Ambrosia (aka the best Bi Bim Bap in Midtown?)

I take for granted sometimes that everyone knows about every kind of food I write about.  I spend 17 posts writing about a strange bulgogi cart outside my building, but I feel like some people still don’t actually know what the hell bulgogi is.  The same could probably be said about Bi Bim Bap.  Maybe it’s just Korean stuff.  Despite being a short walk away from Koreatown, it seems as if people are still not versed in the delicious ways of Korean dining.  Well, if you’ve never eaten Bi Bim Bap, here is a quick primer. 

Bi Bim Bap is basically a deconstructed Korean rice dish.  You get white rice, a number of vegetables (usually carrots, cooked spinach, bean sprouts and others) and sometimes a little bit of meat.  The dish is then topped off with a fried egg, which you are supposed to break over the whole thing.  It all gets mixed together with this sweet and spicy red sauce to make a rice dish/meal.  It’s delicious, and in the past few months, it seems to popping up at delis everywhere in Midtown.   I’ve had a decent pre-packaged version at Cafe Duke, a mediocre version at Pro Bagel, (and a terrible version at the Bulgogi Cart outside my building).

I’ve always been content with the Cafe Duke version, despite the fact that it was pre-packaged- but after discovering Ambrosia, I think Duke has been unseeded.  While Korean food is a unique option for Midtown Lunch’ing, Ambrosia is not.  It’s just another one of those generic delis that serve everthing under the sun- complete with sandwiches, salads, pizza and the requisite by the lb. buffet.  Although I’m sure some have partaken in the Mexican Fiesta station, I suggest ignoring it all and heading back to the Korean Food window in the back of the store.

What could possibly be the best cheap to go Bi Bim Bap in Midtown (outside of Koreantown), and the +/- after the jump…

When Ambrosia first hung up their Korean food sign a few months ago, I immediately went in to check it out.  I’m always excited for cheap Asian food, especially in a strange setting… but there was one problem.  It wasn’t cheap.  Despite being a window in the back of a deli, their prices were hovering dangerously close to a sit down restaurant.  The meat dishes were all over $10, with the Bulgogi clocking in at $12.95.  Totally out of the Midtown Lunch’ing price range.  At $6.95, the Bi Bim Bap is relatively cheap- and after geting an email from a tipster exclaiming its virtues, I decided to check it out.

Bi Bim Bap is not a particularly tough dish to make.  Because you end up mixing all the ingredients together yourself, the key is really just freshness, and quality of ingredients.  There are a couple of things that make the Bi Bim Bap from Ambrosia exceptional (for cheap take out Bi Bim Bap in Midtown).  #1.  It is put together fresh, so the egg is hot and can be broken over the whole thing.  Every other cheap, take out Bi Bim Bap is pre-packaged for convenience- so the egg is either non-existent, or fully cooked (thereby defeating the purpose of the egg entirely).  #2.  It comes with banchan, little Korean side dishes.  If you have ever been to a real Korean restaurant, they will always serve you little plates of side dishes to be eaten before, or with your meal.  Kimchee is the most famous one (fermented cabbage with chilis), but there are tons of different kinds.  At Ambrosia they give you 4 little cups of stuff, a very nice touch.  Finally, #3.  The free soup that comes with the meal makes it an unbelievable amount of food for $6.95.  And it’s not just a tiny cup, like the free Miso soup you get at delis with your sushi.  It’s a fairly large soup, with chunks of tofu and mushrooms in it. 

 

 

The menu makes the Bi Bim Bap sound vegetarian (and I’m sure you can get it that way), but they do include a small portion of sauteed beef (probably the bulgogi) in the dish.  Mix it all together and you’ve got a delicious lunch.  Easily better than the rest of the versions I’ve written about.  They even have a Dolsot Bi Bim Bap, which is the same dish, served in a super hot stone pot, so that the white rice at the bottom gets crunchy- making it almost like a fried rice.  How the hell they do that out of a generic Midtown deli, I have no idea…  I guess I’ll be going back!

THE +

  • It’s put together fresh, so the rice is hot, and the egg is done sunny side up so you can break it over the whole dish.
  • Everything comes with Banchan, and the kimchee is top notch.  Much better than other versions I’ve had at Midtown delis.
  • You get a large, free soup that has chunks of stuff in it.
  • They give you a great variety of veggies to mix in the Bi Bim Bap
  • There is a very large seating area upstairs at Ambrosia, so there is plenty of room to sit with your food.

THE -

  • There are much better versions in Koreatown, if you are willing to go down to 32nd St.
  • It’s still take out Bi Bim Bap…
  • They give you a ton of food, but some of the traditional accompanying veggies in the Bi Bim Bap are missing (like spinach), and they give you too much of others.

Ambrosia, 45th St. (btw. 5+6th)

25 Comments

  • hey, have you ever checked out the bi bim bap at the deli on 49th between park and madison? it’s right next to my building. it’s $9.95 – a little pricy – but it’s HUGE. only one dish of kimchi, though. but thumbs up on the vegetable and meat quantity.

  • Er, there is no spinach in that picture of the bi bim bop. You gotta have the “shi geum chi” in your bi bim bop!

  • That looks great for $6.95!! thanks for the tip…

    Now, I feel like eating soon du bu but no such thing exists in Midtown (50′s and 6th)… or is there?

