Eaters like to debate where to find the best pho, best bagel or best margarita, but - if we're being honest - the superlative that matters most is "best food near my office." For me, that title currently belongs to Bibimbap, a two-month old Korean cubbyhole at the far end of the ferry terminal overpass.
On a very cold day a few weeks back, I was in the mood for sundubu, the classic Korean tofu stew. (My sundubu cravings aren't always temperature-appropriate, but the dish is especially good when paired with frosty winter weather.) Korean food isn't easy to find downtown, but I'd recently noticed a perky new sign announcing Bibimbap's grand opening.
Two things transpired on my first visit to make me really, really like Bibimbap. First, it turned out it wasn't sundubu day: The restaurant serves sundubu on Mondays. But the restaurant's lone employee offered to make me a serving anyhow. Then, when I returned to my desk and opened my bowl, I discovered the brick-red soup was bobbing with tentacles. Finding unexpected animal parts when you've braced for dumbed-down food is a singular pleasure.
The sundubu wasn't remarkable, but it was adequately spicy and made hearty by mushrooms, scallions and plenty of shrimp. I've since gone back for a perfectly charming bibimbap, topped with smoky sweet bulgogi. The vegetables were fresh and reassuringly chopped in a raggedy array of shapes and sizes. The dish wasn't flawless: The cook-cashier forgot the all-important egg.
"It's getting busier," he told me later.
Before Bibimbap was a Korean restaurant, it served sushi. When the owner switched genres, he kept his cook and two favorite items from the previous menu. "We have a California roll and a spicy tuna roll," the cook said. "The easy ones."
But Korean specialties, including japchae, hwedupbap and ssambab dominate the new menu. I plan to try all of them. After all, Bibimbap is right near my office.
Bibimbap, 95 Marion St., is open weekdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.