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Perpetually #huangry. Occasionally #huangover.

#Huangry: Rice is Nice

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“Under promise, over deliver.” I live by this saying. You’re always going to be a hero when you blow away expectations. (Never mind the fact you’re usually the one setting those expectations at an all-time low.) That’s more or less the reason why I love simple foods and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. They have the greatest potential for surprising and delighting.

That’s especially true when you subconsciously cap their potential based on factors like their location—say, in a strip mall that shares parking with a gas station. Which is exactly the case with Korean BBQ, a restaurant so simply named that you have to wonder if it’s an authentic Korean joint, or merely a meta-hipster interpretation of Korean barbecue. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty authentic, and there’s nary a hipster in sight.

I order the dolsot bibimbap, because, as I alluded to earlier, I’m a sucker for simple food, and it doesn’t get much simpler. Bibimbap is a staple Korean dish—literally translated, it means “mixed rice.” There’s a bowl of rice topped with vegetables and meat, arranged in perfectly distinct, colorful sections. In short, it’s just starch, vegetables, and protein. My bowl has julienned carrots, pickled daikon, chopped romaine, soybean sprouts, bulgogi (slices of grilled marinated beef), and, on top, a fried egg over easy.

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And then there’s the dolsot part of the equation. Literally translated, it means “stone pot”—and while I don’t get a pot per se, everything is being served a sizzling hot stone bowl. (Seriously—I can hear the rice crackling well before the bowl arrives.) While the bibimbap part instructs me to mix everything together, the dolsot part demands that I wait.

Magic is the reward for such patience. That hot stone bowl turns some of the rice into a crispy, crunchy layer. (While I’m waiting, I break the yolk of the fried egg and let it run out because it’s better than doing nothing.) When I do mix everything together (I give the bowl about five minutes to work its magic), every spoonful delivers a kaleidoscope of flavor and texture.

Rice, coated in yolk, becomes silky smooth, though each grain remains distinct rather than gummy. On top of that, there’s crunch from the crisped rice, carrots, daikon, and sprouts—enough to lighten the rice’s creaminess. Savory bulgogi adds substance and counters the sweetness and punch of the vegetables. I don’t really care for the romaine because I think lettuce sucks, but other than that, every bite is perfect, and I am feeling some kind of way.

It doesn’t matter that there’s someone pumping gas right outside, or that this dish isn’t high concept and unique. Sometimes, simple food is just good food, regardless of expectations. 


(-) CONS

  • Romaine? Really?
  • Restaurant is located on Woodruff Road, so budget time appropriately
  • The cheesy rhyme I used for this headline

(+) PROS

  • Sizzling stone bowl sounds like firecrackers, and firecrackers are fun
  • Great blend of textures and flavors—silky, crunchy, funky, sweet, savory
  • Massively satisfying portions

Tasting Notes

Small selection of banchan.

Small selection of banchan.

Bibimbap with gochujang added.

Bibimbap with gochujang added.

  • Banchan lineup: napa kimchi, pickled cucumbers, japchae, chilled/pickled broccoli, and a potato salad 
  • Taken collectively, the banchan selection was slightly disappointing. I was hoping to see some more textural variety, though the potato salad (made with a sweet mayo) had a really buttery consistency — really enjoyed that.
  • I ended up adding a good dose of gochujang (Korean chili paste). The house variety is more sweet than spicy, initially—texturally really similar to Sriracha, but sweeter and less garlicky. The heat tends to build as you consume more of it, so by the time I was done with my bibimbap, I had more than a few beads of sweat coming off my face. Really enjoyed it, as it adds some punch (and more color) to the dish.

Korean BBQ
1170 Woodruff Rd, Greenville, SC
(864) 286-0505
Dolsot bibimbap: $12.95


Originally published in the Greenville Journal on December 11, 2015.

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