It was lunch for one when I got a mummy (read: sanity) break from my boys. With the cold, rainy weather I needed something warm and hearty. I felt like Ramen but on a Monday not much is open. So I headed straight back to one of my old favourites for a Dolsot Bibimbap.
Korean Charcoal BBQ is one of those lovely reliable places that you know will always be open and serve you the same great quality food you had on your last visit. I’ve been there a number of times, it looks like a family run business, it’s usually pretty quiet and the service is warm and friendly. I also knew as a table for one I wouldn’t feel weird going there and sitting on my lonesome (not that there’s anything wrong with that of course, I just didn’t want to sit somewhere crazy busy either. I needed peace and quiet.).
So I‘m sure you’re probably wondering what the hell a Dolsot Bibimbap ($13.9) is. It’s basically a bowl made of stone that is heated up in the oven until very hot (don’t touch.. and I mean it.. I guarantee most people will try and touch when the waiter/ress says not to), filled with rice, a selection of Korean sprouts and a raw egg yolk. Some of you may not be able to keep reading at ‘raw egg’, but stay with me.
The hot bowl is delivered to your table with the rice sizzling away on the bottom of the bowl. The longer you leave it, the crispier the rice gets. However, I urge you to stir the sprouts and egg yolk through to combine the flavours while the egg also cooks (see, I told you!). You will still end up with some crunchy rice mixed with tasty Korean tidbits and spices in a bowl of different textures and flavours. You will also receive a squeeze bottle of Korean chilli sauce to add if spicy takes your fancy.
As a lover of condiments, better still is the obligatory selection of side dishes served with Korean food. Always including Kim Chi – pickled chilli cabbage. Salty, tangy, crunchy and spicy, which actually sounds like an acquired taste but is yummy. I like to mix my kim chi in with the bibimbap while it’s still sizzling.
The day I visited the other side dishes included some more sweeter pickled cabbage, steamed broccoli with Korean chilli sauce and some noodles / pasta (I think Konjac noodles?) with creamy mayo. All were fresh, made in house and delish.
The jury’s out for me on the clear chicken broth served with lunch though. I guess like a bone broth for the paleo amongst you? It’s really the simple flavour amongst all the other flavours in this dish which is nice, just always seems a bit weird (I’m sure any Korean food experts reading this are going tsk-tsk as there is some reason for this – if so please enlighten me).
Quick word of warning re: Bibimbap. Be sure to order the one that comes in the hot stone pot unless you know you will like a cold mix of sprouts with rice and raw egg. I’ve made that error once and will not do it again (and the Korean Charcoal BBQ has a very tempting lunch special with a Bibimbap buffet… but no hot stone bowl!).
I also had some Ginseng tea with my lunch, which is a sweet slightly earthy tasting tea. I know Ginseng has some health benefits, in fact I think there is a long list of them. I just like drinking tea with Asian food and feel it helps with digestion.
Korean Charcoal BBQ looks like it has been around for a while, so please don’t expect anything new and fancy pants. Sometimes I think the best food experiences you have will be in the tiny local place or the food stall with the line up. I’d prefer to eat wonderful food with good service, amazing ambience is a plus but not a deal breaker.
Long story short, in this wintry weather, if you’d like the ultimate warming food for a reasonable price with some yummy flavours and textures I recommend you give Dolsot Bibimbap at Korean Charcoal BBQ a go.