The latest addition to Oakland’s Korean food scene comes from the family behind Bowl’d Korean Rice Bar, Spoon Korean Bistro and Ohgane Korean BBQ Restaurant. Bowl’d Stone Grill is co-owned by Chi Moon and Jessica Oh, daughters (sort of — it’s complicated) of matriarch restauranteur Micha Oh. The recipes are from centuries-old family restaurants according to Moon Chi, with the slightest adaptations to make them as nutritious as possible and to utilize California vegetables. However, this is no fusion restaurant. The dishes are from 17th-century Chosun Dynasty cuisine.

The menu is extensive and plentiful if  somewhat pricey. The fun and interactive dining experience is perfect for group celebrations. You can customize your meal from choices of soup, protein, rice and a dozen side dishes, and then barbecue it yourself on the individual stone grills affixed to each table. The many small plates of banchan make dining an exploration of the palate.

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Ginger, citron and coconut cocktails made from soju, a distilled rice alcohol, are served with the customary baby anchovies sautéed in brown sugar. My citron cocktail was subtle and lovely and the whipped egg white topping was thick rather than foamy.

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The kimchi pancakes for a starter were a huge hit. Don’t skip those. The three of us split a two-person combo, resulting in a parade of dishes and courses no two people in their right mind should ever be able to finish. The three of us finished about two thirds of it. The combo includes a soft tofu soup, an egg soufflé with scallions, two kinds of barbecued protein (we chose short ribs and spicy chicken), rice (go for the mixed grain, it’s special) and a legion of banchan — pickled radish, soy bean sprouts, seaweed salad, braised tofu, mung bean jelly, curried potatoes and carrots, and more. We ate everything wrapped in cabbage leaves with various sauces and spreads, thinly-sliced garlic cloves and jalapeño. Such a treat.

Korean food is hearty, but clean and fresh tasting, and the chefs at Bowl’d accentuate that nutritiousness. Nothing is greasy or syrupy. “The barbecue is traditionally served with lettuce leaves, but lettuce is pretty nutrition-less,” said co-owner Chi Moon, explaining one of their few deviations from tradition, “so we serve it with cabbage, which aids digestion.”

Chi Moon thinks of it as a mission to share Korean food with people who have never tried it. “Our parents were mostly too busy making a living, but now the next generation is opening lots of businesses to bring Korean culture beyond small immigrant circles. Just in the last three years, I’ve seen Korean food become much more popular.”

When asked what kinds of food she likes when not eating Korean, Chi Moon laughed, “I like everything. I like Mexican and Greek and all that. It’s funny because my sister is the much more Americanized one, but she only eats Korean food.”

Bowl'd BBQ wall mural

Bowl’d BBQ Korean Stone Grill
4869 Telegraph Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets, Oakland.
(510) 654-2000.

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