Recently a new Korean restaurant opened near the mouth of Sukhumvit Soi 24 immediately across from the Emporium. It is called The Bibimbab and its menu focuses on the classic Korean one-pot meal which features a ridiculously hot stone bowl filled with rice, vegetables, meat, and chili paste, which you then mix together before eating. Tawn and I visited for dinner two weeks ago.
There are those cuisines with which I am extremely familiar and there are other cuisines about which I don’t know nearly as much as I’d like to. Korean is one of the latter. I always enjoy eating Korean food but I often feel a bit lost, uncertain of what I’m doing, how I should order, and whether the food I’m eating is very good or just passable by Korean standards. Bear that in mind as I talk about the restaurant, please.
The Bibimbab is an attractive place to passers-by. The restaurant is airy and bright. The logo is colorful and modern. It is the type of place that is designed to appeal to people like me: those who like Korean food but don’t know much about it. That fact alone should probably make me nervous, right?
We visited on a weeknight a few weeks after they opened. The tables were full and new customers were arriving and filling seats just as quickly as they were vacated. The interior looks a bit like a fast-food restaurant although it provides table service. The menu focuses on bibimbab, fried rice, and soups. They do not offer any of the “grill it yourself” dishes that are popular at many Korean restaurants.
The restaurant’s branding and social media marketing is very up-to-date. They clearly want you to connect with your favorite bibimbab restaurant via your smart phone, tablet, computer, etc.
Their website actually offers useful information for the novice Korean food eater including helpful cartoons illustrating how to eat different dishes as well as general Korean food eating etiquette tips. Above is one an example of one of those helpful cartoons.
Your meal begins with complimentary banchan. These are the side dishes (often erroneously referred to as kimchi, I learned – which refers only to the fermented vegetables) that accompany rice in Korean meals. Just by writing this entry, my knowledge about Korean food has expanded! The restaurant refills these throughout your meal. While the staff was busy, they were helpful and friendly.
An overview of our meal. We ordered two dishes and shared them. Along with the side of rice and broth that came with one dish, we had a very hearty meal for two people, coming in at about 500 baht or under US$17.
Our first dish was the jeyook bibimbab, rice and vegetables with spicy stir-fried pork. This was tasty. One of the nice things about bibimbab is the crispy crust of rice that forms at the bottom of the bowl. When it is time to eat it, there’s a nice crunchiness to it, a textural contrast to the rest of the dish.
We also ordered dakbokkeumtang – spicy chicken stew with vegetables. While this wasn’t the spiciest Korean soup I’ve had – I remember a date years ago who took me to a Korean restaurant in Los Angeles, serving me a spicy tofu soup that nearly dissolved my tongue – it was spicy enough. Flavors were good and I couldn’t help but think that this would be perfect food for chilly weather… if only we had some chilly weather in Bangkok!
Overall, I was satisfied with The Bibimbab and imagine we’ll go back from time to time. The prices are reasonable for dinner, the portions generous, and the food is tasty. The question about authenticity is one I can’t answer, but at some level you have to ask whether authenticity is more important than simply enjoying the food.