Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Kim-chi restaurant

To the left is one of four starters from Dublins Kim Chi Restaurant. Located at the top of Parnell street, and recommended to me as an authentic taste of Korean cuisine, we chose it as a late night venue for a fond farewell to a work colleague.

The starter pictured is the rainbow roll, Korean style sushi comprising eel, prawn, salmon and tuna sushi rolls, with a dab of wasabi, and soy sauce on the side. The tastes cut through our drunken palates, cleanly, and crisply. The unexpected and gently building heat of wasabi combining terrifically with the pleasant purity of the sushi tastes.

We also had (pictured right) a starter of blocks of rice, daubed with wasabi, and a butterflied prawn, topped with roast, shredded sweet potato, with a side of pickled ginger and wasabi. The prawn had quite an amazing texture, fleshy and firm, and an unusually intact taste. The shredded sweet potato was addictively sweet, and the ginger the perfect side to cleanse the palate for another uncomplicated taste of simplicity.

This starter was a similar dish, but without the sweet potato, and topped with eel and salmon, to be dipped in soy sauce, and wasabi, and followed by a slice of pickled ginger to cleanse the palate. A fantastic introduction, accompanied by complimentary soup in small cups. And the aesthetic effect of these finely balanced, well put together, quite minimalist plates was startling.

As we moved on to main courses, I entirely lost track of what we ordered. It was, after all, a farewell party. For my own main, I ordered the Bulgogi, a beef dish marinated in soy sauce, pear puree, sesame oil, and a host of other ingredients, and served with a side of freshly washed lettuce, still wet, some boiled rice, and some fermented soybean paste.

The trick is to spoon the beef mix into the leaf, then some rice, and finally spoon over some paste, and wrap the concoction up in the fresh leaf, then eat. Quite an interesting and divine leaf, each flavour distinct and somewhat separate, but working together fantastically to counterpoint one another. And the freshly washed leaf brought a texture and fresh taste that was absolutely perfect.

We also had a 7 shot bottle of sake, warm, and two other starters, for the princely sum of €115, including tip. An amazing price for a truly memorable meal. The service was exemplary, with staff genuinely happy, it seemed to our beer soaked selves, to explain any queries we had about authenticity, recommendations, and pronunciation. Tables have buzzers to summon service, and food arrived in perfectly staggered stages. An amazing price for what I am told is an authentic taste of Korean cuisine.

Add to this the general ambience, where, on Parnell street, the melting pot of Dublin, the bar and restaurant was populated by pleasantly drunken Koreans, Irish, Poles, Germans, co-existing quite happily in a chilled out, beer fueled slow and comfortable gorge, and you have a truly memorable experience, which restored my optimism in both our culinary scene, and Irelands current experiment with multicultural identity.

On the downside, the restaurant is tiny, and is part of a larger and noisier bar, which also shares the seating space, so the ambience is distinctly informal. That was fine for our crowd, but it is not a fine dining venue. The seating is quite cramped, and again utterly informal, closer to bar seating than restaurant, and the tables are far too small to easily support the massive amounts of food the kitchen will effortlessly usher out and into your life.

These are not really complaints, though, just qualifications. It is an informal place. Pick up some beers, soak in the food, the tastes, the smiles, and the sounds - it also triples as a music venues - and feel rejuvenated. Its good for the soul. I may well become a regular.

Kimchi (also known as the Hop House). At the top of Parnell street. Enter and enjoy. (sorry, no phone number - they appear to be unlisted.)


The Humble Housewife said...

That sounds incredible! I love bulgogi, had Korean friends in high school and used to eat it at their house. Incredible! Thanks for the review will definitely add it to my list!

Abulafia said...

Wow. Real homecooked Korean food. Superb.

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