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Restaurants

Bi Bim Bap

Posted by Helen Lee / Reviewed on February 13, 2011 / review policy

Bi Bim Bap TorontoBi Bim Bap is where you go to eat when you've spent too many nights dining at Cowbell or the Black Hoof. Opened in December, it's the new Korean restaurant found on Eglinton West of Bathurst.

Now you might think that Eglinton West is an odd place for a Korean restaurant, as it's far away from the established businesses found in Koreatown, and even further away from the long stretch of Korean restaurants on Yonge Street north of Sheppard.

Branded as a "Korean stone bowl riceteria", Bi Bim Bap is also down the street from old Toronto institutions such as House of Chan and China House, but also counts two bagel shops, a Kosher restaurant, a sushi joint, and a Pizza Pizza among its neighbours.

It was this diversity of the neighbourhood that appealed to owners Sam Lee and wife Janet Yun. As I chat with Sam, I realize that he loves to eat just as much as I do, and is passionate about serving good food to his customers. His philosophy is, "If I don't like it, I won't use it."

While developing their menu, Sam and Janet consulted traditional Korean recipes for authenticity, and then thought of how to interpret them in a Canadian way. Then they figured out how to keep everything heathy. It's a tricky triple-threat combo, but I really believe that they've nailed down all three.

Bi Bim Bap TorontoSweet Potato with Sweet Go Chu Jang Sauce ($2.99) is a stacked tower of lightly fried Korean sweet potato. The Go Chu Jang is made from cooked apples, chili flakes, and rice flour; it tastes like what would happen if an apple and some BBQ sauce got together and had a party with the hottest people. The outside edges of the wedges are crispy, the insides are lightly fluffy, and I demolish the tower quickly.

Bi Bim Bap TorontoCrunchy Wasabi Salad ($3.99) is for wasabi lovers. Made from julienned cucumber, carrot, red onion, sweet peppers, green onion, apple, egg, and imitation crab (which can be subbed out), it's dressed with the kind of wasabi vinaigrette that shoots fire up my nose with every bite. No wimpy, artificially green, pasty stuff here.

Bi Bim Bap currently has five versions of its namesake dish on the menu. Sam specifically instructs his kitchen staff not to have any rice showing, so that there is a balanced rice-to-topping ratio.

All of the bibimbap come with a base topping of Korean radish, spinach, bean sprout, carrot, cucumber, burdock, sweet potato stem, striped zucchini, shitake mushroom, dried seaweed, and sesame seeds. After your mind is blown, you get to choose the protein.

Really, I'm just happy to be able to request brown rice. The Traditional ($8.99) comes sizzling with strips of sirloin and a fried egg. After breaking the runny yolk with my chopsticks, I drizzle in some Original Go Chu Jang and go stir-crazy.

I eat the colourful mix with the supplied spoon, and it's another lovely party of flavours; where the slightly crispy rice is coated with egg yolk and sauce, the vegetables provide various textures, and the strips of sirloin are cooked just enough to still be beefy.

Bi Bim Bap TorontoThe Kalbi ($14.99) is a meat lover's dream. The succulent pieces of marinated short ribs are so tender, and there's no gristle to be found. I try it with the Suicide Go Chu Jang, and the chili fire tickles the back of my throat before bursting into flames.

Bi Bim Bap TorontoThe special Seed Bibimbap ($10.99) is a vegan's dream. Black and white sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and poppy seeds turn into confetti when mixed into the rice. Add crunchy vegetables, chewy mushrooms, and earthy Sesame Bean Go Chu Jang, and I honestly don't miss the meat.

Bi Bim Bap TorontoHomemade kimchi (made without shellfish!) and miso soup are simple but perfectly made sides. The cold cinnamon-ginger drink helps me digest, and is a lightly sweet ending to all the awesome Korean food.

Bi Bim Bap TorontoBi Bim Bap is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11 am to 10 pm, and Sunday 11 am to 8 pm. Closed Mondays and holidays.

Discussion

11 Comments

MarionCobretti / February 14, 2011 at 10:42 am
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Please explain in further detail why this particular restaurant serves as an antidote to Cowbell or the Black Hoof sickness.
lolcat replying to a comment from MarionCobretti / February 14, 2011 at 11:22 am
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iz cheepr
Spyder replying to a comment from MarionCobretti / February 14, 2011 at 11:24 am
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Great pics! Looks yummy!
M-PC / February 14, 2011 at 11:30 am
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do they do any with cheese?
Zach / February 15, 2011 at 06:14 pm
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Do they have ddeok boki or ra boki?
Sam replying to a comment from Zach / February 15, 2011 at 07:18 pm
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Holy Psychic. We have a pallela pan full of ddeok boki today. We are giving it out to todays customers for their opinion. The response is great so we might put it on our appetizer menu. No cheese bibimbap-yet.
Cowbell and Black Hoof are two great restaurants. I think it was a reference to two restaurants that was frequented ofted. I feel honored to be mentioned in the same sentence.
cc / February 16, 2011 at 11:51 am
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Went there last night. Great experience. Food was fresh and delicious. The owner was extremely friendly, and really knows how to run a restaurant. He taught us all about the different Kimchis and brought lots of different things to our table to try. Nice restaurant, and a nice addition to the Upper Village.
mmmmfood / February 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm
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Went for din last night with a group of 4. We started with the Wasabi salad and it was really tasty... cool and crisp veggies dressed with just the right amount of pungent wasabi vinaigrette. The owner brought us over a complementary dish of their new menu item, Jap Chae noodles lightly dressed with sesame oil. A touch dry but super tasty. As for the kim chi, the owner let us know that they had just opened up a batch of kim chi that had been fermenting for two months. They had made it traditional style, whole heads of cabbage with seasoning pushed down between the leaves. As for our bi bim baps, they were excellent. The rice was cooked perfectly... I've had way too many bi bim baps with soggy rice in my day. And they offered 6 or 7 in house made sauces for the bi bim baps. I may have gone a little over board with the extra spicy version but it was really good nonetheless. Overall, we all really enjoyed our food and experience. The owner, as others have mentioned, is really nice, informative in a great way and real genuine salt of the earth kind of guy. We'll definitely be going back even though Bathurst and Eglinton is a bit of a trek for us.
StoneBowl / March 23, 2011 at 11:39 pm
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If you are going to vote in the Best Korean survey please note that my store name is spelled wrong. Bi Bim Map should be Bi Bim Bap (Eglinton West)
proscar online / July 7, 2011 at 12:22 pm
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she hardly noticed; she was distracted. her eyes scanned every inch of el presidente.
Mike replying to a comment from MarionCobretti / February 16, 2012 at 08:56 am
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I'm assuming it's because Korean food is light with a lot of veggies while Cowbell and Blackhoof serve meat on meat with meat watching.

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