Tuesday, December 4, 2012

First Nibbles: Bibap Fusion Rice, plus Peace, Love & Little Donuts

Posted By on Tue, Dec 4, 2012 at 5:58 AM

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I had an appointment downtown last week, so I thought I'd check in on some of the developments on Fifth Avenue North that I told you all about a few months back. All three restaurants that I mentioned in that post are now open, but I figured you know what a Jimmy John's or a Blue Coast Burrito are like. I was intrigued, though, by Bibap Fusion Rice.

Despite the fact that the sidewalks in front of the restaurant are all torn up as part of the redevelopment of that strip of the Avenue of the Arts, you can still get to the front door by playing a little Frogger back and forth across Fifth. The front door is not well marked, but there's not much else open on that end of the street between Church and Union. Inside, the space is surprisingly spacious with some unusual treatments on the walls to brighten up the dark room.

Someone described Bibap Fusion Rice as an Asian Subway, and that's pretty accurate. They do have a decent-sized sushi menu, but the highlight is the roster of Bibap specials.

Premade options include beef, spicy chicken and tofu rice bowls with rice, mushrooms and egg. You can also design your own bowl, first picking a base from white rice, brown rice, fried rice or noodles for between $2.99-$4.50. Step 2 is to choose your protein from expected options like beef, chicken tofu or shrimp and from surprising choices like beef or chicken gyro meat or spicy chicken.

These will add four or five bucks to your total. Finally, diners select from a steam table of toppings which is definitely Subway-like. Tomato, banana pepper, olives, onions, zucchini, mushrooms and cucumbers are things you might find in a typical stir-fry or Mongolian barbecue place, but the option of shredded cheese kind of puzzled me. I just skipped it.

The cooks at Bibap go through an unusual process to heat the ingredients. All dishes are prepared in aluminum-foil takeaway bowls, even if you are dining in. The protein is heated separately in a microwave, and then after the toppings are added, the whole dish goes into what looked like a steamer to bring them all up to temp.

The resulting dishes were certainly helped out by the various sauces they offer, including a spicy sriracha-based and a garlic/soy sauce. In the end, lunch cost about nine bucks and was fairly filling and quick. Would I skip other nearby Asian options to return? Probably not, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood, it could be another option for some quick on-the-go dining.

I was still a little hungry after lunch, so I figured I'd hop across the street into the Arcade to try out a new doughnut shop that another reader had tipped me off to. Peace Love and Little Donuts is located in storefront No. 12 in the Arcade, but you can't miss it with the big tie-dyed sign and half of a Volkswagen Beetle sticking out of the wall by the front door.

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I was immediately greeted by Tene, one of the franchise owners of the shop. She asked if I was a first-time visitor and scampered to get me a free sample of their tiny cinnamon-sugar cake doughnuts. It turns out that these small doughnuts are the base upon which all their creations are built. Just plain, they cost 75 cents apiece or a dozen for $7.50. These doughnuts were certainly tasty, and I imagine I could eat a half-dozen by myself for breakfast, but the highlight at Peace Love & Little Donuts are their tricked-out toppings.

The levels of embellishment are divided into "Far Outs" and "Funkadelics," and are priced at a quarter and 50 cents more respectively. In the Far Out collection, you can have your doughnuts frosted with vanilla, chocolate, maple, strawberry, raspberry, lemon, banana or orange Creamsicle icing. At the Funkadelic level, these frosted doughnuts are topped with a large array of interesting items. I bought a mixed half-dozen of items like double-chocolate-chip, chocolate-covered pretzels, apple pie, strawberry and Samoas. I can attest that they were all delicious and extremely messy to eat. Delightfully so.

Luckily, they are so small that you can't make too big of a mess, and they really feel like a treat instead of an overindulgence. At $13.50 for a dozen, they seemed a little expensive for their size, but I admit that I don't buy that many doughnuts and probably am remembering back when you could buy a dozen Krispy Kremes for two bucks. Peace Love & Little Donuts also affers variety packs by the dozen or half-dozen if you want to put together a selection for your home or office.

One more interesting pop culture note was the fact that I was pretty sure I recognized the friendly muscular guy who took my money. After I introduced myself he said, "I'm Buddy Jewell. Pleased to meet you." That's where I remembered him from! I attended a couple of tapings of Nashville Star back in 2003 when Jewell won the singing competition show over a young girl named Miranda Lambert. Now he and his wife own and operate the franchise, so if you have visitors in town who want to meet a quasi-celebrity and don't feel like stalking Vince Gill at Noshville, drop by the Arcade for a doughnut and meet the Jewells. I'm sure they'll be accommodating and you'll get a nice treat to boot.

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