While I may sometimes try to pass myself off as some kind of Asian food expert, I know what I don’t know. In this case, it’s Korean food. I’ve had my run-ins with the cuisine almost as much as the next person here in Australia, at various Korean BBQ restaurants, at Harmony Mart’s delicious takeaway gimbap, and most of all with those weirdly addictive cone-shaped snacks that look like American Bugles. I still don’t know the difference between a red one and a brown one. Enter my Korean troupe Jeff, James, Jong and Chaeri. The former two who continue to enlighten me on a daily basis with memes and the occasional Korean trivia. One of these turned into an invite to a kick-ass Korean dinner at Kim restaurant in Potts Point. In fact, the food was so good I knew I had to bring mum and the relatives here when they were in Sydney. Which is what leads me to this post.
Korean BBQ is as much the entirety of the Korean cuisine as nasi lemak is of Malaysian food. It’s good for sure, but it’s the tip of a gargantuan iceberg of deliciousness just waiting to be discovered beneath the surface. My dining patrons are almost 1.5 hours late due to miscommunication, traffic, getting lost and the lack of parking spots in the Kim vicinity.
Kim gives a cute little starter served on a tree stump. It’s very much like the sesame brittle that you get during Chinese New Year, except the addition of chilli powder balances out a lot of the sweetness. They even brought out another serving for when my family finally arrived, really thoughtful!
All in all it wasn’t a *terrible* wait because I had these Kimchi Mandoo ($3.50 ea) to keep me company. Packed full of robust cabbage kimchi, chilli and shallots, I tried my best to make them last for as long as possible. The skin wasn’t wafer thin but certainly lacked the doughy texture of most average tasting dumplings. While it doesn’t sound exciting on the menu, I would definitely encourage the ordering of these. These dumplings alone are reason enough for me to come back.
Another must-order is the Tang Tang Yeokhwe ($15). I enjoy bantering/annoying Jeff with chicken-and-egg allusions as to whether the Japanese yukke or Korean yukhoe came first. Kim’s has the twist of also including raw octopus into the mix.
Assembling this couldn’t be easier. Mix the raw egg into the raw meat mixture and then plop teaspoons of it onto seasoned nori slices. The beef is well-seasoned enough that the meat is all texture and none of that dead animal taste, which is what my relatives were fearful of. Still their bravery in trying the yeokhwe was greatly rewarded, this was one of the table’s favourites of the night.
Another must order is haemul pajeon ($12), the price makes it real daylight robbery. Hands-down this is the undisputed king of seafood pancakes in Sydney. Packed with squid and prawns, oodles of fried shallots and a super crisp and thin batter. I absolutely love the components of haemul pajeon but I usually hate the copious amounts of flour. This could not be more perfect.
I am unapologetic that the hype train doesn’t end here. Enter Prawn Jang ($18) a dish made up of soy fermented prawns, yolk and rice. I hope the description throws you off completely because that’ll mean more prawn jang in the world for me. I am no stranger to raw prawns but the way it’s been prepared really brings out the sweetness of the prawns with a tang of umami from the soy sauce. The last time I was here I managed to devour 6 prawn heads, much to the horror of everyone else including my cholesterol level.
When mixed in with gooey egg and rice, it’s my mom’s idea of carb heaven. Worth mentioning here how much I love that raw egg plays such a role at Kim. Egg truly is a binding agent!
We got a few complimentary dishes that night thanks to the lovely chef TK and David. Incidentally, I interviewed David’s wife a couple of years back for a piece on Kakawa, her luxury chocolate label. This one is the Omok Ssam ($27) which comes with pork neck, squid char-siu, ssamjang, pickles and cos lettuce
Another dish that requires some construction, using the lettuce as a cup you add the meat, pickled onions and top it off with the nut/seed soy mixture.
I naturally do not touch the pork and neither does Aunty Debbie. It didn’t at all taste like this was lacking though, squid char siu is a novel but well received addition to our meal. Not pictured throughout this meal is the Kojengi Kimchi ($9) aka 3 white boy made seasonal kimchis. We drown all our dishes – especially this one – in it which only reaffirms my belief that everything tastes better with kimchi.
Yang Gogi ($22) is up next, a serve of grilled lamb neck, mustard and sesame leaf. While I remember the lamb being quite tender and the overall dish being very flavourful, I can’t confess to recollecting much more. Certainly a good dish but it’s fighting a losing battle for our attention as the others we’ve had are so much better. I don’t think I would order this again, purely because I’d want more stomach space for prawn jang.
We rounded off the night with more carbs, namely this warming bowl of Jja Jang Bap ($18). The first time I ever had black bean sauce noodles were from a packet that a high school friend made while I was drunk under the table. Since then I had always associated it with slightly bad times. Kim changed this for me, it not only showed me that the world is bigger and more beautiful with jja jang bap, but that it tastes infinitely better when it’s cooked from scratch.
What are your motivations for eating out? I mainly eat out when I’m lazy to cook or if I’m craving something that cannot be made in my own kitchen. While my standard go-to restaurant should be able to satisfy this, a restaurant like Kim goes above and beyond that because it gives me an education. I need to sit back and strongly re-evaluate what I think I know of Korean cuisine. I wish I was equipped with this kind of experience and understanding during my trip to Seoul back in 2012. But hey, I’m prepared for the next one. 새우 장 주세요.