b.b.bop Rice Bowls confuses me. The Carrollton-based restaurant opened a Lovers Lane/Greenville location recently, and several friends on separate occasions suggested I try it.
Admittedly, when I heard about the concept, it was cause for excitement. The restaurant serves up several variations of the Korean dish, bibimbap -- the popular rice, meat, egg, and veggie bowl.
Beyond just my fandom of bibimbap, the website was interesting and helpful. There was nutritional information listed for the restaurants' many dishes. However, upon perusing the website, I saw something peculiar.
Along with bibimbap, the restaurant also serves Vietnamese-style banh mi thit and Thai tom yum soup. It seemed kind of all over the place and a bit ambitious. Would what I imagined as a Korean-style Chipotle be able to pull off such a variety of dishes?
My imagination wasn't far off the mark. When I finally visited the place, it really reminded me of a Korean Chipotle, tacos and all. That's right. b.b.bop also offers up Korean tacos. More on that later.
Orders are placed at the counter and the food is then brought to your table. People can choose from several set combinations of bibimbap, or they can make up their own. While there are several options for bibimbap, there are limited selections for the tacos and banh mi. Wanting to try one of everything, I ordered what b.b.bop calls the classic bibimbap, a chicken taco, a spicy pork banh mi, and a cup of tom yum soup.
b.b.bop isn't exactly cheap. Rice bowls go for around $8 and banh mi are around $5-$6. It isn't too bad, but for what really seems like a fast-food place, it's kind of steep. Still the price of the taco, $2.50, is comparable to the recently opened Goghee. However, the taco is small, and City of Ate's Mr. Taco, Jose, says that Kor-BQ's tacos are still cheaper.
On the positive side, portions for both the banh mi and rice bowl were decently generous. The quality of the food, however, is what confuses me. It isn't so much that the food is bad, but it's definitely not very Korean, nor Vietnamese, nor even Thai.
The soup was more like coconut soup than an actual tom yum. The taco, the bibimbap, and the banh mi all had a puzzling purple cabbage slaw in it. The pickled slaw wasn't terrible, but there was too much of it everywhere, and it had no place in either the rice or the banh mi. God, especially not in the banh mi.
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Out of everything, the taco fared the best. Something that b.b.bop does do well is the seasoning or marinade of their meats. All the dishes sampled had very tasty proteins -- from the beef to the pork to the chicken. But remember how I call this place Korean Chipotle? Yeah, it reflects in their meat, as well. The smoky fajita-like beef in the rice bowl was far from the customary sweet bulgogi in a traditional bibimbap. Same goes for the fajita-esque meat in the banh mi. It just seemed very wrong, especially since it was sandwiched in an old and stale-tasting baguette.
When my mother and the boyfriend tried my leftovers, they reacted as I predicted. Mother said the banh mi was strange and tasted like it was made for a Western, American palate. As for the rice, I saved that for my bimbimbap-loving boyfriend. Just as I thought, he said, "Yeah, it's not exactly the same, but I liked it, especially the meat."
After having tried the landscape of the restaurant's menu, b.b.bop probably won't be the place I turn to when I'm in need of a banh mi or bibimbap fix. I did, however, appreciate how friendly and helpful the staff is, and I especially dug their sauces and condiments stand (awesome). Not surprisingly, the afternoon I visited, the restaurant was busy preparing a catering spread for an SMU party. That about sums the place up.
b.b.bop Rice Bowls
5323 Greenville Ave, Suite 5