Bibimbap, Your Way

An unlikely fast-food joint

In the world of American fast food, serving meals in a searing-hot stone bowl would never fly: A class-action lawsuit would be imminent.

But dolsot bibimbap–the classic Korean comfort food consisting of meat, vegetables and rice crisped in a wickedly hot bowl–is nonetheless getting the fast-food treatment at the first U.S. location of the popular Korean chain Bibigo, in Westwood.

Although the bowls are hot and the rice exceedingly crunchy, the experience is by no means akin to eating in Koreatown. The American have-it-your-way mentality has infiltrated the establishment: When ordering, you choose a grain (white, black or brown rice, or a white-and-barley mix), a protein (bulgogi-style beef, chicken or tofu), and a sauce (kohot chile sauce, dried-fish-flavor ssam sauce, green sesame or citron soy), which arrives in single-serving packets.

In addition to your protein, the sizzling rice comes topped with sprouts, spinach, broccoli and shiitake mushrooms. Trays come with small banchan dishes–kimchi and pickled jalapeño–and packets of sesame oil too. Despite the lack of a fried or raw egg, the dolsot bibimbap hits its mark, especially with a few packets of kohot and ssam sauce, the combination bringing the prototypical Korean flavors of chiles and fermentation.

This is solid entry-level Korean food; Westwood will undoubtedly be clamoring for soondae, Korean blood sausage, within months.

Bibigo, 1091 Broxton Ave., Westwood; 310-824-0011