Pick & Mix Korean Restaurant: Bibimbab, etc.Posted: February 19, 2012
1234 Farmington Ave, West Hartford
11:00 a.m – 9:30, Closed Sundays
Sandwiched between a pizza shop and a Chinese take out joint at 1234 Farmington Ave. in West Hartford you will find Pick & Mix Korean Restaurant, a unique and welcome addition to the local culinary scene. The name of this restaurant does not inspire confidence but it does describe their version of bibimbab, a signature dish of Korea. At Pick & Mix you choose the ingredients to produce a “personalized” bibimbab. Gaspar first sampled bibimbab on a Korean airlines flight years ago. The flight attendants served a room-temperature bibimbab with white rice and, through gestures, communicated that the proper way to eat it was to mix all the ingredients and the hot paste thoroughly with chopsticks. It wasn’t bad for an airline breakfast, but the young, friendly and enthusiastic staff at Pick and Mix prepare a much better bibimbab!
The restaurant is small, with three tables and an eating counter. It is impeccably clean and brightly lit. More importantly, the food is fresh, well prepared, delicious, and healthy. To order the bibimbab, you choose white rice, brown rice or noodles, then veggies, a meat and a sauce. Sauces include hot paste, teriyaki, soy lemon, olive oil, or sesame oil. All the ingredients are carried back to the kitchen from which they quickly emerge, stir-fried and presented in a very hot stone bowl on top of the rice or noodles. Gaspar never favored this sort of mix ‘n match procedure, believing instead that the cook, who knows the ingredients best, should choose which flavors and textures to combine. However, it would seem difficult to make a wrong choice at Pick & Mix. To accompany the main dish, you get a bowl of very simple miso soup, and a plate of refreshing kimchi. All in all, an impressive and inexpensive offering at $7.95 (lunch) or $8.95 (dinner).
Gaspar and Yacine both chose the sweet potato noodles, which are thick, translucent, succulent, and bear no hint of sweet potato. The veggies were crispy and the meats (beef highly recommended) well seasoned and tender. Your bibimbab does not get cold even if you eat slowly because of the heavy, hot bowl. If you like you can order steamed or fried dumplings filled with pork, beef or veggie. There are a few alternative main dishes that look promising but which Gaspar has yet to try; spicy pork, eel (a favorite of Gaspar) , and another classic Korean dish, bulgogi (a type of barbecued beef). There is also fried chicken with various sauces. All in all, Pick & Mix is a lot of fun. The food is honest and rewarding to the palate. Enjoy!