Modern Korean might be riding a new wave of popularity in Sydney-town, but Kim Restaurant in Potts Point is no gimmick. It's helmed by David Ralph (co-owner of Kakawa Chocolates and ex-Flying Fish) and Tae Kyu Lee (ex-Mr Wong and Ms Gs), both of whom are serious about Korean cuisine. That means a menu littered with interesting items beyond the run-of-the-mill japchae noodles; with dishes like soy fermented prawns, crispy skin mackerel and acorn jelly with sesame leaf.
Chef David Ralph in the kitchen
At first glance, it's tempting to make comparisons with that other hip new Korean restaurant, Moon Park, but the vibe is infinitely more relaxed here. The tiny restaurant is more outside than inside, with tables and chairs sprawled out into the laneway of Llankelly Place. Outdoor heaters will keep you warm at night but nabbing a table inside does give you a sneaky glimpse into the kitchen.
Fresh makgeolli $15
The semi-outdoor space does encourage more laughter and animated conversation, but maybe that's just the makgeolli talking. They serve a fresh version here, a fermented rice water drink that arrives in a copper teapot for you to pour into individual tea cups. There's a slight fermented fizz to the milky liquid but it's not overly alcoholic, and makes for easy drinking.
Housemade namool $9
Three Korean style vegetables
Everything is designed to share and you'll want to, if like us, you want to try as much as possible. There are 19 savoury dishes on the menu and between the eight of us we still only manage to get through 13 of them.
The pickles and kimchis are a good place to start. The housemade namool is a sprightly trio of mixed vegetables, from tender green tendrils studded with sesame seeds to shavings of pickled cucumber draped with red chillies.
Housemade pickles $9
Five mixed pickles
The housemade pickles are bound to get your tastebuds firing too, a collection of radishes, beetroot, carrot and cucumber that vary in juiciness and crunch.
Kojengi kimchi $9
Three white boy made seasonal kimchis
And they're not afraid to make fun at their own expense either, with their kojengi kimchi that translates as kimchi "made by big nose" or "white man". The fermented kimchi is currently David's responsibility, and be warned, he doesn't hold back on the chilli - just the way we like it.
Haemul pajeon $14
Pancake, squid, prawns, octopus, shallots
So every Korean restaurant offers pajeon seafood pancake, but noone does it quite like this. The haemul pajeon is a seafood spectacular of squid, prawns, octopus and shallot tenuously bound together in an earth-shattering batter. I've had plenty of pajeons in my time but this is less of a soggy pancake and more of a kakiage tempura crunch-fest.
The seafood is fresh and firm, the batter is crisp, and the sweet dressing on the side kicks everything up a notch. It's so incredibly good we ordered another at the end of the night.
Yangnyum tonk dak $18 for 9 pieces
TKFC, wings, bbq sauce
Tae Kyu puts his stamp on fried chicken, tumbling midwings and drummettes in a spicy barbecue sauce and then sprinkling the lot with crushed peanut and green onions.
Dotori mook muchim $12
Acorn jelly, mushrooms, sesame leaf
If things are getting too fiery, the dotori mook muchim provides some cool respite. The rectangular prisms of acorn jelly have a wobbly nuttiness, tossed through with enoki mushrooms and peppery ribbons of sesame leaf.
Ojingoh soondae $18
Kimchi, pork, beef stuffed squid, minari
The ojingoh soondae is one of my favourites of the night, a whole squid tube stuffed with beef and grilled to a wondrous tenderness. It's served on a bed of kimchi and covered in a trail of minari, or Chinese celery.
Prawn jang $18
Soy fermented prawn, yolk, rice
Our other highlight is the prawn jang, three massive raw prawns fermented in soy for three days.
Rice with egg yolk
The prawns are served with a side of rice, crowned with a runny egg yolk that's ripe for bursting.
Mixing the soy fermented prawn with the rice
The prawns have a shimmering luminosity, not unlike raw scampi or lobster, but the soy fermentation gives a slightly chewy feel to the flesh. You can smell the sea with each mouthful, and the subtle saltiness of the prawn is a perfect complement to the sticky grains of steamed rice.
Crispy skin cured mackerel
The seafood bounty continues with the crispy skin cured mackerel, best eaten with rice, although I could see this working as side snack to a cold beer as well.
Pork belly, ssamjang, garlic chive, kimchi
It's a hands-on affair for the bossam, one of my favourite Korean dishes. Fat-ribboned slices of pork belly are lusciously tender, wrapped in baby cos leaves with kimchi garlic chives and spears of nashi pear for sweetness. It's meaty, fatty, spicy and sweet and the crisp crunch of lettuce leaves you re-energised for more.
Jokbal naengchae $18
Pork hock, trotters, jellyfish, mustard
It doesn't stop there. We plow on through the pork hock, thin slices of trotter hidden beneath a tangle of spiced up jellyfish, cucumber and enoki mushrooms.
Rice cakes, chilli sauce, pork floss
Dobbokki is a crowd-pleaser, little stumps of chewy rice cake deep-fried so the surface is deliciously tacky. Chilli sauce adds heat, and fluffy strands of pork give a protein boost. You could spend all night eating these, one by one, until there's nothing left on the plate.
Ogok bap and roasted kim $5.50
9 grain rice with salted roasted seaweed
Salted roasted seaweed
The rice is so filling you could probably share this between four, but the chewiness is so addictive you may find yourself going back for more. It's lightened if you eat the rice with the accompanying sheets of roasted seaweed, the crinkly squares adding a salty whiff of the sea.
Gamja tang $25
Pork ribs stew, potato, wild sesame, minari
And then there's the gamja tang pork rib stew, a hearty huddle of pork bones simmered with potato in a spicy soup. It's the ideal soup to warm you up, from the inside out.
Kalbi jjim $26
Pear and soy braised beef short ribs, carrot
We're struggling by now, but there's still room for the kalbi jjim, a beef short rib stew cooked with carrot, soy and pear. The beef slides straight off the bone, soft and unctuous, and we soak up our rice with the meaty gravy sweetened with pear.
Barley, ginger, malt, rice, cinnamon punch
Shikkae might sound like a strange thing to order for dessert but this sweetened barley and rice drink has a soothing and calming effect that makes a welcome digestif. It's extremely cooling, with a hint of ginger and cinnamon that soothes the stomach.
Milk ice, fruit jelly, red beans
The patbingsoo just looks like a mountain of ice, but dig beneath the milk ice crystals and you'll find hidden treasures of lychee jelly, cooked red beans, and slivers of fuyu fruit. It's light and sweet and refreshing for the palate.
Busan style doughnuts, black sesame parfait
The hoddeok is more of a heartier dessert, and it's hard not to get excited by the prospect of donuts. The Busan style doughnuts are a little denser in texture but the sugar crystal coating is all too familiar. They're sprawled on the plate with squares of black sesame parfait and doused in a gloopy trail of basil seeds that equals spoonfuls of fun.
There's much to love here, a foundation of traditional Korean cuisine with a youthful spin. If this is the face of modern Korean in Sydney, we want more of it.
24-30 Springfield Avenue, Potts Point, Sydney
(enter via Llankelly Place off Darlinghurst Road)
Tel: +61 (02) 9357 4578
Monday to Saturday 5pm - 10pm
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6/15/2014 09:12:00 pm