Bibigo Fresh Korean Kitchen opened recently in San Diego, bringing build-your-own bibimbap (Korean mixed rice bowls) to the popular fast-casual customized meals restaurant scene.
Bibigo Fresh Korean Kitchen is chain with many locations in Los Angeles. This is the first San Diego branch. Bibigo Fresh Korean Kitchen is also part of a larger global company, Bibigo, which sells a line of Korean packaged foods.
I’ve really enjoyed all the build-you-own restaurants that have opened in San Diego, from the pizzas to the poke bowls. So I was definitely excited by this modern twist on bibimbap.
The restaurant is located in the Westfield UTC mall food court. There was quite a long line when we visited, but it moved along pretty quickly.
There are many decisions to make, starting with whether you want a classic bowl, a hot stone bowl, or a combination box. Since we were dining in, we both opted for the hot stone bowl. My favorite part of bibimbap is when the rice develops a crispy crust from cooking on the hot stone surface.
Next you choose your base: Brown rice, white rice, kimchi rice, noodles, or salad.
Then, your choice of vegetables. You can choose a few or all.
There are three choices of finishing sauce. Then you choose one grill item.
Finally, there are some garnishes you can add, including a fried egg ($1 extra), and some side dishes.
Our bowls came out so colorful, with everything beautifully plated.
Bulgolgi Beef Hot Stone
Mr. K chose the bulgogi beef, which is more of a classic bibimbap. The bulgogi was tender and sweet. The hot stone is coated in oil before the rice is added in, which allows the rice to develop a crispy golden crust. Sometimes, if the stone is not hot enough, the crust won’t develop, but I was happy to see that this was not the case here. Our rice had a pretty decent golden crust.
I do wish that they cooked the vegetables a little less. They were soft and lifeless in our bowl, and I missed the crispness of lightly sauteed and pickled vegetables that are usually in bibimbap.
Red Chicken Hot Stone
I was curious about the red chicken and it looked quite pretty. The chicken pieces are deep fried and then glazed with a sweet, sticky coating. It reminded me more of American Chinese cuisine (like orange chicken) than Korean food, but it was still tasty.
We also got an order of mandu, which are Korean dumplings. I was a little worried when no meat juices ran through when I bit in, but the dumplings were very flavorful, with glass noodles and vegetables mixed in. I usually don’t like beef filling, but I enjoyed these.
Overall, we had a decent first visit to Bibigo. While it doesn’t quite satisfy my cravings for a classic bibimbap, I do like the concept, the customization and it’s something different to try. The service was efficient and friendly and the prices are reasonable.
Update 7/2019: Bibigo Kitchen recently opened its first location in San Diego. Unlike the fast-casual location I visited at the UTC mall, Bibigo Kitchen is a full-service restaurant offering modern Korean cuisine including chef’s creations, bbq plates, alcohol and more.
(Inside the food court of UTC Mall)
4545 La Jolla Village Dr.
San Diego, CA 92122