At this slip of a space in Georgetown there’s French pop music on the speakers, bibimbop in sizzling stone bowls and more than one person standing in line ready to tell you how great the food is.
Styled as modern Korean cuisine, Bopbox is heavy on fermented ingredients and focused on seasonality. Owner Jeanny Rhee opened the spot in late November and also owns Haus Mylk, a nut/plant-based drink available in three flavors that she sells at Bopbox from Thursday through Saturday.
White subway tiles anchor the counter and pass-through window to the petite kitchen, while the dining room is anchored by dark wood tables and a floor-to-ceiling black wall perfect for snapping yourself smiling over a steaming bowl of brisket bulgogi.
That bulgogi is in the “bopbowls” section of the menu; joined by grilled short ribs, a sake/soy-marinated salmon, and fried rice. There’s also noodles in a skillet (yakisoba or japchae) and bibimbop.
Nearly every dish is customizable — but not in an overwhelming sort of way — you can choose white or black rice, substitute roasted cauliflower “rice” and quinoa for the grain base and then choose between grilled garlic chicken, spicy or plain pork belly, or tofu for protein. For four bucks extra you can turn any dish into a saam, meaning a side of lettuce, leafy greens and pickles will come alongside your dish. Tiny, snack-y items include kimchi pancakes and fermented pickles including daikon and kimchi.
You don’t normally hear about something being greasy and think, “Great!” but the kimchi pancakes ($6 for two) are spicy, chewy, and yes, greasy in the most wonderful way. Forget using a fork, just tear these apart with your fingers, and no one will blame you for licking those digits when you’re done.
The bulgogi brisket ($13) is tender and juicy with soy and garlic, accompanied by crunchy scallion and toasted sesame seeds. I had to fight my wiggly little baby for mouthfuls, as I balanced her on my lap while wolfing it down, but I would’ve been just as territorial about it had she not been stealing bites. Praise be for the long-handled spoons lurking amid forks and chopsticks in canisters on each table.
The bibimbop ($15) arrived still sizzling in its stone pot. There’s a sauce option that comes with this hefty portion; the OG hot bop sauce, which is Bopbox’s version of the ubiquitous brick-red spicy/sweet gojuchang sauce that usually accompanies the dish, a tamarind tahini, or jalapeño soy; served on the side in a glass pitcher for you to sauce at will.
I love gochujang, but we went with the tamarind tahini and it was not a mistake — so creamy and nutty it served as a great counterbalance to the gobs of crispy wok’d vegetables, arranged in a beautiful color wheel and the fatty grilled pork belly. The pickle of the day was spicy cucumber and arrived with both dishes, providing nice crunch and a spice that intensified over time in the most pleasant way.
Overall, everything about Bopbox was pleasant — even the French pop music! When inquiring at the counter about the case of Haus Mylk we were invited to sample anything before committing to a bottle and although the Cloud 9 Coconut and Deep Chocolate Hazelnut flavors caught my eye (sorry Haus Cashew), between balancing said wiggly baby and finally determining what to order, I was too discombobulated to start thinking about sampling nut milk. Next time, though. I’m already excited to go back.
Korean; 5633 Airport Way S, (Georgetown) Seattle; eatbopbox.com; open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.