Despite its name, Kimchi Korean Restaurant offers more than just kimchi. Tan Bee Hong discovers new textures and flavours
I AM drawn by the bright pink signboard... so are many other shoppers at Tropicana City Mall in Petaling Jaya. Inside, pine wood furniture gives Kimchi Korean Restaurant a light-hearted ambience. Sofa seats are lined up along one side of the wall while futon-style seating is at the deep end.
As we browse the menu, we are offered six types of banchan (Korean appetisers). A couple of these change daily but staples are cabbage kimchi, tofu cubes in sweet sauce and sauteed spinach. We also have steamed pumpkin, giant beansprouts and cockles in half shells. The latter, topped with chilli oil and sesame seeds, is delicious.
Banchan is a feature of Korean restaurants. At every meal, there will be a number of these small side dishes served and includes vegetables as well as fish and meat.
TIME TO BARBECUE
Koreans love to barbecue. They also love beef.
“We use US beef which has better marbling,” says restaurateur Irene Tan, adding that those who prefer very lean cuts can opt for Australian beef (RM48.80).
The meat is grilled at the table but diners can ask for it to be grilled in the kitchen and served. There is a choice of US beef ribs, sliced beef, marinated beef and ribeye (all RM59.80). First, one of the waiters will light the grill and rub it with a thick slice of onion. Then he will grill the meat and deftly snip it into bite size pieces. The barbecued beef is served with salad leaves, garlic, soya bean paste and sweet sauce. To eat, just wrap the meat in the lettuce with a slice of garlic and add the paste and sauce.
I don’t eat beef, so I opt for lamb ribs (RM42.80) instead, which are tender and succulent.
For a different type of grill, try so bool ko kee (RM38.80) where the sliced beef is marinated with pureed pear. The meat is grilled with mushroom, scallions, capsicum and cabbage and the juice is allowed to run into a “moat” at the rim of the grilling pan. Just scoop this with your spoon for a deliciously fruity sip.
“We don’t use sugar. We find that the fruity taste of pear is more pleasing,” says Irene.
Chicken and squid are also available for grilling. For a more exotic taste, try the grilled ox tongue.
SOUPS & STEWS
We freshen our palates with a soya bean paste seafood soup (RM16.80). Mildly flavoured and easy to drink, the soup has prawns, tofu, crabstick, mushroom, leeks and glass noodles. Actually, you can ask for rice and it’ll be a complete meal.
Sam key tang or ginseng spring chicken stuffed with glutinous rice soup is another popular choice.
Spicy choices include kimchi soup and spicy beef soup.
SPICY AND MILD
The menu has ample choices — from spicy to mild flavours. I enjoy the mandu dumplings (RM12.80 for six pieces), stuffed with minced chicken, leek and scallion. Reminiscent of Shanghai dumplings, these are panfried and served with chilli oil and sesame seeds.
There are a few types of pancakes available but I find the gamjajeon or potato pancakes (RM18.80) a tad too chewy for my taste though everyone else seems to love it.
I always enjoy bibimbap. Kimchi Korean offers the hot stone pot version, dolsot bee beem bab (RM18.80) with choices of beef, chicken or vegetarian. It is basically a dish of white rice topped with vegetables, meat, raw egg and gochujang (chilli pepper paste).
Naturally the stone pot keeps the ingredients piping hot. Stir it all up with the gochujang and you get a spicy treat with mushroom, carrot, beansprouts, onions, seaweed and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Wait... the best bit is at the bottom where the rice has crusted into a crispy layer.
Rice is also great with stir fried kimchi and chicken (RM18.80). Strips of chicken absorb the flavours of kimchi while onions, capsicum and leeks add a refreshing flavour. Looks fiery hot but is really a mild dish at heart, with a slightly tangy taste. It’s a riot of flavours really, in every mouthful, with different textures from the vegetables and meat.
Chab chae (RM20.80) is delicious on its own or even with rice. This dish of fat Korean glass noodles is fried with an assortment of vegetables including mushrooms and chicken or beef.
Kimchi Korean Restaurant
Where: First Floor, Tropicana City Mall Petaling Jaya Tel 03-7729 9643
Opening hours:11am to 10pm
Getting there: Tropicana Mall is along the Sprint Highway
What’s cooking: Korean barbecue
Must try:Grilled marinated US beef or grilled lamb ribs and dolsot bee beem bab.
You’ll pay:About RM40-RM50 per person
Overall verdict: HHHHH Go give it a try