  • They have soon doo boo at this place, a choice of seafood or beef for $6.95 ($7.50 after tax)

  • I went here for bibimbap today, and you should have seen their faces! “We usually have ten, but today.. we have 40 orders!” Very friendly service, and the lady in charge told me that she makes the kimchi herself, from scratch, and all natural with no MSG, etc.. Check it out!

  • 40 orders! See, midtownlunch.com is making waves! Support your midtown ethnic interesting eateries! Then we will get more interesting stuff every day once they see a demand for it, rather than the drones going to Chipotle, Hale and Hearty, and Big Apple.

    I have a question…..how do you eat the bibimbap? Pour stuff over rice, or rice over stuff? Semantics I know, but this is important stuff you know!!!!

    Thanks for the great review today. Keep up the awesome job..your site rocks.

     

    Good question!  These are very important issues. Usually at a restaurant, the dish is served in a big bowl, with everything on top of the rice, so you just mix it all together.  With these take out versions, they always give you the rice on the side… so what i usually do is mix up all the veggies and everything with the sauce, and then eat it bite for bite with the rice.  But if you want to do it up “right”, you technically should mix it all together, rice and everything (with the sauce).  In the end, I suppose you should just do what you like!

  • hmmm.. can’t wait to try it. Love the food porn. Looks awesome.

  • Bibimbop for $6.95 is a great deal. When you think about it, if you and your friend are having bulgogi, with the banchan you get, except with the fried egg, you can make your own bibimbop at no extra cost! It is outrageous how some places charge $11+ for this!

    As for mixing all ingredients, I usually like to add 2-3 tablespoons of miso soup to the final product. I often find the mix to be a bit too much and dry, so adding some soup makes it bit more easily digetable. Or if you want it hotter, add liquid from kimchi!

    Now that I am located all the way downtown by Water Street, I miss midtown fares. I did find few places selling bibimbop but nothing like what the wifey makes!

  • £3.50 for a great meal and you’re still bitching!!

  • Hey, I’m the email tipster – glad to see you finally got there! Now I’m on record as having given you two of the best midtown lunch choices – this one, and El Rincon del Sabor (“the perfect midtown lunch spot”)!

    I agree with the posters above – they are very nice there – and were quite happy to have customers when they first setup shop.

  • I guess I was one of the forty who got bibimbap yesterday. haha. Was psyched to see Korean food available in midtown as I am a Korean person. Unfortunately, my takeout consisted only of bibimbap, banchan of daikon and banchan of kimchi. And a tub of the hot sauce. Did not include the miso soup or the other two banchan pictured in the photo above. This made me sad.

    The bibimbap itself was hearty, but the vegetables were not marinated much. I liked the kimchi a lot.

    I would love to order the soon dubu, but do I risk bringing this smelly stew back to the office?

    Yay for MidtownLunch!

  • had it today for lunch….and dinner. So much food I had leftover for my dinner! It was tasty. Awesome. Thanks!!

  • They have good bibimbap at Old Bridge Deli (I think that’s the name) on 41st and Lex!

  • Tried the bibimbap today it was good. Has anyone tried the ramen? Even w/o meat that is a ridiculously low price [4.99] I’ve had ramen from Cafe Duke [6.95] and men kui tei [6.35]….wondering how it stacks up especially the broth…Korean spicy?

  • Thanks for making this site! I went to Abrosia today for the bibimbap and it was good. I really did have enough to save for dinner as well. I went between 2pm and 3pm and there were plenty of seats under the air conditioner on the main floor. They gave me soup, 3 little side dishes – several slices of standard sandwich pickle slices, kimchee (that was unfortunately not ripe yet so it tasted bad to me), yellow dak-gang or is it spelled daikon (looks bright yellow and it’s like a vegetable? that you bite into, looks like half circles). The red sauce was not too spicy. I just put in half the rice into the dish with the vegetables and mixed it all together with some red sauce (better to add more later than make it too hot).

    As for the vegetables, there were plenty! They added one of the side dishes shown above (in Korean, it’s called kOHng-nAH-mOOL) with the rest of the vegetables.

    Ambrosia also has Ja Jang Myun! – Noodles with black bean sauce

    I can’t wait to go to Cafe Duke and try their Korean food!

  • Do they still serve bi bim bap now? I checked this place out today, but did not found anything related to bi bim bap.

  • Just tried the bi bim bap today, based on these recommendations. I am extremely disappointed and would not go again. This barely resembles the dish as prepared in true Korean restaurants. The portion was generous but the ingredients were raw and cold, and the egg was completely cooked through. It was basically a korean salad. It’s sad that there are no Korean restaurants above 42nd street. I wish Han Bat on 35th street (the best inexpensive korean in manhattan) would open up here!

  • went today for the first time and got the bibimbap. it was very very good for a take out place. and the only other people ordering were koreans so i guess it’s the place to go in the neighborhood. it’s definitely a lot of food but my little 120lb body packed it all away. wish there was more kimchi because it was really good. only complaint was the miso – thought it was terrible. the tofu chunks were chewy (like it was extra extra extra firm tofu) and there were enormous button mushrooms in there. but heck, i’m not there for the miso so i don’t mind tossing it.

  • Did the bi bim bap prices go up here? I swung by today and saw that they wanted (I think) $7.99 for it, without any mention of the meat.

  • I just paid $7.99. There was no mention of meat on the menu, but my bowl included a generous scoop of beef. The veggies, meat, egg, and soup were all very good and even at the higher price I think that it is a good midtown deal. The people who work at the Korean Food counter are extremely friendly, to boot, a refreshing change from some other places on the block (namely Manhattan Cafe).

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