TRENDING, CUSTOMIZABLE CUISINE FUSED INTO FLAVOR-PACKED ASIAN INSPIRED BOWLS
The bowl food craze took off in 2017 and is expected to continue its growth this year. This booming trend goes deeper than chefs serving food in bowls instead of plates; it allows operators to expose diners to global flavors and trendy ingredients in a portable, customizable dish with picture-worthy presentations. With no restaurant currently offering this concept in Ithaca, New York, Bōl co-owners Rich Avery and Dean Zervos jumped at the opportunity to be the first to open a bowl restaurant in their community. Their restaurant Simeon’s American Bistro already features a prominent trend, craft cuisine. After discussions with the team at Maines, they determined that Asian-inspired bowls would be the next front-running concept to lead them to success.
Bōl opened in December 2017 and presented three trend-forward concepts: bowls, takeout, and Asian cuisine. The restaurant name was chosen to give a glimpse of their offerings and personality and to pique customer interest. The storefront is sleek and modern, and the restaurant interior conveys a relaxed vibe. The décor is a mix of industrial and rustic styles and features black metal and barnwood throughout. The vinyl flooring with an intriguing blueprint design is an element that stands out and is frequently commented on by guests. The ambiance presents a fresh, new feel that perfectly matches the modern cuisine and appeals to a wide range of clientele.
The countless ingredient options on the menu inspire customers to build their own grain, noodle, salad, or soup bowl, placing their orders in-store or online. If ordering in-store, they can utilize a checklist to check off the type of bowl, toppings, proteins, and dressings they want to add to their meal. Guests can even customize their steamed dumpling appetizers. They can choose from vegetable or pork dumplings with either red dragon sauce or hoisin sauce, and sweet and sour or spicy slaw.
According to Datassential, soups are appearing more frequently as main courses on menus, especially Asian-style soups. Ramen, pho, and dumpling are the Soup Bōl bases offered at Bōl. Customers can choose which fresh, made-from-scratch broth they want to add to their bowl. The types of broths to choose from include vegetable, chicken, and coconut red curry. Along with the traditional ingredients already featured in the Ramen, Pho, and Dumpling Bōls, customers also have the option to add eggs, chicken, beef, braised pork shoulder, shrimp, or tofu. While any item can be modified for vegetarian customers, Bōl offers a signature vegetarian-friendly Soup Bōl. The Thai Butternut Squash Soup Bōl consists of butternut squash, coconut milk, green curry, Thai chili, ginger, pickled apples, and crispy shallots. Chefs at Bōl refresh ingredient options and menu items a minimum of four times per year and aim to keep seasonality apparent in their offerings.
Comforting Ramen and Pho Bōls have been the most popular menu items this winter, but the team at Bōl expects customer cravings to shift to lighter options like green bowls and grain bowls as the season changes. The base options for Green, Grain, and Noodle Bōls include kale, spring mix, crunchy blend, or local greens; yakisoba or rice noodles; or quinoa, farro, or brown rice. From pickled red cabbage, soy mushrooms, and kimchi to fresh vegetables and peanuts and sesame seeds, diners can customize Bōls with five vegetable toppings, one crunchy topping, and one dressing. The dressings are made from scratch every day, and the choices include Thai peanut, wasabi ranch, sesame soy, carrot ginger, and cilantro lime. Customers can then enhance their Bōls further with protein options such as bulgogi beef, ginger chicken, and ahi tuna. This trend-forward restaurant also features two creative Asian-inspired desserts: banana caramel or Oreo® cookie-flavored ice cream sundae-style rice pudding.
Bōl attributes many of their triumphs to the team at Maines. Avery said, “Without the expertise and strategic direction from Maines, Bōl wouldn’t be the successful restaurant it is today.” As the build-your-own bowl concept continues to be prolific across the nation, Bōl expects to continue meeting the demand for endless offerings of customized Asian-inspired bowls filled with fresh, inventive ingredients and fascinating flavor fusions.