New Korean Restaurant Cupbop Serves Up Heaping Portions in Meridian 

click to enlarge Check out the Noodle Bop (front), mandoo (middle) and Spicy BBQ Pork/BBQ Beef Combo Bop (back) from Cupbop.

Lex Nelson

Check out the Noodle Bop (front), mandoo (middle) and Spicy BBQ Pork/BBQ Beef Combo Bop (back) from Cupbop.

Walking into Cupbop, the fast-serve Korean restaurant that opened last December at the intersection of Chinden Boulevard and Linder Road in Meridian, is a bit of an assault on the senses: The pop of bright yellow walls, ring of shouted orders and sweet smell of barbecued beef combine explosively. During the height of the lunch hour, a line of chattering customers waiting to order at the counter can stretch halfway to the door, but the double-whammy of a concise menu (eight items plus a kid's option) and pre-made ingredients means the line ticks through like clockwork.

click to enlarge Inside, Cupbop is an explosion of color, sound and smell.  - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Inside, Cupbop is an explosion of color, sound and smell.
The Salt Lake City-based chain serves up "cups"—which are really more like bowls, as they take two hands to carry—piled with rice, vegetables (a choice of cabbage or lettuce), sweet potato noodles and Korean-style barbecued meats including chicken, beef and spicy pork. Vegetarians have the option to order a meatless Noodle Bop piled high with extra noodles or a Doochi Bop topped with kimchi and stir fried tofu, and adventurous types can depart from the barbecue norm with an Ugly Pop Bop stacked with fried chicken.

After each cup is heaped to the brim, it's shuffled down the counter to the sauce station, where customers can choose a spice level from one to 10. Each number translates to a different combination and ratio of sauces, which include lime margarita, sriracha aioli, teriyaki bulgogi, plain sriracha and the secret to a level 10: fire sauce. Brave souls who've ordered a 10 and managed to eat it are immortalized in Polaroid photos on the "Wall of Fame" near the door.

click to enlarge Try a Combo Bop with beef and spicy pork for a hit of umami in every bite. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Try a Combo Bop with beef and spicy pork for a hit of umami in every bite.
Most spice levels feature a combination of sauces: a level four is topped off with a drizzle of sriracha aioli, a healthy dose of lime margarita, a squeeze of teriyaki bulgogi and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. The only side dish on the menu, a trio of deep-fried pork dumplings called Mandoo, also comes drizzled with sauce—and if you tip, the staff will "tip you back" by throwing a few extra on the pile.

Easily the most interesting thing about the food at Cupbop is the interplay of sauces; the tang of lime, sweetness of teriyaki and creamy spice of sriracha aioli balance differently bite to bite unless mixed well. When stirred into the Noodle Bop, though, they're reduced to a single note, with the smooth sweetness of the noodles beating down the more complex flavors. A better bet is the beef and spicy pork Combo Bop, which features a bigger umami hit and meat that manages to hold its own against the sauce melee. The Mandoo, doused in sticky-sweet teriyaki and served up on a bed of cabbage, offers a nice contrast to the heavy creaminess of the noodles and manages to taste fresh and light despite being deep fried.

For those in search of something quick, filling and out of the burgers-and-brews Boise norm, Cupbop fits the bill.
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