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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Best Bi Bim Bap

I think I’ve found my favorite version of bi bim bap in the city, and it’s served as an afterthought on a menu with a completely different focus.

The specialty of the house at Bonjuk in Duluth is juk, also spelled jook, also called congee, and best described as rice porridge. Chinese versions of this dish are usually perfectly white and bland, with a few flavorful add-ins, such as pork, scallions or chunks of 1,000 year eggs. But at this branch of an international chain, the juk is Korean-style — colorful and plumbed with seasonings, minced vegetables and principal ingredients ranging from shellfish, to chicken and ginseng, to mushrooms. 

When my 11-year-old ordered a bowl of seafood juk bigger than her head, I decided to indulge a hankering for bi bim bap. Pictured is the version with kimchi-spiced pork. I figured I’d have no shortage of juk to cadge off her plate. 

This should not have been my favorite bi bim bap. No way, no how. For starters, there is no gooey-centered/crispy-edged fried egg on top, but instead yellow strips of cold egg. Nor is it served in one of those superheated stoneware bowls (called a dolsot) that both warms your face and crisps the rice.

Yet it was a kind of perfection — the carrot sticks, marinated fern and spinach stems all mirrored each other in texture but contrasted in taste, so that once mixed the flavors all made uniform pop-pop-pops in the mouth. I love the precision of well-made Korean food. 

Both the bi bim bap and juk come with a tasty assortment of appropriate side dishes (below). This restaurant also makes the best water kimchi I’ve ever had, with leaves of the white, fermented cabbage leaf floating in its icy, semi-frozen pickling juices. It’s like a really good dirty martini. 

Bonjuk is located in the still semi-empty Berkeley Pointe shopping complex where H & Y Marketplace was supposed to open. Sadly, that organic-minded Korean supermarket chain pulled out of this market before ever opening. 

4 comments Add your comment

jimmy

January 26th, 2009
12:37 pm

Looks great, it’s added to the list! I’ve been really eager to eat some Korean food lately. Where else do you like to go? Chow Down Atlanta tells me she knows all the bomb Korean places!

jkessler

January 26th, 2009
12:59 pm

She’s your best hook-up for Korean…that girl really seems to know her stuff. But anyhow, here’s my list:

BCD Well-Bean Tofu: next to Bonjuk…good soon dubu, but they have an amazing version of kimchijjin — kind of a hot pot with pork belly, tofu, dried mushrooms and a huge honking piece of chinese cabbage kimchi (like a whole half cabbage) that they cut into the broth…i dream of this dish…

So Kong Dong (BuHi) and Book Chang Dong (Duluth): sisters restaurants that serve the best soon dubu in my opinion. love the fried fish that come with the panchan

Place in Nukoa Plaza (Duluth): Decorated with movie posters, specializes in sulung tang (beef bone soup)…really off the chart…

Hanil Kwan: Probably the best overall Korean spot on BuHi…Jen at Blissful Glutton turned me on to this one…

Chosun Ok: Our family favorite for barbecue…love the way the back barbecue room is so cold and you only unthaw when they bring the live coals…so many of our kids have had parties here it’s like the Kessler version of Chuck E Cheese…super nice staff…

Tairyou: Korean sushi bar on BuHi…I go there only for hwe dup bop, the sashimi salad

Chung Dam (Duluth): new owners have really brought good cooking to this fancy spot in the Super H plaza…don’t know the name, but stewed, bone-in mackeral dish, jap chae (clear noodle stir fry) and yuk hwe (raw beef with garlic and pear) are great…

hope this helps…JK

Gene

January 28th, 2009
11:15 am

Tofu Village in Marietta has become a recent fav of mine. Their name makes them sound like a Soon-Dubu Jip but it’s actually an all encompassing traditional Korean restaurant. They make their own tofu and everything I have had here is delicious…

http://eatdrinkman.blogspot.com/2009/01/tofu-village-old-fashioned-korean.html

Louis Prima

August 25th, 2009
3:41 pm

Unfortunately, Bonjuk has hit the wall…sorry to say. Really enjoyed it the first (and only) time I trekked all the way up there. Scary kind of ghost town, it’s looking like these days…
Didn’t think to try BCD Well-Bean Tofu…but went to next door strip and ate at the Korean place, and it was quite good. Sorry I can’t remember the name. I’m a big fan of the So Kong Dong’s oyster soup! Keep up the good-and-esoteric work, Dr. Kessler!