Kiri restaurant doesn’t go unnoticed

Anya Lomsadze, Managing Editor of News

By: Anya Lomsadze

In the Harry Potter books, Platform Nine and Three Quarters, the train station that takes students to Hogwarts is hidden from the magicless population by spells that draw your eyes from platform nine to ten. Similarly, the magically affordable but good quality Kiri Rice Bar escapes from sight as your eyes drag over from the Starbucks to the Mellow Mushroom that surround it.

The Kiri Rice Bar is a Japanese and Korean restaurant on the Trader Joe’s plaza next to Grady that gets much less recognition than it deserves. As a midtown resident, I’ve been visiting Kiri since it opened a few years ago. I returned again in the name of journalism to taste Kiri like I had never been there before.

On the menu are a variety of Japanese and Korean dishes, with vegetarian options plentiful. Three options truly reign: bento boxes, sushi, and bibimbaps.

Bento boxes, for $9.99, provide more than a filling meal with a choice of salad, sushi, entree, and rice, in addition to miso soup and soda. I would hesitate to say that all the entree options I have tried had distinguished taste, but you can’t go wrong with their chicken or salmon teriyaki.

The sushi at Kiri is one of the best for its price in midtown. With rolls between $5-10, the sushi has pretty incredible taste and size for its cost. Other sushi places in midtown have sushi double the price of Kiri sushi. I tried the New York and Spicy Tuna rolls. They did not taste particularly special, but they were fresh and full for their low cost.

The highlight of Kiri, however, is their bibimbap. A Korean dish literally meaning “mixed rice,” a bibimbap is essentially a mix of rice, vegetables, meat, nuts, and fiery sauce. There are a lot of options with bibimbaps: you can make your own or choose the Kiri recommendation, get it “dolsot” —in a hot bowl—or cool, or put a sunny side egg on top.

I came hungry and ready for a plentiful bibimbap. I barely had time to notice the pleasantries of the restaurant—TVs on the walls, comfortable seats, free mints—before I furiously started filling in a do-it-yourself bibimbap form. With the meal, I got miso soup and free soda included. The soup was good, but salty, and Kiri used to serve more of it. Thankfully, my bibimbap came soon.

The trick about the dolsot, or hot, bibimbaps, is that the hot bowl they come in keeps cooking the meal when it’s served. To make sure the rice on the bottom didn’t burn, I had to continually mix the rice while eating it.

My bibimbap looked more like a work of art than dinner. White rice with in chicken, romaine, mushroom, spinach, onion, bean sprout, corn, broccoli, cashew, and covered in korean hot pepper sauce looked like it was one of Pollock’s paintings.

My bibimbap was great, but the tofu in my friend’s cold plate bibimbap tasted overcooked. Based on my friends’ jealous glances on my own dolsot bibimbap, it was clear to me that getting them hot is better than the cold version.

Kiri Rice Bar isn’t perfect. You have to cherry pick from the menu to get the quality dishes. But for an Asian restaurant in midtown, Kiri manages to maintain a surprisingly good food with reasonable prices. In the age of Grady students feeding on overpriced Starbucks and crude potatoes from Mediterranean Grill, Kiri offers a perfect, affordable alternative for the occasional, after school dinner.