here,” he said.

Rateba will have 60 to 70 seats in a 2,000-square-foot space, joining a strip that remains a hot spot for Asian eateries, with the long-standing Vietnamese restaurant Pho Thang Long, Bangkok Street Thai, and California Shabu Shabu.

Property owner Federal Realty plans to redevelop the shopping center with multifamily housing, but the main, Safeway-anchored building is expected to remain intact, and the company says it intends to retain some tenants.

Kim is targeting a late May or early June opening for Rateba, but the supply-chain issues still affecting the food service industry nationally make it difficult to predict when the restaurant will be ready. For instance, a refrigerator that would typically get delivered in two or three weeks now takes four months to arrive.

Still, Kim is confident that the team will pull off the launch, whenever it happens, and looks forward to “making good food and good memories.”

“We’re trying to make really good food here,” Kim said. “I hope people like it and come to the restaurant a lot.”

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