Gyu-Kaku’s Sizzling Hot Bibimbap is Under $10
I’ve been on the hunt for a quality bulgogi-packed bowl of dolsot (read: sizzling hot) bibimbap in New York since I learned what it was five years ago by eating the Korean rice dish everyday in Australia. (It was cheap/delicious/so hot it hissed/came with bottomless banchan AKA Korean side dishes. I was a student. Cheap, unlimited anything was A+ in my book.) Zach came across a “pretty damn good” non-hot bibimbap at Cafe Amande deli last year, but I’ve been hoping to bump into its “pretty damn good” SIZZLING HOT cousin somewhere in Midtown East (aka outside of Koreatown). For five years, it’s been a fruitless search so imagine my surprise when I noticed a certain $9 lunch special at Gyu-Kaku (on 50th St. btw. 2+3rd) of all places…
More bibimbap after the jump.
Gyu-Kaku’s prices tend to live north of our $10 lunch limit, which is why I haven’t bothered to wander inside. But I was walking by last week and figured I’d confirm my Gyu-Kaku-is-overpriced suspicions by reviewing the menu posted out front. Saw only three lunch specials under $10 (lame!), but one of those looked like bibimbap served in…could it be?…a SIZZLING HOT stone bowl. I had to have it.
The $9 lunch set started off with a mid-size “Gyu-Kaku salad”, which had a more varied and vibrant assortment of shredded veggies than most starter salads served at Asian restaurants. (Why do they offer salad anyway?) I’d barely finished the salad before I heard the telltale hissing of a hot stone bowl headed my direction. It was barely five minutes since I ordered, but whatever. Superquickfast service is a plus.
I eyed my prey and noted the stone bowl was twice as big as the normal-size mound of rice in the middle. This is fine – desired, even – as it eases the mixing process.
I let everything sit in the scorching bowl for a few minutes so the rice on the sides could form a crust. After churning the rice, runny egg, bulgogi (Korean bbq’d beef), and sweet & spicy chili paste in the bowl, I was psyched to finally dig in. The barbecued beef was thinly sliced, but didn’t shrivel up and disappear into the rice, which was greatly appreciated! I want to see meat in the rice even after vigorous mixing, which, turns out is kind-of a tall order in other places I’ve tried in the city. The rice was more moist than expected, but this is an easy issue to remedy – just let the goods hiss and sizzle in the bowl longer to attain that perfect chewy, crunchy rice crust.
For an Asian meat-and-rice lunch, Gyu-Kaku’s bibimbap is pretty damn good. But in terms of delivering the real Korean bibimbap experience, this Japanese chain unsurprisingly falls a little short (aka I want my banchan!) I’ll go back because I’m a sucker for that sweet & spicy hot mixed rice combo, but I’m gonna keep looking for the real deal. I still need to try the version Zach wrote about at Pro Hot Korean (on 56th btw. 5+6th), but they’re closed for another few weeks. Anyone have another dolsot bibimbap with all the fixings recommendation outside of K-Town? Put it in the comments…
Gyu Kaku, 805 3rd Ave., 2nd fl., 212-702-8816