As a Korean-American, I'm naturally partial to the spicy, sinus-clearing cuisine of my heritage. Luckily, Telegraph Avenue in Oakland -- a mini-Koreatown -- is only a few minutes away from where I live in West Oakland. I'm able to get a fix pretty quickly when I'm missing my mom's home cooking.
But there's a new Korean restaurant located beyond the borders of Temescal, Be Bop, that's recently opened its doors in the past 2 weeks in Berkeley's Elmwood neighborhood. The name seems to be a jazz-pun that riffs off of the name of a popular traditional Korean dish, bibimbap, which means "mixed rice." The menu lists 17 variations of the dish, including "dol sot bibimbap," where rice and other ingredients are piled into a heated, stone bowl. (I should mention here that this is one of my all-time favorite Korean comfort food dishes to eat, so I'm pretty thrilled at the prospect of there being 17 options to choose from.) Then you slather on as much "kochujang," a spicy chili sauce, that you can humanly handle and mix it all together with your spoon. Then dig in; this hot and hearty bowl brimming with food will keep you sweating and gulping down big glasses of water for the duration of your meal.
My husband and I both ordered the "bulgogi dol sot bibimbap" (barbecued beef), and I was able to order mine with mixed-grain brown and black bean rice instead of the typical short-grain white rice. You could also add other non-traditional ingredients such as quinoa, walnuts, fruit and more. (Not sure how Mom would feel about these modern flourishes, but I'm willing to try these additions the next time around.)
We were served a variety of appetizers including two fine soups (one pumpkin, one radish), pickled vegetables and of course, kimchi. This pungent pickled cabbage dish is a must for any Korean table. Surprisingly, the restaurant only serves a milder incarnation: "baek kimchi," or white kimchi.