Tucked away on the east side of Campus Towers, Gaya (11147 87 Avenue) is dwarfed by both the sheer size of the sign and instant recognition of the Earls chain. The small Korean eatery had always caught my eye in passing, but I never did set foot through their doors in my university years. Now, having the time and income to reclaim lost eats, I found some spare time between meetings on campus and headed there for an early lunch.
It was barely past 11, so I was understandably the only customer at that point. With eight tables arranged in the small space, minimal décor, and a radio soundtrack, ambiance clearly wasn’t the reason for dining here. I was quickly given a one-page laminated menu, a glass of water, and ample time to peruse the selection if dishes. Prices of the one-bowl meals ranged from $7.95 to $10.95 and though I was feeling not all that hungry, I decided to order the Stone Bowl bee bim bob ($10.95), as it is something of my benchmark dish for Korean joints.
Three more parties trickled in during my stay, the majority of them seeming to be regulars, or at least familiar with Gaya and their offerings. I settled in with my book, content as I heard stirrings in the kitchen.
A short while later, a large warmed bowl filled with a base of rice and topped with pickled bean sprouts, cucumber and carrots, ground beef, and a fried egg appeared before me, along with two small bowls containing kimchi and more bean sprouts. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised with the fully-cooked egg, as that was what was plainly stated on the menu, but I had hoped for a bee bim bob similar to the one I had at the restaurant named for the dish, where a raw egg cooked in the piping hot stone bowl as the rice and vegetables were mixed together, lovingly coating the bowl’s contents in a creamy makeshift sauce. The rice-to-topping ratio at Gaya also meant that I had more rice than accompaniments, even with the inclusion of the additional bean sprouts.
Stone Bowl Bee Bim Bob
At $10.95, my meal was a bit pricier than I would hoist on the income of a starving student, and also not as enjoyable as other Korean meals I’ve had in the city. That said, their service was prompt and friendly, so I wouldn’t mind returning to Gaya in the future – but for a different dish.