Last weekend, my parents and I went to visit one of my nieces and we ended up going to Bowl'd Korean Rice Bar for lunch. It's a cute little restaurant in Albany, about a 10-minute drive from Berkeley. Typical college students probably don't venture this far from campus given the plethora of eating establishments just surrounding Telegraph Ave alone but since we had wheels, my niece recommended we try out Bowl'd.
If you like Korean food, this is a good place to go. If you like Korean food served by a friendly, attentive staff who smile whenever they come up to your table, this is a great place to go.
We never had one dedicated server but we had about 4-5. They all worked together to take our order for appetizers, to fill water glasses, to bring tea, to bring out entrees and to clear the table. Needless to say, we received very good service.
And the food was good too. We started out with appetizers: shrimp dumplings (potstickers), seafood pancake, and caramelized potatoes. Our first server took our appetizer order first then said she'd put the order in while we decided on our entrees so that the appetizers could come out faster. Nice. The shrimp dumplings were delicious. For me, the mark of a good potsticker is the wrapper, how thick or thin it is and how well it was cooked. This one hit it on all counts - the wrapper was just the right thickness and they cooked it perfectly, slightly crisp on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside.
Likewise, the seafood pancake held its own as being crisp on the outside but still soft and chewy inside. It wasn't greasy either which was also a plus. The seafood pancake from Jang Su Jang was just a tad bit better but the one at Bowl'd is on par.
My favorite appetizer, however, and one I probably ate a tad too much of were the caramelized potatoes. Let me repeat: caramelized. Need I say more? Nope. The coating was lightly crisp and lightly sweet. For the most part, the inside was cooked just right, although a few of the larger pieces were a trifle too firm for me. I guess they wanted to make sure they didn't overcook the potatoes or else they might fall apart. Still, if you come to Bowl'd, get the caramelized potatoes - you won't be sorry.
The Works ("cold" bowl)
As for the entrees, each of us got some kind of bowl. When in Rome, right? They offer two types of bowls: a "cold" bowl and a hot bowl. The cold bowl wasn't really cold in the sense that the food wasn't chilled or anything. The helpful waiter explained to us that the bowl itself would be room temperature just like any other plate or bowl on the table. It just wouldn't be a hot bowl. The hot bowl is served in a clay pot and really is served hot, thereby cooking the contents a bit more so the rice may end up getting a little crispy. I'm not a fan of crispy rice so I went for the cold bowl.
The Hot Bowl
If you're trying to eat healthy or healthier, Korean food is a pretty good choice. You can select items that aren't fried or deep fried and the "stuff" that comes in a bowl are mostly veggies and protein. At Bowl'd, you choose whether you want the hot or cold bowl, which protein and which type of rice (white or mixed grain). I opted for the cold bowl with Bul Go Gi or marinated beef, my favorite Korean dish. I was less enthused about the stuff that all came with it and I admit I ate mostly the rice, the egg and the beef. If I had known it came with all those veggies, I might've chosen something else. Still, what I did eat was good and I'm glad we tried it. Plus, really, the nice service couldn't be beat.