One of the best new places to get on my dining favorites list has to be Kimchi Korean Restaurant! Recently opened in February at the conveniently located Suntec City Mall in the heart of town, Kimchi serves up a delightful array of classic Korean favorites, as well as unique regional specialties from Busan and Andong which I seldom see in most other Korean joints here in Singapore. If I have to summarize my dining experience at Kimchi in one word, that word would undoubtedly be "DELICIOUS"! Totally loving it!
A walk into Kimchi's spacious interior immediately shakes off the usual boisterous image one has of a barbeque establishment. The setting is bright and contemporary, casual yet exuding a sense of poshness, making it a suitable venue for couple dates, business lunches, small families and friend gatherings. Bigger groups can opt for more privacy in one of the private dining rooms.
Owner Haden Hee may look more like K-pop boyband material (swoon-factor: high), but is well-equipped with a background in F&B consultancy and is all savviness when it comes to running his business. He ropes in native Korean Chef Choi Minchul, who has a wealth of experience from Ritz Carlton (South Korea & Naples USA) and Marina Bay Sands (Singapore), to helm Kimchi's kitchen and lead a team of talented chefs mainly from South Korea. Ingredients are specially imported from Korea wherever possible, and sauces are homemade to ensure the food reflect a taste closest to its authentic roots.
Kimchi sets itself against convention and introduces interesting concepts which refreshingly changes the definition of a typical Korean meal. For instance, Banchan, the assortment of appetizer dishes which usually comes free-flow alongside with the main courses, is not complimentary but chargeable per order. This "pay for only what you eat" policy might not be best representative of Korean food culture, but I find it acceptable as patrons can choose to eat what they would rather have, instead of paying the cost of banchan which is already factored into the overall menu prices under traditional pricing method. By leaving it out, prices of main dishes becomes comparative lower too. Besides, each side order such as kimchi and stir-fried anchovy is only $1. Very affordable!
A lighter approach is also being adopted when it comes to serving sizes at Kimchi. Many a times we can't order much food when eating with just one or two friends as portions tend to be hearty. But now, we can maximize our enjoyment with a wider variety of ala-carte dishes such as Jap Chae (glass noodle stir-fried with vegetables, $6.90), Dduk Bok Gi (rice cake in spicy sauce, $7.90), Haemul Pajeon (seafood pancake with spring onion, $8.90) at reduced portion and minimum prices. Perfect for gluttonous me who likes to try a bit of everything. The Bean Curd Kimchi ($8.90), a crispy deep-fried patty of stuffed beancurd, minced porkmeat and stir-fried kimchi, is especially delish. Don't missed it!
Another item which warrant a definite MUST-ORDER tag is the Marinated Wagyu Beef Short Ribs ($29.50)! I thought the price is a steal when compared to places which serves normal beef short ribs at an even higher price. And here at Kimchi, we're talking about Wagyu, those beautiful slices of luscious marbling and wondrous melt-in-the-mouth texture. Usually I like my beef unadulterated, but the superb marination utterly blown me away. It has a great balance of savoriness and sweetness, adequately seasoned without overwhelming the natural taste of the good quality beef, complementing each mouthful of juicy tender chew perfectly.
A quick sizzling on the smoke-free electric grill was all it took to bring out the best of the premium cut. Other barbeque meat choices includes Pork Cheek Fillet ($18.50), Pork Belly ($16) and Spicy Marinated Chicken ($15), as well as Tiger Prawn ($12 for 3 pcs) for seafood lovers.
I love my food with a spicy kick and the bubbling hot pot of Kimchi Soup ($9.80) satisfied this preference well. The broth is of a thicker consistency, deeply rich and flavorsome after the stir-fried pork is well-simmered with kimchi. With mushroom, soft beancurd and vegetables generously added, this appetite whetting soup also makes a substantial meal by itself when eaten with white rice for an individual customer.
If you can take the heat, another "ideal with white rice" dish which I strongly recommend is the Andong Jjim Dak ($15), a spicy chicken hot pot dish from Chef Choi's hometown. Inspired by his own family recipe, the pieces of boneless chicken thigh is first marinated with gangjang (Korean light soy sauce), then braised with an assortment of root vegetables to delicate softness. The gravy is highly aromatic, and the complexity of flavors is intensified further with the use of cheongyang gochu, a type of fresh green pepper which gradually culminated the dish to a fiery addictiveness. I don't how to explain it in Korean, but in local terms, it's SHIOK lah!
The spicy Andong chicken can also be enjoyed in form of Andong Chicken Dolsot Bap ($14), basically bibimbap served in a hot stone pot. We gave the Pork Dolsot Bap ($12) a try, though it held no surprises, the mixture of pork bulgogi, korean rice, bean sprout and poached egg is comforting in a homey way.
What surprised me was the deceptively simple Ginseng Chicken Juk ($12). Rice porridge is not what I would usually order at a restaurant unless I'm feeling under the weather, but this version really astounded me. How could something look so plain yet taste so divine? Think premium Korean ginseng chicken soup in porridge form with shredded chicken, jujube (red dates) and gingko nut. Bliss in every mouthful.
I was reluctant to end the meal (I want another portion of that awesome BBQ Wagyu beef short ribs!), but dessert is waiting. Busan Hodduk ($9), a fancified version of the native Busan street snack of light, fluffy hotcake, is filled with red bean paste and topped with toasted nuts and Korean black sugar syrup. A tad dry but it found a redeeming pairing with the mixed berries compote. The hotcake is also available daily from 2pm to 5.30pm as part of Kimchi Afternoon Tea Set ($16.80), together with tea and handmade Korean ice cream.
For delicious food at such affordable prices, Kimchi is certainly worthy of a return visit any time!
Kimchi Korean Restaurant
Address: 3 Temasek Boulevard, #02-387, Suntec City Convention Tower, Singapore 038983
Contact: +65 63377811
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-10pm