Ace Eat Serve is known for its great cocktails, punchy pan-Asian menu, and spacious ping-pong room perfect for a little friendly competition. For vegetarians, it's never been difficult finding a few meatless options on the menu, most of which can be made vegan, but I was surprised to discover that Ace also offers a separate menu that is completely vegetarian. When our server showed us the vegetarian menu, I had the same feeling you get when you’ve been staring at something for too long and adjust your perspective to realize someone else is staring back at you. Scanning the list of familiar dishes I have read countless times, I noticed something that had been there all along staring right back at me: the bibimbap.
Rather than just removing the beef, Ace adapts its recipe to add new savory options for vegetarian palates. Bedded with a layer of Jasmine rice and honey-gochujang sauce, the signature Korean dish is adorned with kimchi, marinated grilled king trumpet mushrooms, sautéed tofu and marinated mung bean sprouts. For a topper, the dish sports a fried egg speckled with sesame seeds and green onion. Although served in a bowl, this bibimbap keeps all of the ingredients separate, with almost the orderly precision of a Japanese bento box, where each ingredient rests in it’s own little section. Traditionally, bibimbap is mixed thoroughly just before consumption, but it's also fun to keep each mound of ingredients separate and eat them piece by piece, satisfying your inner obsessive-compulsive nature.
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Use those chopsticks wisely to ensure you don’t take on too much at a time — it’s a spicy bowl. The flavors complement one another with ease, something necessary when you’re dealing with kimchi. Take a few bites of the pickled kale and you’ll be glad those mushrooms are nearby, lending a mild retreat when needed. The carrots have a good kick to them as well, which are quickly balanced out by a smooth, sweet flavor from the tofu. The ebb and flow of the bibimbap sends your taste buds on a flavor roller coaster. But the real test is the fried egg, whether mixed in or left whole, brings all of the ingredients together. Pro tip: spread the yolk around like a sauce instead of eating it in one mouthful.
At a place where the staff is abuzz like honey bees, ensuring their great customer service is consistent, a separate vegetarian menu is just another sign that Ace wants to treat all of its customers with the same level of respect, rather than making plant-based eaters hunt and peck through the regular menu or attempt to adapt non-vegetarian items on their own. We loved those friendly faces at Ace before, but now we love them even more.