Bibimbap is a popular Korean dish. Its name translates to 'mixed rice' and it usually consists of warm white rice topped with vegetables, meat or seafood, chilli paste and sometimes a raw or fried egg too. The ingredients are stirred together before eating.
Dolsot bibimbap is bibimbap served in a hot stone pot. The stone is so hot that it cooks the raw egg, and any other raw ingredients, and can also create a crunchy layer of baked rice around the edges.
I'd never had either, but when my friend and I were looking for a central, budget-conscious, winter-warmer place to meet up for dinner, her suggestion of Bibimbap Soho made me screech with delight – the perfect fit and somewhere I'd been meaning to visit for ages!
Our visit was almost scuppered – when I arrived 20 minutes early, the restaurant was closed. The lights were on and I could see staff inside, so I hovered, shivering with cold and hopeful they'd notice me. Eventually, they came out to let me know that a "kitchen failure" meant they were closed. Someone was working on fixing it right now, but they weren't sure how long it might take and it could be hours! My friend Carla arrived and we retired to a nearby pub to give us time to search the web and ask twitter friends for alternatives in the immediate vicinity. A drink and chat later, and decided on a strategy, we left the pub only to find Bibimbap, on our route, now open again! Hoorah!
Still shivering with cold, I started with a bowl of warming miso soup (£1) to drink.
To begin our meal, we shared a kimchi pancake (£4.45). Kimchi is another Korean staple – a fiery pickle of cabbage and other vegetables. Here, it was mixed into a light pancake batter and served with a garlic and sesame soy dipping sauce. It was simple but addictive and disappeared quickly.
Bibimbaps range from a basic dolsot bibimbap (£6.45) featuring cucumber, daikon, bean sprouts, spinach, carrots, mooli and fried egg, and a kimchi bibimbap for the same price, to spicy pork and chilli chicken versions (both £6.95), to Nutritious bibimbap (£7.95) which includes ginseng, ginko, dates, chesnut and vegetables served on brown rice to marinated mixed seafood bibimbap (£8.95).
Carla and I both chose the most expensive option on the menu – the raw and marinated fillet beef (£9.45) and vegetables, also adding a raw egg for an extra £1. You can ask for brown rice to be substituted for white in any of the bibimbap dishes, by the way, as Carla did for hers.
The dishes arrived sizzling with heat and we quickly squirted in some sweet miso sauce and gochujang (chilli paste) from squeezy bottles on the table before starting to mix the contents with our chopsticks and long-handled spoons.
When the staff warn you about how hot the stone bowls are, they aren't kidding – the bowls continued to sizzle loudly for several minutes and the food was still well and truly piping hot well over 10 minutes later. I challenge you not to burn your mouth a little as you impatiently shovel in all those tasty flavours!
Our bill came to £26.35 plus service. Fantastic value for a delicious and filling meal in central London.