Bibimbap Soho: making Korean food accessible to non-specialists

How many of you are fans of Korean food but feel intimidated by the menus in Korean restaurants? I know I am. I know I’ll probably like just about everything on the menu but I can’t decide what to go for. The things go on for page after page, you’re not sure what dish goes with what, and you’re not sure how many dishes to order. I usually end up lazily deferring to any Korean who happens to be in the party. If not, I have exactly what I had last time.

Bibimbap Soho has addressed the menu confusion head-on. There are only three narrow panels on a one-page English language menu, divided between (i) starters & side dishes, (ii) assorted bibimbaps, and (iii) other things you might like if you don’t fancy a bibimbap. The menu helpfully says that you can eat the bibimbap with any implement you like as long as you mash it up properly first.

It’s a refreshing approach, and takes the stress out of going to a Korean restaurant. Those who are familiar with Korean restaurants may find that Bibimbap Soho has gone too far towards making their product user-friendly to Londoners: the sauces come in the plastic ketchup bottles you find in greasy spoon cafes. One is red, the other is yellow. “Chilli sauce and miso sauce” the waitress announces as she puts them on the table. “Is that gochujang?” you ask of the red bottle. “It’s chilli sauce”, the waitress repeats firmly. It was gochujang, and I think the “miso sauce” in the yellow bottle was doenjang.

Another way that Bibimbap differentiates itself from other Korean restaurants in central London is in its marketing. It links up with YesAsia, YesStyle and the K-pop team to reach out to a young clientele, and promotes itself on Facebook.

The food was freshly prepared and good value (particularly with the “two bibimbaps for the price of one” offer). The bibimbaps came in the stone bowls which were hot enough to cook the raw beef, and were a sensible size – not too big. Small plates of kimchi were £1.45 extra. Even without the offer, seven LKL contributors and friends ate and drank their fill for under £20 a head last Wednesday, and of course you can get away with less if you don’t have the beers.

Bibimbap Soho shows one way you can make Korean food accessible to non specialists, and it’s not half bad. Recommended.

Bibimbap Soho is at 11 Greek St, London, W1D 4DJ


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