In New York, there are way too many restaurants to choose from, even the ones on critics’ lists, so when it came to deciding upon a birthday dinner spot for a friend, we played a little game of “never have I ever.” After going through most of the Village, Murray Hill, and Lower East Side, we ended with Kibo in Gramercy. It was a double whammy — a newbie that none of us had ventured to and home to bibimbap, which my two friends had never tried.
A vast space on East 18th, Kibo is a Japanese grill that can most definitely mirror as a party/lounge space. With a black and red paneled interior, it is evident that the spot is set on being true to its Asian roots while being en vogue as well.
Over a bottle of sake, three girls explored the unknown. To ease into it, we commenced with simple sea-salted edamame and hearty chicken dumplings. We expected gyoza style dumplings, but these were stuffed with lump meat and were filling, perfect as a shared dish.
With a mission to explore, we decided upon noodles and rice. Though Kibo has a “Robata Grill” where various meats, fish, and veggies are skewered and seared to your liking, we had grain running through our brain.
We decided upon seafood ramen, wok-seared spicy beef udon, and spiced pork bibimbop. Well, it’s safe to say we started with one dish in front of us and ended up with another in its place shortly after, as we had created a merry-go-round of a tasting.
The safe palate went for the seafood ramen, chock-full of flavor with a rich broth and no fire. The other, a semi-adventurous eater, ended with the beef udon. The veggie-packed dish lessened the blow of the spiced beef’s, well, spice, but made for a mulled flavor; subtle but flavorsome.
The bibimbap stayed put on my end, where it started. It arrived in a cast-iron pot and was prepared with its market vegetable mix-ins tableside. The wimps to my left and right couldn’t handle all that is Sriracha, which meant more for me. The never-failing lushness of an egg yolk and the heat of the cult-favorite sauce swirled into the safety net that was the brown rice. The vegetables didn’t hurt either, with the entirety of pot’s contents soon gone, leaving the gawkers in shock at the glass of water still half full that I hadn’t run to in relief — champ status.