Big things come in small packages.

Bibigo, a fast and casual Korean restaurant near UCLA, has a petite storefront and foyer similar to that of a Jamba Juice. Upon entering, however, customers will see that this small restaurant packs a worthy punch.

Bibigo’s interior is daubed with various shades of light greens, and the walls are covered with bamboo-esque décor, immediately transporting diners to a different world.  

Behind the aegis of the kitchen, customers are tucked into intimate booths and tables, covered with chic plates and dining accoutrements.

Bibigo’s initially posh vibe engenders the feel of a modish, sit-down restaurant; however, Bibigo is versatile in that it can serve its customers a quick meal on the go or a sumptuous, sit-down repast. The name ‘bibigo’ is a Korean-English portmanteau that comes from the Korean ‘bi-bi-da’ (to mix) and the English ‘to go.’

Bibigo offers two menus, one with their lunch dishes and one with their dinner options. Some customers might appreciate the lunch menu because it is smaller and inexpensive; on the other hand, in its brevity, the lunch menu does not offer customers the full Bibigo experience. The dinner menu, albeit pricier, is more exhaustive and offers a collection of tantalizing dishes not found on the lunch menu.

To commence the dining experience, Bibigo offers an array of satisfying appetizers. One of the most notable starters is the Mandoo, bite-size dumplings filled with either chicken and cilantro or pork and ginger. The Mandoo is essentially an Eastern take on popcorn chicken, with its crispy outside and silky-smooth inside. The contrast between the dish’s crunchy exterior and flavor-packed interior is balanced to perfection, making the Mandoo the ideal starter.

Another impressive appetizer that is daring and ambrosial is the Ruby Grapefruit Salad. Mixed with fresh greens, tailless shrimp and grapefruit wedges, the salad is a refreshing dish that is perfect for the summer. The brittle greens, plump and well-seasoned shrimp and sweet dressing combine to inhibit the grapefruit’s notoriously bitter taste – actually making it an enjoyable fruit.

Off the ‘Tapas’ menu customers will find exemplary snack-size dishes with the Pajeon, a Korean-style seafood pancake, and the Red Chicken.

Bibigo’s Pajeon is prepared with scallions, calamari and shrimp, and is served on their signature hot stone, a black stone pot that conveniently stays warm throughout the entirety of the meal. The Pajeon is pan-fried to a crisp, so the pancake is neither too chewy nor too greasy, and the seafood is not lost in the mix, which ultimately gives the pancake its otherworldly savor.

The Red Chicken will provide an unmarred experience for spice lovers, as it is Bibigo’s piquant rendition of the faux-Oriental classic, Orange Chicken.  Served on a hot stone with diced almonds and green onions, the Red Chicken has addictive flavor, crunch and zest – but be careful, as the Red Chicken’s kick can be merciless!

Of all the items on the menu, the Bibimbap is by far Bibigo’s finest dish. Bibigo makes its Bibimbap plates incredibly accessible and customizable by offering four different types of rice, toppings and sauces, leading to a multitude of combinations and personalized creations. Customers have their choice of white, black pearl, brown and barley & white as the rice; bulgogi, chicken, tofu and shrimp as toppings; and kohot, ssam, sesame and citron soy as sauces.

The Hot Stone Bibimbap, specifically, is nonpareil as it makes the rice hot and crispy (cooking it further even while you’re eating it!). The vegetables add earthy flavor and texture to the rice, and Bibigo also gives you the option of adding an egg on top. The bulgogi is an unerring choice as the meat topping for the Bibimbap; the bulgogi mixes flawlessly with the egg, rice and vegetables, complementing the dish with a full-bodied flavor.  

LA’s Bibigo doesn’t offer dessert; however, the restaurant does have some interesting Korean drinks to accompany or conclude the meal, like an Aloe Vera Cooler, which has a peculiar minty taste, and a Rice Milk drink that strangely resembles iced coffee.

As a dining experience, Bibigo is guaranteed to exceed expectations, whatever they might be. The chefs do an excellent job at crafting dishes that are appealing, both aesthetically and gastronomically. The relaxed ambience, brisk and friendly service and piping-hot, gourmet, Korean dishes are sure to satisfy customers with an appreciation for Korean cuisine and newcomers who are intrigued by the idea of a fresh, healthy and exotic meal.

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