I call restaurants that look like they might be great before going and ask a series of questions, depending on what I read about them online. You can see what I look for in a restaurant here. When I called Bi Bim Bap on Eglinton Avenue West, I spoke with Sam, who answered the phone, and is the owner, and he not only knew the answers to all of my questions, but gave me really good answers too, including that he was against MSG and GMOs, so I made a reservation immediately.
I knew from reading about the experience of eating from hot stone bowls online, that it was going to be lots of fun. You MUST read this link from Sam, there is so much information that will make you feel amazing about supporting him, and enjoying his food – click here. It also turned out to be super delicious. Firstly, they don’t use nuts in the kitchen (except some pine nuts at their bar), and they can not only accommodate vegan and vegetarian and gluten-free, but they can make them all very happy. They don’t use MSG, and they stay away from GMOs (except for their soda, which I hope they change!), and their tofu is certified organic. They happily have the choice of white or brown rice (go for the brown always!) and had no problem when I needed to modify my Bi Bim Bap Bowl a little bit (I’m not a fan of cucumber or zucchini!).
They started off by bringing water and tea, and a little dish filled with pickled veg and kimchi – no, it didn’t seem to smell as much as the one we have at home, but my parents enjoyed it every bit as much. My sister and brother loved the pickled veg so much, that I never got to try any!
The most unusual thing at the restaurant was this little disk on each table, which I soon learned that when you press it, it summons a server to your table. Unfortunately, but also a little funny was my brother’s constant desire to press the button. We had to apologize on his behalf a few times!
We started off with some sweet potato fries (the longest ones I’ve ever seen and eaten) and some lightly fried organic tofu in a spicy sauce that was crazy good. We also shared a vegetable packed order of sweet potato glass noodles, called Jap Chae – I love these noodles so much and they seem to be a signature Korean dish.
The Stone Bowls we ordered arrived sizzling hot and, the neatest part was the fact that it stays hot the entire meal, effectively keeping your food hot the entire time too! We each dumped our chosen sauces into the hot stone bowl filled with plant-based goodness and mixed it around and dug in. My dad had the 9 kinds of mushroom special with all of the bi bim bap veggies and brown rice with the extra hot sauce, my mother really loved her “seed” bowl which included 6 kinds of seeds plus gobo, carrot, radish and beet over brown rice. My sister had a fully loaded bowl with tofu and her and my mother both noted how much they loved the julienned cucumber hot in their dish. I ate my entire bowl of brown rice, seaweed, burdock root, carrot, mushroom, tofu (I left out the radish, cucumber and zucchini that everyone else had as I’m not such a fan of those vegetables right now). I chose the soy garlic and the sesame sauces and used them both to create an intense sizzling flavour. Everyone finished everything right down to the stone bowl. Also to note about the chopsticks – they are reusable and not those wooden ones in paper sleeves! Awesome!
After our meal, they brought us all a drink they told us was great for digestion. It was a cold bowl of brown sugar, ginger and cinnamon laced liquid with a couple pine nuts in it (request to leave them out and be careful if you have an allergy). It was a little too sweet for me, but the rest of my family loved them.
When I was leaving, I was certain that I would be writing a review, so I asked if I could meet Sam, the owner. He came out from the kitchen and was very nice to speak with and before I left, he wanted to give me something special – an entire head of black garlic! He explained that it was delicious and high in vitamins – it looks totally cool and I thought that was awesome of him to do.
Please note: every table was taken and when people got up to leave, it seemed that it was only a moment until the table was filled again. The good news is, they take reservations!