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Any good bi bim bap in the Peninsula?

My experience of bi bim bap is limited to one time in Detroit many years ago. I have always wanted to repeat the experience, but Yelp reviews of various Korean places in the peninsula are not encouraging. I want the "real deal" - scorching hot stone bowl, crusty rice on the bottom, etc. Is there anywhere in the peninsula that won't disappoint?

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  1. Beware your memories vs reality. I would suggest just trying a few korean places instead of heading for "the real deal" on the first try.

    I have not been to Tofu House in San Mateo, but I like the pictures of the bowls and food. I think the panchin are a little skimpy, but the bowls look good. I think it's worth a try.

    So Gong Dong's stone bowl - etc - isn't very impressive. The place on Willow on MP - nope. Han's - don't even think about it. There's a new place in PA in Town and Country, no real reports yet.

    I do think Su-Dam right at the Los Altos - Palo Alto - Mountain View border is worth a try. I've only eaten there once, but I thought the dish I had (spicy BBQ pork) was decent. Try that one.

    Totoro in MV - nope. Ginsing, MV - average.

    Once you cross the MV border, there's a lot of places, most of which I haven't tried, but I consider that the boundary between the peninsula and the south bay.

    Good luck.

    1. In Santa Clara, Cheon Joo Young-Yang Dolsot next to the Korean mart is excellent.

      In San Bruno, i like the Dolsot at Todam Tofu House with its crispy rice and tender beef albeit on the small side.

      1. In South San Francisco, I like the dolsot bibimbap Mom's Tofu House off of Grand Ave. It's a small place, but the owners and staff are very friendly.

        1. I just want to add that in most Korean restaurants, if you order bibimbap, it will be served in a regular bowl. You need to order dolsot bibimbap to get the rice served in a hot stone bowl for a buck or more. My Korean colleague always wants me to stir the rice right after the dish sits down on the table, and I'd reply I'd like the rice to crispy up. No! Often the rice is so moist that it doesn't get crusty but just sticks to the hot stone after a while. :-(

          1. My work colleagues arranged a team dinner at Jang Su Jang in Santa Clara that was memorable. I am not an aficionado of Korean food, but this certainly had an authentic feel to it. We ordered bi bim bap and I think it was served as you describe in a sizzling hot metal bowl. Unfortunately when the server asked about our spice level preferences, one or our party made it clear to our server that he really does not like spicy food, so all dishes were notably wimpy. Good service, I guess, but unfortunate from my perspective. Even the side dishes, including the kimchi, were on the bland side. But I suspect we (the only non-Asian patrons in the room) were given special, unfortunate treatment.

            1. Santa Clara is in the South Bay, not the Peninsula.

              The only rendition in the upper Peninsula that meets your criteria that is quite excellent is Sesame Korean Restaurant on 1355 Broadway in Burlingame, it's pretty new place with a small menu, but quality easily surpasses Soon's in Foster City and Myung Dong Tofu Cabin in San Mateo/101 Hillsdale.

              Dolsot Bibimbap at Sesame is around $15 to $16 which is pricey, but it's the real deal AND you get crispy roasty tasting rice at the bottom. The seafood rendition has this mildly sweet and spicy red paste added that tastes heavenly once mixed in together.

              5 Replies
              1. re: K K

                Come on stop that gungnam thing about Sesame, Ken; I can't get it off my head. ;-)

                Is their tofu soup any good? They opened this past summer, and I've been waiting for them to settle down.

                1. re: vincentlo

                  LOL stop stalking me on other social media :-o

                  Haven't tried the soondubu. Then again the GMO thing about soybeans isn't exactly making me want to eat a lot of tofu these days.

                2. re: K K

                  Po-tat-o Pa-tot-o

                  Santa Clara seems close enough. From an ignorant SF-er perspective, its all the Peninsula to me ;-)

                  1. re: K K

                    Another non-Peninsula but South Bay gem is Mission City Cafe on Lawrence Expressway. It's actually a sandwich shop run by Koreans, but they serve good Korean food as well (which can be served on a bun or a rice bowl). They don't have dolsot bibimbap, but their regular bibimbap is one of the best in the area. A hidden gem IMO.

                    1. re: K K

                      i agree to try sesame, most of their dishes are very solid. i've had the dolsot bibimbap there and it is spot on.

                    2. Here's one out of left field: try the iron yakimeshi at Dohatsuten in Palo Alto. It's a Japanese rendition and I found it better prepared than run of the mill dolsot bibimbap. More in this link,

                      1. Tofu House in Palo Alto - isn't amazing or anything but they have it - their food is perfectly satisfying in a fix - but not a destination place.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: goldangl95

                          Tofu House doesn't cut it as "the real deal" given the OP's preferences. I actually agree that it's perfectly satisfying, and it's run by real koreans, and it sizzles coming to the table, but it's not the full on stoneware and everything. It's OK but not with that expectation load, I say.

                          1. re: bbulkow

                            Is Detroit known for it's stellar "real deal" Korean?

                            Trying to better understanding of the OP's expectations.

                            1. re: drewskiSF

                              The best vietnamese I've had in my life was in a strip mall in northern virginia. I have no idea if there's a massive korean population in Detroit; maybe!

                        2. Great responses so far - thanks everyone!

                          FWIW, we live in Redwood City, so Mountain View, etc. are still quite accessible..

                          1. I've had the dolsot bibimbap at Tofu House on 4th Ave. in San Mateo and haven't been disappointed. Hot stone bowl, crispy rice on bottom, decent panchan, pleasant service, not fancy by any means but decent food. They make a good seafood pancake too...
                            Tofu House
                            150 E 4th Ave
                            San Mateo, CA 94401
                            (650) 343-3070

                            1. I like Sunny Bowl in Mountain View for dolsot bibimbap. Menlo BBQ also has good bibimbap, though, no stone bowl.

                              1. We finally got to Myung Dong Tofu Cabin in San Mateo to try their rendition. The bibim bap itself was OK (I had beef, my wife seafood), but I thought the panchan were a bit dull. We'll try some of the other suggestions here over coming months (it's not a dish I need to eat every week).

                                1. We hit Tofu House on 4th in San Mateo a couple of days ago. Again, I had beef and my wife had seafood. This experience impressed us rather more than Myung Dong Tofu Cabin. The vegetables were noticeably fresher, and the panchan were superior to those at Myung Dong. I liked the "hot (not really) sauce more, but that's very subjective.