Nestled on busy High Holborn, amongst taco bars and tourist gift shops is the welcome addition of a newly opened Korean restaurant, Kimchee.
Upon entry your eye is drawn to the aesthetically soothing, zen-like interior design but there is still bustle in movement in the open kitchen and patrons chatting and eating. The high ceilings and spacious tables are carefully divided with dark wood beams and large hanging lamps. The seating itself is reminiscent of a posh Wagamama's, swapping plain benches and tables with stylish and heavy dark wood tables and high backed benches with ornate carvings.
Kimchee is a stylish Korean restaurant in London
At 7pm on a Wednesday, Kimchee was filled with the after work crowd, enjoying a variety of Korean dishes from a menu that caters for both the fan of authentic spicy Korean dishes and those less well acquainted to the cuisine. Our waiter was very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful, having an in-depth knowledge of the cuisine and was able to offer guidance when asked.
The menu has a variety of well-known favourites, lesser known traditional dishes and a selection of modern fusion dishes. As a Korean brought up in a Western society, I am very familiar with the many faces of Korean cuisine. On Kimchees menu was, of course, the ever popular and famous Korean BBQ. However, it wasnt Bulgogi (perhaps the most famous dish) and Pork Belly, they also had Lemon Sole soi and spicy squid as a variations. Furthermore, there were a selection of char-grilled vegetables; the Asparagus we ordered was served char-grilled on skewers in a sweet Teriyaki-like sauce. They also had lesser known dishes such as Jaem-bong (a spicy seafood noodle dish) and Yukgaejang; a spicy hotpot with beef, noodles and vegetables. There was even a variety of the favourite Chicken Katsu Curry; Chicken Katsu Udon.
Korean cuisine is designed to be shared amongst a group of people; a variety of dishes to be eaten alongside rice. We tried the staple of the Korean diet- Kimchi (spicy pickled Chinese Cabbage) and Kakkedugi (a variation of Kimchi - spicy pickled Raddish) as sides, the quality of your Kimchi is something that is used to measure the level of the cooking skill of the maker. The Kimchi was moderatley spicy with a lovely sweetness about it and on the whole very undaunting for a Kimchi virgin, but perhaps to the dismay of more traditionalists. The Kakkedugi was also very crisp and not too spicy with a lovely flavour that satisfied my Kimchi veteren tastebuds but also pleased my non-Korean companion.
For starters we had Jaep-Chae; glass noodles with vegetables and bulgogi, this was delicious, just the right texture and perfect for those who aren't a fan of spicy food. We also had Yang-Yuem Chicken; which is basically Korean fried chicken covered in a glucouse hot syrup, served in a beautiful rice crisp bowl. This actually was the only thing that fell slightly below expectations, I am a massive fan of Korean fried chicken and I found the syrup too sweet and slightly too spicy.
We rounded up the starters with the Rosum Poe-chaye; a gorgeous dish of raw beef wrapped, parcel like, around a bundle of fresh vegetables with a really delicious mustardy dipping sauce with hints of caramel.
Seafood Bibimbap served at Kimchee in Holborn
We had the Seafood Dolsot Bibimbap; a very famous and popular dish served in a heated stone bowl. Bibimbap, means rice that you mix up, and that is what it is; a bed of rice, a variety of vegetables and your choice of Seafood, Chicken, Beef Bulgogi or Tofu, served with a raw egg (if requested) which is cooked by the hot stone as you mix it in with a little or as much of chilli paste as suits. It was delicous, well flavoured and the rice goes crispy on the bottom if you leave it for a few minutes before mixing it up- just how I like it. There was enough soy-sauce and sesame oil flavouring the rice that Chili sauce wasn't really necessary unless you wanted it.
We rounded up our yummy meal with a serving of roasted black sesame ice-cream, which was delightful and something both of us agree we would go back for go back for. The cocktail list was extensive with creative combinations of tradition Korean liquors and standard favourites. We selected the delicious Soju Red cocktail, with real fresh crushed raspberries and mint.
The restaurant became busy and crowded with groups of friends, family and co-workers. Its not where you would go for an intimate date, well at least not on a work night, but a great place to go with your friends or family who might already love Korean cuisine or have never tried it before, it can be gentle on Korean food first-timers!
Words by Marita Ri