Last week I went to Be Bop, a new Korean place. It opened a few weeks ago on College Avenue in Berkeley, across the street from the Elmwood Theater. I can walk there, an important point in its favor. I like Korean food because it is a raucous symphony of explosive flavors, dancing in my mouth. But Bebop is a tame, pale, gentle and poetic saunter. They emphasize the vegetarian. Perhaps some would like that.
The setting and the staff are pleasant, prices are reasonable. They will be revamping their menu soon, so who knows what will happen. I ordered a Bibimbap (obviously their signature dish, hence the restaurant name). Bibimbap is a rice bowl, topped with various ingredients, accompanied by a spicy sauce. Traditionally one mixes it all together and (if you are Korean) it is comfort food.
I ordered Dol Sot Bibimbap, which (for a slight upcharge) comes in a scorching hot stone bowl. The idea is that the rice gets crisp on the bottom, and the food stays hot. That part worked. I had Bulgogi (thinly sliced grilled beef) as a topping; at $13.95 it was the highest priced menu item. For this you get an entire dinner.
First came a small bowl of a sweet, thick "pumpkin soup." Then the main affair, accompanied by a soothing seaweed soup, and a three-item panchan. Normally there are many more items in panchan (small dishes of pickles and the like). These were a decent cucumber pickle, a "white" kimchi (like a mild sauerkraut, no spice) and a shredded pickle (perhaps gobo). There are a choice of sauces; I chose "spicy." I got a small gravy boat of a thick red miso-based sauce, spicy and flavorful but not incendiary; this was the best part of the meal. Instead of mixing it all together I used it as a dipping sauce.
The Bibimbap itself was missing the traditional raw egg (or egg yolk). I commented on this and the waitress said it was not their tradition, but they might consider adding it as a menu option in future. The beef was good, but it was surrounded by an unusual group of vegetables. There was the familiar shredded raw daikon, carrot, and cooked sliced squash. Slivers of shiitake mushroom were welcome, also cooked spinach. Cooked eggplant and raw sliced cucumbers were not good additions to the mix -- but I dunked everything in the red sauce, so I was content. As a loyal citizen of Berkeley, I had ordered the required brown rice. They mistakenly gave me white rice; I ate only the crispy bits at the bottom of the bowl.
They gave me a sample of a savory pancake, a large selection of which constitutes part of their menu. I thought it was quite greasy.
Dessert (included) was quite delightful -- a small truncated cone of fruit-flavored agar-thickened pudding, very flavorful and not too sweet.
No liquor license yet, but they are working on it.
If you're afraid of Korean food this is the place for you.
2975 College Ave
(between Ashby Ave & Webster St)
Berkeley, CA 94705
Phone: (510) 848-8081
Lunch: Mon-Sat 11am - 3pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat 5pm - 10pm, Sun 5pm - 11pm