Jeonju takes it’s name from a city in South Korea known for food and festivals (Chosen as a Creative City for Gastronomy by UNESCO) that lies on a vast fertile plain famous for produce and strawberries. Jeonju was also extremely clean, despite their B rating I found the service prompt and kindly.
Jeonju’s signature disk is bibimbap, kind of like a do it yourself table side fried rice with a raw egg, cucumber, zucchini, daikon, mushrooms, spinach, soybean and some tofu. The dolsot bibimbap is served in a stone pot, and has the addition of beef. The egg is quickly moved around and cooks against the side of the hot pot. DId I say hot? I meant HOT.
It never ceases to amaze me the wonders that can be found in Los Angeles strip malls. Where I grew up there was so much free space, it felt rare to see anything of quality not freestanding. Yet here in Los Angeles, at least for me the strip mall is a simply another landscape feature, one that reflects density of culture as well as population.
The flavors in bibimbap lend themselves so well to complete mixture. Having eaten it before I was slightly weary at mirroring my dining companions in bathing the steaming bowl with a load of the Gochujang, chili pepper paste sauce. I quickly followed suit to get the delightful variation that my companions achieved.
I quickly dumped as many pungent pickled radishes and cabbages into the cauldron of delight and the bowl literally give me my face a fermented steam bath. This is the kind of food that makes you kissably fresh. The kimchi quality was fantastic, really fresh and crisp, with nice sour notes.
Everyone was just face down in their bowls, eager to mix the browned bits scalding against the side of the bowl with the vegetables and sauce. Easily, this is the best Bibimbap i’ve ever had. Originating in the 19th century, Bibimbap is relatively recent in Korean Cuisine, yet it is by far the signature Korean dish. One of my dining companions explained that it is a dish that is made to use up all of the ingredients that are left over in the house, but here everything was certainly fresh.
I was also delighted to find out that the banchan (side dishes) were supremely on point, with the noted exception of the seafood pancake, which was a little under cooked to my liking.
My particular favorite was what I believe to be a Japchae (sweet potato noodle) but I wasn’t quite sure. It was served cold and had a delightfully spicy picked broth. It was rolled and presented so delicately and clean.
I also really enjoyed the radish kimchi, which had a milder crispness yet great acidity and texture.
I literally was amazed at how much we all ate. We were scraping the still warm, cauldron like bowls for bits of coma inducing rice and cabbage. Jeonju is going to be a mainstay on my list for the foreseeable future. Highly recommended and extremely affordable.