January 11, 2012 Korean, Old Town 8 Comments

Beautiful place settings

Tuesday night, Korean food, and a table load of lovely food geeks. Sounds like the perfect recipe for January merriment, to me. I listened to a really interesting radio programme (Radio Four/World Service, can’t quite remember which one), the other day, about the key cultural influencer role that South Korea is playing in the region, at the moment, across fashion, music, cinema, and cuisine, so a visit to sample their “cool” food was particularly timely.

Jenny, Yelp Edinburgh Community Manager, recommended the place given that it fit so nicely with this month’s Total Food Geeks theme of ‘good things in small packages’. I passed it on my way to Pink Olive, the other day, and was intrigued by the look of the place. As I walked in, promptly to the point of earliness as MJ has conditioned me, I was delighted to see a burgeoning simmer of my fellow geeks had already taken up residence.

Simply turn this...

The place was beautifully kitted out in an eclectic mix of classic factory china (Royal Doulton, Portmerrion etc etc), with silk chopstick cases, and beautiful chopstick rests. I’d guess it could hold around 20-some folks, so our table of 11 took up the major part of the restaurant.

...into this! 😉

Our host, Mr Kim, took us through all aspects of the menu, in considerable detail. His merry banter teetered on the edge of pier-end comedy, with his gentle “‘er indoors” references to Mrs Kim, who is the restaurant’s chef.

Potato Mini Soup

After some reflection, we settled upon ordering each of the five starter options to share, which were augmented by appetiser dishes, including soup, that were included in the price. We then each ordered a main course. We also ordered drinks, choosing a combo of teas, interesting soft drinks (I chose rice punch), and water.

Once we’d been through this, dishes started to be delivered at regular intervals, for around the next hour.

Firstly, we were offered a little special treat of pancakes with a range of shredded ingredients for us to assemble, in a sort of Korean equivalent of mini fajitas. We also got a tray of the completed items to give us the idea of what we should be doing. These were good, but I didn’t manage to find a combo of the ingredients that packed a huge amount of flavour.

Then little spicy rice cakes, which were not unlike gnocchi, were served. These packed a really satisfying slow-burn spicy heat.

Spring Onion Pancake

Potato soup, served in a miniature amount was OK, but nothing to write home about. The shared starters were good, with the spring onion pancake my favourite. The sushi rolls, packed with a similar filling to the self-assembly pancakes, were also good.

Sushi roll

Once we’d dealt with the starters, further little appetisers – seaweed, potato pancake, kimchi, crispy pork, and seafood strips – appeared.

Once these had been sampled, main courses started to arrive as they were ready, much in the same way as you will encounter at Wagamama. My main of seafood bulgogi arrived somewhere in the middle. By the time the last mains arrived, those who received theirs first were pretty much finished.

Neatly Arranged Appetisers (excellent photo, Hannah)

My dish was good, with a nice array of seafood, with the squid soft, sweet and packed with lightly spiced flavour. Crunchy lettuce leaves were topped with a pineapple dressing. This didn’t look tremendously appealing, but the lightly sweet flavour, not something I usually go for with salad, worked very nicely
A little chocolate covered rice cake that had a similar texture to lokum concluded the barrage of mini dishes, leaving us to contemplate the array of dishes we’d just sampled.

I must admit to finding the experience a little difficult to assess. We sampled a lot of different things, and while all were good, I’m not sure I found any of them really outstanding. The experience was really positive, but when questioned I’m likely to reflect upon the setting, service and look of the dishes much more so than the flavours and tastes.

Seafood bulgogi

Edinburgh, in general terms, doesn’t do the cuisine from this region terribly well. There’s a bit of an overall dearth in quality, particularly when it comes to Chinese food. The constant criticism is of dishes that are too fatty, gluey and packed with MSG.

For people who recognise this story, and wish to sample cleaner, healthier, fresher dishes, I think Kim’s might be a really good fit, as Korean food seems to be an originating cornerstone of a lot of the dishes from China, Japan and beyond. For me, I admired it more than I liked it. My fellow Geeks took to it with unabashed adoration, but it lacked a real “killer dish” or “killer flavour” to hook me in. It’s a place I’d happily recommend for others to go and try. I’d take people there who were keen to try something a little different. But I can’t say it’s particularly high on my own personal list of places for a repeat visit.

Blythe scores Kim’s Mini Meals:
3/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4/5 for setting
Giving an overall 15/20

Today’s questers were: the Total Food Geeks, Blythe

I ate: a mix of starters, including potato soup, kimchi, potato pancake, spicy rice cakes, sushi rolls; seafood bulgogi; chocolate rice cake

I drank: rice punch, water

I wore: favourite Simon Carter tie

Bill: £17.50 per person

Kim's Mini Meals on Urbanspoon

Written by BKR