Friday, April 8, 2011

Kimchee, Holborn: Another contender?

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Kimchee is a new restaurant that opened up in Holborn. It took over the ex-Matsuri site that had a fire incident last year which it seems that they never managed to recover from.

It was another ladies’ catch up dinner and the opening of Kimchee was perfect timing. On the day we went, it was actually Opening Day 2.

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Even at 8pm, the place was jam packed and we waited for 40 minutes to get a table. While waiting, there was a gentleman who asked if he could join us. Sorry mister, ladies only and trying to cut the queue is a no no! When you get to the front of the queue, a lady kindly invited us to wait inside at a scenic garden patch of stone pebbles and fountain with a wall of Korean characters glowing against a dark setting. Turn your head and you are greeted by the grill section where you could see the chefs busily grilling away.

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We were finally called and upon being seated, we were informed that any skewers orders will take around 20 minutes due to how busy the kitchen was. We quickly placed our orders as most of us were starving by then. While waiting for our orders, we looked around and it was a huge place. I almost did not notice that there were 2 sections to the place that had a cage like wall dividing both sections. Most tables have seats of 6 with bar-like benches along the side for lone or double diners. I liked the decor with the lanterns motif used for the lights; the whole place had a streamlined unassuming posh feel to it.

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Korean tea/green tea (per pot) £2.20

It was quite amusing when our drinks arrived as the Korean tea came in a huge earthen pot that looked like those Chinese clay pots used to boil herbal soup.

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Kimchee £2.30  Sukju Namul £2.30

The crunchy texture and sweetness of the cabbage is more prominent in this kimchee version with the heat of the chilli hitting you only right at the end. Not overly spicy which is good for the non-kimchee lovers but bad if you like it super spiced!

Sukju Namul is a cold dish of bean sprouts in sesame oil & garlic dressing. This was quite normal and a good one to order if you like bean sprouts.

On a side note, I’m quite used to having side dishes given automatically to each table free in Sydney and other countries that should all these side appetisers really be charged and accepted in London?

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Yuk Hwae £4.90

One of my favourites in Korean cuisine. Yuk Hwae comprises of thinly sliced raw beef that is semi-frozen with pears that have been sliced to the same length and size as the beef to bring out the refreshing sweetness. Topped with sesame sauce and egg yolk to give an aromatic creamy balance.

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The Yuk Hwae was one of the better ones I've had in London. It is such an amazing summer dish when made right. The one from Kimchee was good, the sweetness of the pear slices paired well with the beef. The dressing was light with just the right amount of sesame to accentuate the flavours. The beef slices could have been set to a more semi-frozen state so that it gives that crunchy texture but this is just nitpicking here. I am already happy that I did not get one that has been drowned in sesame (so many places do that) such that you don’t get all the other elements that make this so good.

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Jap Chae £4.30

I really like the Jap Chae in Asadal which is quite close by, actually that was our Plan B if we couldn’t get in to Kimchee. We all loved the Jap Chae here. Sesame oil and soy sauce that has clinged to each and every strand of glass vermicelli noodles, delicious!

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Pa Jeon £5.90

There were 3 Korean pancakes on the menu but we decided to go for the traditional version which is made with spring onions and seafood mix, served with soy and chilli sauce on the side. The pancake was too doughy and it didn’t have that slight crisp exterior. The flavours were drowned out by the too generous proportion of the doughy batter.

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Spicy calamari £4.90

Spicy calamari was quite ordinary. The calamari itself was good but the batter was not deep fried enough and was a tad bland. The vegetables that came with it were good though.

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Crab Tuigim £4.90

This was quite a disappointment. Deep fried soft shell crab should be crispy with the oil mixed into the juices of the crab and batter for that oh-so-good deep fried taste. Kimchee’s version was not deep fried enough and the soft shell crab was still quite fresh because of that. None of us liked this one.

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Bulgogi £7.20

Bulgogi is another favourite that people like to order and we were no exception. Described as thinly sliced beef that has been marinated in a blend of fruits, soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, onions and garlic, this was GOOD! Tenderly soft and juicy.

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Scallop skewer £3.50

The scallop had a slight stringy texture and charred exterior from being grilled while it was still semi-soft in the middle. The sauce was really good and more should have been given as what we got was not enough to bring out the taste. I recommend that you try to mop up every bit of that sauce with your scallop.

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Raw Beef Dolsot Bimbimbap £7.90

I only had a taste of the bimbimbap and thought that the rice was still too soft, it needed to be more al dente. Especially the bits that cling on the sides which have been coated with sesame oil to make that layer of rice touching it brown and crispy. In terms of spiciness, it was a much more muted version which will sit well with non spicy-eaters.

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Tofu Dolsot bimbimbap £7.50

My friend who had this was not impressed with the vegetarian version. Her comment was that it felt like someone who rummaged through the fridge in their kitchen to find what ingredients they have and chucked it all together. Satisfactory for a home meal but not so at a restaurant.

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Kimchee Jjigae £6.20

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Dwengjang Jjigae £6.20

Both Jjigae does not come with rice and a side order of rice is required. The Dwengjang jjigae had soybean added to the broth which gives it a nutty milky taste. Both were decent but not very spicy at all.

Generally, we were pleased with the food and the prices are reasonable. It should be a hit with the lunchtime crowd in the area. Is it authentic as stated on their menu, I’ll have to say that it does swing that way more but not all the way.

With any new openings, there were bound to be teething problems and problems there were. Initially being told that food might take a little longer than usual, a number of our orders came out whipping fast. Literally so that we needed to do some quick dividing and manoeuvring to fit the new dishes coming. Then, the snag started. Three of us received our mains while the other two who ordered the raw beef bimbimbap did not. After ages and us chasing a few times, one of them arrived. How is it possible that if you’re making two of the same thing, only one arrived?

That last one did not arrive until the rest of us were almost finished with our mains. We also ordered desserts which again we had to enquire after another 20 minutes. There was a breakdown in communication and actually there were no desserts left.

Our waitress was just so fabulous though. After all that, she automatically did not add service charge to our bill but she has been so great that we did tip her still. I can’t say enough about the service, they were friendly and attentive. So attentive in fact that when we all turn our heads to seek out the head chef in the kitchen, that was enough for someone to come straight to our table and ask if we needed anything. How attentive was that!

For all that food, we each paid about £12 with the current 50% opening special. Without the discount, we will be paying around £23 each which is still good.

The current opening special runs from the 6th - 16th April if I'm not mistaken.

Will I recommend: Yes, think Asadal now has a bit of competition in the area.
Will I come back: Yes
Have I had better: Yes

Kimchee, 71 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6EA

Kimchee  on Urbanspoon


  1. Glad to see the dolsot bibimbap comes with a raw egg yolk. From reading the menu I thought that was going to come with a fried egg too.

  2. Am a bit outraged that the jjigae comes without rice.

    And charging for namul is cheeky too. Mind you most places here do, except maybe Tohbang.

  3. OMG that guy asking to join you - that's a bit creepy...

    Food looks good, and such a bargain with the soft opening.

  4. Joshua - I know. We were wondering why the tofu version came with a fried egg! Raw egg yolk is the way...

    Mimi - An extra £2 for the should be included. Actually...side dishes should be free.

    Mr Noodles - It is. Do plan to head back again during their soft opening.


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