Bin Bin Konjac
Photo by Matt OttoModesty is unknown to Bin Bin Konjac, a sleek three-month-old Irvine smoothie shop where the owners list as many self-written plaudits on its menu as it does sipping options. Best boast: buy enough fruit-based shaved ices, snow slushes or cold drinks here, and you will "increase gastrointestinal mobility, increase diuretics, increase bowel movement and decrease the chance of colon cancer."
But there's a business purpose behind the feces fascination. Bin Bin Konjac is the county's first outpost of a popular Taiwanese chain trying to market konjac, a fibrous root health-food freaks know better as glucomannan that has the enema powers of a Metamucil milk shake. But Bin Bin Konjac, which roughly translates as "Icy Konjac," attracts Irvine's sizable Chinese community more for its refreshing confections than any intestinal-cleansing promise.
Bin Bin offers its namesake konjac in the form of lush ice-clear jelly cubes: think boba pearls but square. The cubes are softly crisp like a plump grape and sweet like a coconut. In a smoothie, the konjac sink to the bottom of a quite-large cup, ready to zip through a pipe-like straw and thud into the roof of your mouth. The konjac's mild oomph contrasts nicely with the fruit-shake flavor of your desire—rightly tart strawberry; caressing mango; or indigenous Asian fruits such as the syrupy longan, custard-like mung bean and lotus seeds. Of the konjac with aloe smoothie, Bin Bin's menu gushes, "All the ladies out there do not miss this wonderful drink." Forgive the pretension again and slurp: sticky like its mother plant, this aloe smoothie balms all the burns your being may suffer with a minty, very verdant élan.
The smoothies are great, but the konjac cubes impress best as part of the mini-glacier that is Bin Bin's less-than-$4 shaved ices: neatly stacked konjac, pebbled ice, chopped fruit and a sorbet scoop within an expansive plastic plate. It's the greatest frozen treat since Flintstones Push-Ups—what? I like Flintstones Push-Ups! Although the mango, kiwi and strawberry selections come with fruit chunks, I prefer the shaved ice with red bean clumps. Red bean might initially turn off non-Asian palates with its sharp, not-sugary candor, but let it sit in your mouth a bit. Soon, creamy, intense legume love will meld with your soul.
There's a limited menu at Bin Bin Konjac—mundane rice with pork hock, pinky-thick udon noodles livened up with a slab of fried cheese and a bizarre Sino-Italian hybrid of spaghetti with shrimp. Concentrate on the smoothies and shaved ices, but keep in mind that as yummy as those konjac cubes may be, you are digesting fiber. Beware: one konjac-based dessert will fill and clean just fine, but two will exile you to the toilet for a good hour. Three and you'll enjoy the most delicious colonic of your life!
BIN BIN KONJAC, 5406 WALNUT AVE., STE. C, IRVINE, (949) 651-6465.
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