The name Kimchi (also spelt Kimchee) is a traditional fermented Korean side dish, normally made of vegetables with a variety of spices added in. It is the national dish of Korea, so it makes a perfect name for one of the finest Korean restaurants in London! The restaurant is the brainchild of Mr Kim, who spotted a gaping hole in the taste palette of Londoners. So he embarked on the journey to create a high quality Korean restaurant for Londoners at a reasonable price.
He has succeeded ‘in spades’. On opening the heavy doors you are greeted by a small Korean rock garden complete with authentic bamboo water feature, which acts as a waiting area. This peaceful and tranquil area contrasts with the large, busy open kitchen it looks out over resulting in one of the most relaxed and stress free waits for a table ever. The sound of running water mixed with your separation from the hive of activity happening behind the glass kitchen wall, lulling you into an almost meditative awe.
Once seated you are presented with a beautifully presented menu with just enough choice to heighten your interest but not drive you to insanity as some Chinese restaurants do with there ‘to infinite and beyond’ ideals for menu options!
The food is designed to be shared in a tapas style, making Kimchee an engaging and fun location to eat in. However I would recommend not taking more than 3 or 4 people at once as the portion sizes are small and last time I took a group a fight quite literally broke out over the last Pa Jeon; which is only served in four parts, much to the displeasure of the 5th member in our group.
If you like your seafood, chicken or barbequed pork, this is the restaurant for you, all the barbequed food is delicious and has a unique flavour unlike anything I have had before, its a mix of teriyaki and texan, which i’m sure is already causing your mouth to moisten, but wait it gets better! Kimchee does a number of ‘Dolsot Bibimbap’ which is where you get a combination of rice, vegetables, spices and a meat or meat substitute that you mix together as it spits and crackles in the earthen pot. You can then opt to mix in a raw egg (which is a great choice) and/or have a spicy chilli paste to bathe the concoction you have just stirred up. Thus being insane for seafood I always opt for the Seafood Bibimbap, which is a pot dish with charcoal barbecued, squid, mussels, calamari and prawns.
Other dishes I would recommend are the barbequed pork belly (as long as you are not watching your waistline), this is a fatty yet naughtily appetising and filling cut of pork that is served with a sticky and sweet marinade straight from the raging charcoal fires to your table.
The goki mandu (pan fried chicken dumplings), Pa Jeon (traditional Korean pancakes with spring onions) and the Yang Yeum Chicken (lightly battered chicken in a rice basket) are the best sharing starters, apart from their unusual taste they are also presented to a high standard, so much so that it would make some drill sergeants raise an eyebrow or two in admiration.
So the starters and main courses are simple, tasty and rich in flavour, but what about the all important and critical factors that are the double D’s?
Of course by double D’s I am playfully referring to the essential drinks and desserts, the latter of which are a little thin on the ground in that your only choice is ice cream or a chocolate cake, which is unfortunate say if you’re lactose intolerant or on a diet. The ice cream is similar to Indian style Kulfi; in that it is very smooth yet not creamy, the flavours all sound very interesting with names like Red Bean and Black Sesame. Unfortunately they are different in name and colour, but similar in flavour. The only ones that are worth having is the Golden Sweet chestnut and the Almond, as these have the most distinct aroma and taste.
As fortune would have it, the saving grace after a disappointing dessert is the drinks! The drinks are superb! The Choya Japanese Plum Wine is a lovingly infused wine, that has a strong plum flavour with just a little kick, making it very easy to drink as well as a lovely palate cleanser after some of the heavy bbq dishes. The plum tea when served hot is also a very welcoming proposition when coming in from the cold november evening. The smell wafts over you as the pot is placed on the table, filling you with a need to sample the warming liquid that is currently teasing and enticing you.
Overall Kimchee is a wonderful experience; the food is perfectly presented, the meat braised brilliantly and the waiters watchful to assist in your every need. Needless to say, if you walk past Kimchee on Chancery Lane isn’t it time you stopped missing out?
Kimchee, 71 High Holborn, London. Web Site http://www.kimchee.uk.com/