Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Mixing Bowl

The Bibimbap Bowl at Mixing Bowl offers a familiar Chipotle-style meal, but with a Korean twist. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)
The Bibimbap Bowl at Mixing Bowl offers a familiar Chipotle-style meal, but with a Korean twist. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)

Mixing Bowl is a lowkey storefront in Tysons Corner Center’s lower level food court. It’s the first location of the Korean eatery, so those unfamiliar with the brand might overlook it for the Cinnabon next to it, or the Wasabi Japanese Cuisine that occupies prime real estate across from it in the center of the food court.

But it’s a tasty original amidst the Tysons restaurants that are either major franchises, carbon copies of those chain spots or just plain mediocre. It follows the mold of Chipotle-style fast casual restaurants but Mixing Bowl has a Korean cuisine twist.

Mixing Bowl specializes in the signature Korean dish bibimbap, which literally translates to “mixed rice.” My guess is that it borrows from that translation and plays on the nearby Springfield Interchange for its brand name.

And my second favorite thing about Mixing Bowl is that it has a lane for vegans and vegetarians (I’ll reveal my favorite thing later). We’ll get to the particulars in a second, let’s start with the first step in creating a dish at the orange storefront.

As stated before, the Bibimbap bowl is the most popular dish at Mixing Bowl, but diners can also order a Ssam (a lettuce wrap), a Burrito or Tacos. The differentiation in prices comes with the next step: protein.

Mixing Bowl has five protein options: Beef ($8.99), Spicy Pork ($8.49), Mild/Spicy Chicken ($7.99), Mild/Spicy Tofu ($7.59) and Vegetarian ($6.49). Extra protein can be ordered for $1.99 and a fried egg can be added for .99 cents. The Spicy Tofu, which is marinated in spicy chili sauce, isn’t that spicy, so fire eaters will have to order more in order satiate their palettes.

But it’s so delicious. A lot of places that serve tofu don’t get it right, which usually means it’s bland or textured like it’s undercooked. That’s not a problem at Mixing Bowl, the tofu is flavorful and tough enough to feel like you’re actually biting into something.

The next step of the dish-creation process at Mixing Bowl is choosing vegetables. The store allows diners to choose up to four vegetables, but extra vegetables can be added for .50 cents per extra veggie. For vegetarians, cheese can be added for .99 cents.

Mixing Bowl’s vegetable offering is actually my favorite thing about the eatery. The vegetable offerings include shelled edamame, radish salad, kimchi (which is made with shrimp sauce) and a complete original for a restaurant that seems to be angling for mainstream appeal: roasted seaweed.

Roasted seaweed is one of my favorite snacks. Despite the effect on my breath (bleh), I can eat roasted seaweed anytime. And the fact that you can get it as a lightly crunchy garnish in the dishes at Mixing Bowl is exciting, to say the least.

The last step in creating a dish at Mixing Bowl is choosing one of four sauces – Gochujang, Soy Sesame Ginger, Cilantro Lime and Mixing Bowl Sour Cream – to give your meal some extra flavor. The Gochujang and the Soy Sesame Ginger are the favorites, but the Soy Sesame Ginger is my favorite out of the two.

Whereas the bowl (in Mixing Bowl’s case, the bibimbap bowl) has become the “dieters” choice at places like Chipotle, Mixing Bowl takes it a step further with the lettuce wrap. It’s an even lighter alternative to the bowl, which was meant to be a lighter version of the burrito. With Mixing Bowl’s Ssam, diners can have the best of both worlds.

Which is kind of where Mixing Bowl operates as a brand. Without knowing the intentions of the owners of the spot, the eatery, which has a friendly, patient and accommodating staff, has the potential to put Korean cuisine on the map.

Mixing Bowl | 17949lb Tysons Corner Center 1 | McLean | mixingbowltysons.com