Chinese food is everywhere. Indian food is everywhere and who would have thought people would be eating seaweed and raw fish in every major city in America? So Korean food may be next. I was in on a so-called “soft opening” last week of a new Bibigo location in Beverly Hills. I had not been to the Westwood one near UCLA, but I have been to many a grocery store in Koreatown for cheap, super fresh produce and seafood. The Koreatown grocery stores have inside dining, usually noodle bowls and dim sum which are hand made on the spot.
My expectations were pretty high based on the terrific random food I had had in a low key grocery store. Bibi, I gather, is short for “bibimbop” which means rice and veggies – an absolute staple, the meat and potatoes of Korea. Bean sprouts, chopped leeks, mushrooms, scallions and raw mustard greens are typical.
The location is prime, just below Wilshire on Beverly Drive, in “lunch alley”. Beverly Hills teems with workers looking for a new place to eat, so they should get takers. Just how many times can a person eat at CPK? The staff was eager to explain what the food concept was, but not so up on what was in the food. My fantastic shrimp pancake was laced with peppers which I was told were leeks. Then the server checked with the kitchen., Yep. Serrano peppers. There were indeed leeks, plus shrimp and peppers, in a rice flour pancake, crisped brown and with a super hot pepper chili oil and lemony dipping sauce. At least I think it was lemon. The server swore it was not.
I was invited to try more and went for the spinach salad with avocado, dried fig and the equivalent of Korean croutons: basically rice krispy treats without sugar. Nutty and good. The salad dressing (no choice) was pureed sesame seeds, wine, a touch of vinegar and more peppers. This could have been put on an old shoe and it would have tasted good. The mix of salad ingredients was a touch off but tasty.
I had no room whatsoever but moved on to Bulgogi – marinated beef slow smoked over red oak, then served on a hot stone with hot chilis and mushrooms. As with a lettuce wrap, you eat it by putting it in rolled-up mustard and dandelion greens. I love bitter greens, beef and chilis. Sold.
Like all Asian restaurants, dessert is basically defined as the absence of chilis. I tasted a tofu “pana cotta” which was barely sweet and a touch grainy, with a super simple fruit garnish. So dessert is not why you go here.
The chain has several locations in Korea and two in Los Angeles. City of Beverly Hills free parking is nearby and the Westwood location offers 2 hours free with validation. They also have a frequent dining club with bonuses, kinda like earning a free cup of coffee at Coffee Bean. And to help your dining experience? Be a chilihead like me.