Having only recently tried dolsot bibimbap for the first time (and loved it) I was happy to accept an invitation from Kimchee restaurant to a blogger event introducing their Korean menu to a group of food bloggers.
The restaurant is very large, with an additional dining room downstairs, but the wooden panels break up the space pretty well. The design is meant to reflect a traditional Korean home, hence the prevalence of wood and simple lines. To me, it seems a little too much of a copy of the Hakkasan look (not a restaurant I liked) but that was probably based on traditional oriental design with a modern twist too.
Diners seated upstairs can watch the chefs at work, through huge glass panels into the kitchen. There is also a small water garden at the entrance, which is a pretty place to wait for friends.
Kimchee arranged for us to share a feast of different dishes, as well as some traditional Korean drinks. During the meal, we also learned a little about about Korean traditions, including how to address elders, how to pour drinks for each other and the way that food is usually served as a feast of many dishes on the table at once.
The alcoholic options weren’t to my taste, but I loved both the (cold) sweet plum tea and the aloe vera drink (which I’ve been buying from Wing Yip for a while – can’t get enough of it’s refreshing flavour and the strangely appealing texture of the bits of aloe vera suspended within the liquid).
To my surprise, the dolsot bibimbap dishes, served in huge stone pots, weren’t as full of flavour as the one I had at Bibimbap a few weeks ago. The seafood one in particular, I found quite bland. However, for me, they were the two weakest dishes of our feast, and I enjoyed the rest of the menu much more.
The lemon sole gui was delicious, with a crispy fried noodle garnish and fresh, green vegetables, this dish was reminiscent of Chinese dishes I’m more familiar with. The fish was tender and the flavours in the sweet miso and soy dressing were delicious.
As well as trying the main and side dishes, we also sampled the traditional accompaniments. Probably one of the most famous elements of Korean cuisine is kimchee, pickled cabbage. The version here was refreshing, crunchy and full of flavour. A small dish of kkakdugi (pickled radish) was crunchy and fiery hot. My favourite of these little plates was the modum namul – little mounds of beansprouts, spinach, radish, cucumber in a fantastic sesame oil and garlic dressing
A jeon is a Korean pancake made from a flour and egg batter. The pajeon, with spring onions, was simple and particularly tasty when dipped into the accompanying soy and chive sauce. The mung bean version (bean dae duk) was OK, but not as much to my taste. Lastly, the kimchee jeon, which I thought I’d like more, but didn’t really have enough of the distinctive kimchee flavour.
I loved the roseu puen che – thin slices of very lightly seared beef wrapped around crunchy vegetables and herbs. What made this was the mustardy-flavour of the wasabi and soy dipping sauce that came with it.
Pork belly is listed in the BBQ section and is a simple dish of marinated and grilled pork belly slices stir fried with green beans. These are eaten wrapped in crispy lettuce leaves. A little greasy but very good.
Probably one of my favourite dishes of the evening was the deceptively simple tofu kimchee. Fat, wobbly slices of silky tofu, steamed or boiled and served with minced pork and kimchee on top. A fantastic blend of textures and flavours, I couldn’t get enough of this one.
Jjigae probably best translates as a stew, though you could equally think of it as a flavoursome soup with lots of goodies added. We tried two versions, the kimchee jjigae and the seafood soft tofu jjigae. The latter was my favourite, but both were punchy, warming and with a lovely mix of textures.
Yuk hwae was another dish I loved. Raw minced beef served with thin slices of pear and cucumber, and a raw egg yolk mixed into the beef at the table. Essentially a simple beef tartare, the sweetness of the pear and the crunchy texture of both pear and cucumber, were unexpectedly delicious contrasts to the yolky beef.
The beef mari didn’t do it for me. A little like the wonderfully fresh and vibrant Vietnamese summer rolls but altogether lacking in flavour, these rolls of beef and vegetables wrapped in rice paper were bland, even with the accompanying sauce.
Soft shelled crab, breadcrumbed and deep fried… what’s not to like about that? Yes, I definitely enjoyed the crab tuigim with its simple plum sauce.
Despite the fried lotus root garnish, I didn’t find the beef bulgogi very exciting, though it was decent enough. The flavours were more pedestrian, less unfamiliar and exciting, than much of what we ate during the evening. The same applied to the chicken bulgogi we also tasted.
I think glass noodles are beautiful, and they glistened attractively in the jap chae dish, where they’d been cooked with beef and vegetables. The taste was richly savoury too.
After eating my way through all the dishes above, I didn’t think I had any space left for dessert, but the ice creams and chap ssal ddeok were so delicious, I managed to put away more than my fair share. Chap ssal ddeok are a Korean version of what I know as Japanese mochi, and had that same wonderfully gluey texture to the rice flour wrapper and the same sweet hit from the soft chocolate mousse inside.
The ice creams were very good indeed. We tried almond, black sesame, roasted green tea, red bean and sweet chestnut flavours and all were excellent.
The roasted green tea ice cream was the best green tea ice cream I’ve ever tasted, and was an absolute revelation. Even after the many delicious dishes we tasted through the meal, it’s been this ice cream that’s remained in my thoughts since the meal, and which I’ll be going back for as soon as I can!
Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Kimchee restaurant.