First look: Bop & Gogi, Denver's first fast-casual Korean joint, opens in the south suburbs

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Could Korean be the next fast-casual concept in Denver -- and beyond? Quite possibly, especially if it's Bop & Gogi, which, like Chipotle and a whole slew of other quick -- but not fast-food -- cuisine concepts, is the kind of joint that ballyhoos good grub, at affordable prices, in a hurry.

See also: - Shin Sa Dong, the city's newest Korean restaurant, opens in Aurora - Best Korean Restaurant - 2012: Han Kang

Nudged into a new development in Centennial, Bop & Gogi, which translates to "rice" and "meat" in Korean, is the first Korean concept of its kind in Denver, and while this isn't the place to inhale the smoke of Korean table barbecue, the menu, compact and focused, pimps some very good food, including galbi with beef, chicken, fish or squid; bibimbap, an amalgam of rice, ground beef, five different vegetables and a wiggly fried egg, heaped in a shiny metal mixing bowl; soups, including udon, ramen and kimchi; a spat of appetizers -- dumplings, egg rolls and Korean seafood pancakes, among them -- and a daily-changing stockpile of side dishes.

The food, cooked in an open kitchen, where sizzling woks smother the flames of multiple burners, is the work of chef Sing Nhoisaykham, who's originally from Laos and has cooked at various Japanese and Chinese restaurants in Colorado -- but Korean cuisine is one of his specialties. "I love eating -- and cooking -- Korean food, and our hope here is that we can make people more aware of Korean food in general," he says. "This is traditional, home-style Korean food that's fast and convenient but high-quality," he adds.

And the goal, he says, is to multiply. "We have high hopes of setting this up as a franchise," but first, he admits, he wants to gauge the interest of his current customers -- and that means playing around with his menu. "The menu is pretty small at the moment, mostly because we're keeping an eye on the kinds of things that people want," he says, noting that he'll soon be adding daily specials to his lineup. "Once we know what's popular and what our guests really like, then we'll make more dishes permanent and we'll start talking about expansion."

I recently stopped in for lunch at Bop & Gogi, and while trade was slow (the discreet location, off the beaten path, makes it difficult to find), I really enjoyed Nhoisaykham's food, which doesn't skimp on flavor or ingredients. Take a journey through the space and several of the dishes on the pages that follow.

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