Continuing our coverage of Berlin’s burgeoning food culture, Stil in Berlin’s Mary Scherpe takes a look at one dish that’s been taking Berlin by storm: bibimbap.
Berlin is now in the sixth year of a rather serious relationship with Korean food, and it’s all centered around a rather wonderful dish with an equally wonderful name. Bibimbap roughly translates to “to mix rice“ and the dish is quite simple: rice in a bowl, topped with all kinds of vegetables, meat, sprouts, and a raw or fried egg, to be stirred thoroughly before eating and served with hot chili paste. It’s comforting enough to help you survive a cold, wet Berlin autumn day, and yet still light enough to make a great summer lunch in the sun. It’s basic enough to make a quick meal, and still unique enough to spark excitement. And, of course, everything tastes better when served in a bowl.
Since first discovering this bowlful of goodness Berlin’s food scene has embraced it with open arms (and mouths), with places serving it sprouting up in every corner of the city. Here are six of the very best you should try curated by Berlin food authority Stil in Berlin.
Sumi Ha closed down her much-loved avant-garde fashion store Best Shop to open up this even more loved Korean restaurant in the summer of 2009, and has been serving the hungry shoppers of this busy area of Mitte with delightful Korean cuisine ever since. Their bibimbap is a classic variety, served in a stone pot, making it a variation called dolsot bibimbap. The best part about it coming in in this form is that the sizzling bowl actually fries the rice for minutes, creating crispy, golden brown chunks of rice, sauce and vegetables for you to savor.
Alte Schönhauser Straße 6
Visit their website here.
While this place conforms to the most basic rules when it comes to bibimbap – rice in a bowl, topped with vegetables, meat, an egg and hot sauce – it also takes a lot of freedom in interpreting what’s appropriate to include in the mix. It’s not served in a traditional Korean dish (rather, in one of those cheap blue and white china bowls), but the liberties they take with the dish are actually the reason it’s so well recommended. Last time we enjoyed raw broccoli, cucumbers, Chinese cabbage and scallions, as well as fried tofu and kidney beans. Another time there was marinated spinach and scrambled tofu. Who knows what they’ll put on the rice tomorrow? Either way, it’s always worth finding out.
Dresdener Straße 11
Visit their website here.
This place is tiny. Tt’s got eight seats in total and they’re always taken. However, waiting (or fighting?) for a free seat is so worth it, as Core’s bibimbap is delicious in a truly traditional way. Served by a team of women, the feeling is very much one of being in a Korean home – not least because the kitchen is practically next to the dining tables. The small, single room is filled with hot and steamy air, and the mouthwatering smell of fresh food that doesn’t need the help of MSG or other artificial additives. The bibimbap here is served in a hot stone dolsot, and comes with pickled soy sprouts, pickled cucumbers, varieties of Kimchi (either with cabbage or radish – Core makes one of Berlin’s finest Kimchi), raw carrots and cucumbers, and sprinkled dried algae. They also offer a large selection of authentic Korean tea made from quince or nuts.
This restaurant is a bit particular and has the potential to rub some the wrong way, as it’s pronouncedly Christian and makes absolutely no secret of letting you know. This means bible verses written on every wall, some stretching from floor to ceiling, and a menu boasting missionary essays telling you how the only true nurturing happens through the love of Jesus. However, the home-style bibimbap served in a beautiful hot stone pot is thoroughly delicious, so better to just keep your eyes on that bowl if you’re bothered by overt displays of religion.
Despite its out-of-date interior and at-times questionable service, Madang has been a favorite in this Kiez (or “neighborhood”) for years, and is usually packed (reservation is an absolute must). While its traditional menu has plenty of choices, the bibimbap is seriously good, and comes served with a raw egg in a hot stone pot, making it essential to stir the whole thing thoroughly to cook the egg right through. It comes with the classic toppings of pickled soy beans, cucumber and algae, shredded cucumbers, radish and carrots, as well as mushrooms. Once you’re there, be sure to try some of their other Korean specialities, and don’t be shy on the ban chan – the plethora of side dishes – as they really tie it all together!
This restaurant with a dazzling white interior can be a little up-and-down in the quality of its menu as a whole, but their bibimbap – served in a dolsot with still sizzling rice – is a clear winner, thanks to the sublime marinated spinach and the excellent kimchi. It also scores serious points in the looks category, with a beautiful fried egg placed on top, carefully framed by hot sauce (how do they do that!?).
Wilmersdorfer Straße 72
Visit their website here.
For more Berlin restaurant recommendations, check out the restaurants that changed Berlin’s food culture.