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Thursday, March 4, 2010

SFoodie's 92: Bibimbap at Han Il Kwan

Posted By on Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 11:05 AM

The bibimbap isn't just a dish. It's a party.
  • The bibimbap isn't just a dish. It's a party.

As a daily windup to the Weekly's Best of S.F. 2010 on May

19, we've teased out 92 of our favorite local dishes that taste like here.

All the tasty details after the jump.

Number 53: Stone Bowl Bibimbap at Han Il Kwan

You take your extended family to Han Il Kwan for kalbi and spicy pork grilled at the table, bubbling pots of stews, and all manner of pancakes. The restaurant's banquet room in back is a dinnertime destination for tour buses of Koreans visiting San Francisco. But even solo diners have reason to drive out to Balboa: the dolsot bibimbap, a banquet for one.

You order one dish and receive a dozen or extras. The meal starts with a crunchy, tangerine-sized mung-bean pancake, and leads into nine small plates of panchan ― cabbage and radish kimchi, of course, tiny dried fish, agar cubes drizzled with chile and soy, creamy potato salad, marinated cucumbers ― and a tiny bowl of tofu soup. Finally, as you're picking from plate to plate, you hear the ominous/alluring sound of sizzling and popping coming from the kitchen. It's a gingerly carried stone bowl, hot enough to scar a stray fingertip, filled with rice, beef, and vegetables. (Side note: Han Il Kwan sells seafood and vegetarian versions.) The yolk of a sunnyside-up egg jiggles on top.

Squirt a fat drizzle of gochujang (sweet chile paste) over the bowl and stir it all up into a coral-colored mess. The savvy diner eats from the top down for the first 15 minutes, scooping up the spicy-sweet vegetables and blowing them cool ― that bowl is hot ― before attacking the brown, nutty, crunchy rice crust that has cooked onto the edges. It's like getting a bowl of Doritos for dessert, and even though you've already eaten your weight in rice and pickles, it's impossible to leave the table before you've scraped off all the shards of crust and dotted them with chile paste.

Because they don't want to ever be accused of letting you leave hungry, the waiters bring one more dish with the check: a glass of sikye, a sweet rice drink that some call the Korean horchata. The murky liquid, chunky with overcooked grains of rice, looks far from appetizing, but sikye has the power to cleanse your palate of all the garlic, beef, spice, and kimchi you've just eaten.

Han Il Kwan 1802 Balboa (at 19th Ave.), 752-4447

Hungry for more? The dishes in our countdown thus far are linked below:

No. 92: Cracked Half Dungeness from Swan Oyster Depot

No. 91: Pastrami Sandwich from Orson
No. 90: Coconut Bun from Out the Door on Bush
No. 89: Brown Sugar-Black Pepper Biscuits from Little Skillet
No. 87: Indian Pizza from Zante
No. 86: Tamales from All-Star
No. 85: Chilaquiles from Nopalito
No. 84: Poc Chuc from Poc-Chuc
No. 83: Chocolate Beignet from Arlequin Cafe
No. 82: Scallop Crêpe from Ti Couz
No. 81: Gin and Tonic from Pizzaiolo/Boot and Shoe Service
No. 80: Quesadilla from Rico Pan
No. 79: Turkey Kati Rolls from Kasa
No. 78: Emperor's Pancake from Suppenküche
No. 77: Lasagna from Zuppa
No. 76: Chicharrones from 4505 Meats
No. 75: Langka Ice Cream from Mitchell's
No. 74: Bacon Potato Chips from Who's Your Daddy
No. 73: Lamb Dumplings from Kingdom of Dumpling
No. 72: Chile-Braised Carnitas Sandwich from Bento 415
No. 71: Chili from Mission Burger
No. 70: Croissants from La Farine
No. 69: Xiu Mai Banh Mi from Saigon Sandwich
No. 68: Creme Brulee from Sweet.
No. 67: Limon Cebiche from Limon
No. 66: Chicken and Waffles from Brown Sugar Kitchen
No. 65: Brioche Bread Pudding from Tartine Bakery
No. 64: Turkish Salad from Old Jerusalem
No. 63: Ribs from Bruno's
No. 62: Prupisceddu in Umidu (Stewed Octopus) from La Ciccia
No. 61: Hot and Spicy Beef Jerky from Marin Sun Farms
No. 60: Pozole from Chilango
No. 59: Lobster Roll from Sam's ChowderMobile
No. 58: Dry-Fried Chicken Wings from San Tung

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Jonathan Kauffman

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