March's Can't-Miss Dish

By Ellen Bhang · 03/01/2021

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now. 

On the plate: Bulgogi Beef Bibimbap

Where to find it: James Choi believes that small is beautiful. Perillas, his eatery in Somerville’s Bow Market, is a case in point. From a teensy storefront adorned only with plants and a digital menu board, Choi and his team serve up takeout versions of bibimbap—Korea’s endlessly customizable meal in a bowl—that we can’t stop thinking about.

With a background in finance, management consulting, and a seminary degree to boot, Choi was earnest about doing his homework. Surveying the dining scene in Boston, he noticed a gap in the market when it comes to Korean food, he says. “I was looking at all of the other Asian cuisines, and they all had fast-casual options—a convenient way to experience the food,” he recalls. “But Korean food, for one reason or another, you had to go to a sit-down restaurant. There weren’t many quick options available.” So, he decided to offer his own. “I wanted to see if I was right.”

Notes on the nosh: Choi’s instincts proved to be spot-on. Customers who got a taste of Perillas’ fare through pre-storefront catering and pop-ups gave it the thumbs-up. That’s thanks in no small part to his wife, Kelsey Choi, who co-developed all of the recipes, drawing inspiration from her grandmother’s cooking.

Their Bulgogi Beef Bibimbap takes the traditional dish of meat and vegetables on rice and streamlines ingredients for the grab-and-go crowd. An optional soy-marinated egg with a jammy yolk, for example, takes the place of the sunny-side-up version you would find in a sit-down spot. But Perillas’ interpretation lacks nothing when it comes to visual appeal: toppings here are exquisitely composed so that each colorful item sits enticingly beside another.

The dish starts with steamed white rice, mounded generously into a sturdy paper bowl. Thinly shaved grilled beef, seasoned with soy and garlic, goes in next, tucked alongside slender batons of carrot and zucchini that have been simmered briefly to retain their tender crunch. Rosy coins of pickled radish lend plenty of tang, as do two styles of cucumbers: One preparation is mildly seasoned with a whisper of vinegar and sugar, while another sports kimchi spice. Definitely ask for a squeeze of the House Gochujang. That sweet and spicy sauce draws everything together, succinctly and with flair—just like Choi is doing with his budding bibimbap business.

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