Buk Chon Korean BYO is the creation of husband-and-wife team Chris and Alicia Chung.
During their 17-year marriage, they have lived in eight different cities in three different countries, but were ready to settle down when the Philadelphia food scene spoke to them. Boy, are we glad they listened.
Buk Chon is billed as a modern approach to traditional Korean cuisine, and the menu is described as “chef driven.” My friend and I sampled two appetizers and a main course and, for a grand total of $31, enjoyed every bite.
Not being terribly familiar with Korean cuisine, we sought help from our server. He recommended the japchae appetizer — a stir-fried sweet potato noodle tossed with vegetables in a slightly spicy, robustly flavored sauce. I still can’t figure out how the noodles were made from sweet potatoes — they tasted and chewed like a traditional rice noodle — but our server assured us they were made from sweet potato.
He also recommended the spicy pork bun, which is not suitable for the Jewish Exponent audience, but the chef is willing to make these stuffed with beef. They were delicious. I envisioned those gummy white Chinese style buns, but these were closer to a really fantastic Asian taco with thick crispy shells, tender spicy meat and crunchy vegetables.
For our main course, we continued to follow the excellent advice offered by our server: We split the entrée bi bim bap, served in a hot stone bowl. This concoction arrived sizzling, with a base layer of rice, topped with bean sprouts, bell pepper, pickled radish, carrot, snow peas, edamame, beautifully seasoned, tender rib eye and an egg.
The mélange of flavors and textures was wonderful (although I am not a fan of the egg garnish, my guest was, so we whisked it off onto her plate). As we dug down into the rice, the bottom layer formed a crispy crust, which delivered a lovely reward as we finished the meal.
We thoroughly enjoyed the meal, and the price was right. The fact that the restaurant is BYO makes it a value-conscious choice, and the uniqueness as well as the quality of the food are worth the trip.
Starters fall in the $7 range, and mains run from $12 for grilled tofu to $24 for the short rib skillet. There are plenty of vegan options in addition to meat dishes. If you go:
132 Chestnut St., Philadelphia
Open Tuesday-Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.