Pro “Deli” Loses the Bagel, Goes 100% Korean w/ Best New Bi Bim Bap
Last February I wrote about Pro Hot Bagel, a hole in the wall bagel and cold cuts deli on 56th St. btw. 5+6th, which had sprouted a small Korean food station, and a sushi bar. The reaction to the food was mixed, but it appeared to be an ok option for people who wanted some cheap fast food Korean, without traveling all the way down to Koreatown. Well, in the past six months, the deli has dropped the “Bagel” and is now serving a menu made up almost entirely of fast food Korean.
There is a long line of pre-made bentos along the right wall, or you can go up to the front and order your food fresh off a menu, that includes an assortment of Korean meat dishes, a few stews, and Korean style ramen soups. The new-found popularity has created turnover that insures a much fresher bento then a year ago, and the selection is great.
But the real stand-out of the menu is the $9.50 Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap (Korean rice dish, served in a hot stone bowl). Confused as to how a fast food, take out style Korean place could do Bi Bim Bap served in a hot stone pot for under $10, I had to check it out. Hot stone Korean rice porn, after the jump…
Even though Pro Korean is mostly take out, there is a row of 5-6 tables along the left hand wall, and not surprisingly the Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap is best enjoyed there. Order it at the front counter to stay, and depending on the size of the crowd, you’ll wait anywhere from 5-20 minutes for them to prepare it. While many delis carry a standard bi bim bap now (boiled rice with Korean vegetables and meat), the beauty of the Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap is how the hot stone pot will sizzle everything that touches it, allowing you to mix up the rice into an almost fried rice-like concoction. Topped with a freshly cooked sunny side up egg, you break the yolk over the whole thing and mix everything up along with red Korean chili paste.
By the time you get to the bottom, the rice has crisped up along the sides of bowl, leaving you with delicious bits of crispy rice, or as I like to call them- “the best part of Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap”! Usually the dish is served in a pretty hefty stone pot, leaving me really curious as to how this small take out deli was going to serve their version, and worried that I wasn’t going to get my crispy rice.
In retrospect it shouldn’t surprise me that somebody has developed a plastic-like single serving size bowl, that conducts heat well enough to crispy up the rice at the bottom of bi bim bap. While Korean food here is still somewhat unknown, I should have figured that in Korea they would have needed a way to serve this kind of food in a more cheap, and casual setting… leading to innovations like the bowl I got at Pro Korean. It wasn’t disposable, and you can’t take it to go, but it was much more portable then the version you’d get at a nice restaurant in Koreatown- and it did the trick. When I got to the bottom… crispy bits!
Very exciting to get fresh, hot, good Korean food, for under $10, in a fast food setting where you don’t have to leave a tip. The downside is, the deli has become very popular since becoming 100% Korean, and the tables can fill up very fast. You can order the Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap to go, but they will mix the whole thing up for you, and chances are they are not going to leave it in the stone pot long enough for the rice to crisp up. So it’s sort of a crap-shoot that you are going to be able to get a table and truly enjoy the dish as intended.
They’ve gotten rid of the sushi bar, but they still fall into the trap suffered by many Asian food purveyors in Midtown, offering teriyaki and a list of udon/soba noodles soups, just in case a Korean food-challenged Midtown worker stumbles in and can’t decipher the menu. I didn’t try any of it, but with Men Kui Tei right next story, I can’t imagine why anybody would order a Japanese soup from a small take out Korean deli.
All in all, the crowds tell the story… and if you can manage to get a table (for the fresh dol sot bi bim bap), you can’t go wrong.
- Cheap, fast food Korean in the 50s (for people who can’t venture down to Koreatown)
- Since the place has gotten more popular the turnover of the pre-made bentos is a little better, so the food is fresher
- They tone down the heat of the dishes for the American palate, but are perfectly happy to make them authentically spicy if you ask.
- If you don’t like pre-made food, you can order everything fresh off the menu.
- They have a hot stone bi bim bap, without having to sit down and order from a waitress!
- The place can get very busy, and there aren’t a lot of tables.
- When it’s busy, it can also take a lot of time to get freshly ordered food
- You can get better food, for cheaper in Koreatown
Pro Korean, 62 W. 56th St. (btw. 5+6th) 212-397-9104
More Photos Here