Of all the takeaways I expected from Marvel’s Black Panther, a hankering to visit South Korea – location of one of the film’s high-stakes chase scenes, with Busan’s Gwangan Bridge as a spectacular backdrop – wasn’t one of them.
Which is to say: the Winter Olympics may be over, but Korea remains firmly on the mind of this Glaswegian in particular. And Bibimbap, the city’s new Korean restaurant, is the perfect place to start.
Named after the hearty rice bowl that is Korea’s ultimate comfort food (a dish I have a little experience of!), Bibimbap promises a range of tasty dishes prepared as authentically as possible by Bong, the restaurant’s Korean chef. As well as the titular dish the menu offers some delicious-sounding stir fries, rice rolls and traditional small plates – plus their real deal Korean fried (“yum yum”) chicken.
As for drinks? With its neon-heavy interior, inspired by Seoul nightlife culture, Bibimbap promises to transform after hours to a social bar – with a sake and cocktail selection to match. There are also a couple of Korean soft drinks on the menu, if you’re staying away from the hard stuff – but Bibimbap do the hard stuff in some style, so I don’t advise taking the car to this one.
With so many tasty options on the menu, narrowing down our choices was hard – which explains why, in the end, we kind of ordered one of everything. Some Man Do pork dumplings, served with a side of kimchi (Korean spiced cabbage); the Jeyuk Bokkeum stir-fried spicy pork and a mound of fluffy, egg-fried rice; enough fried chicken to feed a small family with some yum yum sauce for dipping. And, of course, the reason we were here in the first place: the bibimbap bowl, topped with an oozing fried egg.
This, of course, is when my food prejudices come to the fore: when I made bibimbap at home, I fried that egg to a crisp (all the better to cut out the yolk to give to Stringer). Eggs may be nature’s superfood, but they are not one of mine. So it fell to Stringer to enjoy the dish as intended, and enjoy it he did.
Bibimbap’s take on its namesake dish incorporates grilled beef, fresh vegetables and rice, and is served in a traditional “dolsot” stone bowl coated with a thin layer of sesame oil. The oil makes the rice extra crispy and allows the ingredients to continue to cook as you eat – with the result that your food remains piping hot throughout.
I opted for the jeyuk bokkeum spicy pork stir fry, which was fresh, sweet and tasty, with a decent amount of heat. The fresh stir fries are more expensive that the bowls, and if you’re wanting a side of rice too you have to pay for that separately – but I wasn’t complaining once I saw the size of the portion. Assuming that you too will be unable to resist some of the small plates or a side of fried chicken, the stir fry would easily serve two as a main.
I ate all my fried rice though. Because I really, really like egg fried rice.
I also really, really like fried chicken. Bibimbap offers three sizes, and on the advice/urging of the restaurant’s friendly staff we went for the middle option. I can only assume that the large size is the reason a certain high street fast food restaurant has been having a bit of trouble sourcing chicken recently. And yet, the legs and wings were so tasty – whether with or without the sticky-sweet yum yum sauce – that we ate pretty much all of it, despite the protestations of our bellies.
Full marks also go to the man do dumplings: both in and of themselves, and for Stringer’s idea to order them. Perfectly crispy outsides and a soft, spicy filling, and served in a large enough portion that your wife can nick two without ruining your enjoyment.
You can keep the kimchi, though.
As you can probably tell, I’m a wee bit taken with Bibimbap. I loved the busy, quirky interior – a sense of which you can hopefully get from the photos – I loved the friendly, knowledgeable staff, and I absolutely adored the food. We left with Stringer excitedly chattering about how he was going to recommend the place to some visiting pals, which is pretty much the highest compliment you can give: you should hear some of the things the Americans we know say about Glasgow’s version of a burrito, for example.
That’s not to say that Bibimbap isn’t without its problems: they could only take cash payments when we visited (last week), for example; and it’s a really small (and busy!) space, which might put you off taking your time over a sit-down meal. Though it’s worth pointing out that we never once felt under any pressure to hurry up and vacate the table, despite no shortage of paying customers during our stay.
The one big downside to Bibimbap though? I no longer work right next to its West Nile Street location: the former inhabitant of that space played host to several team lunches over the years. Still, who wouldn’t benefit from a 10 minute walk back to work after a bucketload of fried chicken?
Definitely planning my next visit to this one.
We enjoyed a free meal for review purposes, but all views are my own and unbiased.