Friday, September 30, 2011

Kim Chee, England by Bureaucrat

Well, after about 20 or so months living in the UK, I'm now writing my last review of a London restaurant.

In my last few days before I flew out, I had to run some errands around town. When it was about lunchtime, we happened to be at One New Change. I thought it would be good to try Jamie Oliver's new venture, Barbecoa. Even though it was a mid-week lunch, we were told that we would have to wait an hour for a table. However, if we chose to eat at the bar area, then we could have a table right away.

We thought we'd see what the bar area looked like. So a too-cool-for-school type of waitress (all the staff had these OTT earpieces and walkie talkies to communicate to each other) walked us around the entire restaurant to the bar area. In doing so, it was evident that the restaurant was, at most, half full. I find it hard to believe that for a mid-week lunch that the place would be completely full (or fully booked). Had this been a Friday, maybe. Had this been the Christmas/NY period, I'd believe them. But this was mid-September, mid-week.

The bar area was comprised of about four piddly tables. I wasn't going to fork out top dollar (sorry, I mean, pounds) to sit at a bloody bar and be served by wanky waiters.

But when God/life closes a door, a window opens. And I'm very glad to say that that window was Kim Chee.

Kim Chee opened up a few months ago near my work. In the opening week, it had 50% off all food. I convinced my friends to come with me (none had tried Korean cuisine before), but of course, with 50% off all food, the waiting line was at least 30 minutes. Because of the cruel constraint of a lunch hour, we never ended up going there.

KC is kitted out in dark contemporary furniture with traditional Korean touches - it's a classy place without the pretention. When you walk in, you can see the chefs grilling the delicious meats, such as bulgogi.

For drinks, we got the Far Eastern Surprise (orange, mango, passionfruit juices and something else) and the Berry Explosion. Both drinks were very delicious. It's a pity I can't quite remember what the ingredients were, as these drinks didn't taste like your average mixed juice combination.

For starters, we got the Beef Mari. Tender, thin slices of beef with blanched spinach, carrot and rice noodles. It looks a bit small in the photo, but it was actually a decent size serve.

We also got Gogi Mandu, pan fried dumplings. Since moving to London, I feel I've been deprived of good dumplings. These were nicely crispy, and the flavours were well balanced (ginger, spring onion, pork and veg).

For mains, we shared the Seafood Dolsot Bibimbap. The Lawyer hadn't had a bibimbap before - but he likes them now! A good mix of seafood (not that frozen marinara mix), the rice was piping hot, and it was served in a rather nice bibimbap stone bowl (I've only seen rather plain and simple ones before). It didn't come with the miso and chilli sauce, but I'm sure if you asked for it, it would be provided.

We also got the Bulgogi, grilled beef Korean style. Marinated beef tenderised and flavoured with fruit (usually nashi pear) and onion, cooked on a hot plate. These were very tender and the grilled smoky flavour was spot on. You can't quite see it in the photo, but it was a very generous serving of bulgogi.

It was served with some crisp lettuce leaves, and I ordered a serving of rice to go with it.

While we were hoeing into the mains, we got greedy and decided to order two more starters. We got another serve of the Gogi Mandu and a serve of Pa Jeon (seafood pancake). The pancake was crispy and contained little pieces of seafood and what I think was garlic chives. It wasn't too thick or thin, and had a good batter-to-seafood ratio.

KC got some mixed reviews when it first opened. Some people loved the food and the price. Some complained that the orders got mixed up, food was cold, etc. I'm glad to say that KC has definitely got their game on now. Not a single flaw. Staff were friendly, helpful (for punters who aren't familiar with Korean food), food was very tasty, piping hot and came out quickly. The place was packed out but the staff didn't rush you to leave.

My only negative comment is that KC uses MSG. I couldn't pick out which dish had it, but having read a few recipes for bulgogi previously, I think it was in that, and also in the pancake. MSG is a big no no for me. Good food doesn't need artificial enhancers.

It might be because I was leaving London, but for the first time in London, I felt there was a true sense of multiculturalism. London is so in-your-face (and what it's shoving in my face is hardly desirable) and segregated. London likes to think that it's multicultural, but it's not.

I know I'm on my soapbox, but do try out KC and see if you agree with me.

Kim Chee
71 High Holborn
Holborn WC1V 6
Telephone: (020) 8455 1035

Kimchee  on Urbanspoon

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