Thursday, February 2, 2012

80 North: Berkeley, BeBop

BeBop 2975 College Ave./Ashby Ave., Elmwood, Claremont, (510) 848-8081. L-D daily; $. No reservations. Celebrating the traditional Korean bibimbap rice bowl, this small clean-lined cafe provides a choice of cold bowls or hot stone bowls. For the hot bowl, the cold-bowl version is placed in a heavy bowl that cooks the ingredients continuously while you eat. In fact, you need to keep stirring to get the crispy rice forming on the bottom up to the top (rice is a choice of white, brown or mixed grain). Amazingly, the stone bowl cooks the food so hot that my waiter gave me a plate to put the hot food on to cool down so I wouldn’t burn my mouth. Menu choices come from adding specific additional ingredients to the basic vegetables and rice—perhaps some marinated sliced beef or chicken or spicy shrimp or mixed mushrooms. Cuttlefish and raw salmon are also options, as is the traditional egg on top. The idea is to mix everything together to meld the flavors. Bowls come with a delicious traditional red pepper paste sauce and choice of three others, as well as hot roasted rice-green tea, an appetizer of creamy pumpkin porridge, vegetarian broth soup, and a few tiny side dishes. No MSG is used, and a natural plum sweetener is substituted for cane sugar. Utensils here are a long spoon and metal chopsticks, but a fork is available upon request.

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image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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