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Restaurant of the Week: Well-executed Korean bites in casual settings at Kimme

Innovative takes to Korean flavours at Sun Kim's latest restaurant.

When it comes to enjoying good food, casual laid-back settings appear to be the way to go. Not that fine dining has not lost its appeal. There’s always occasion for elegant cuisine, perfect service and grand wines. Still, there’s fun to be had with food. Kimme, Michelin-graced Sun Kim’s newest brainchild, drops all pretense and goes wild with flavours. This, on the back of the trend of chefs in fine dining who’re branching out into less starchy concepts.  (Sun Kim’s Meta snagged a star at last year’s Michelin Guide ceremony.)

  • Group executive chef Sun Kim and Kimme's head chef Louis Han.

The restaurant’s name borrows from the Korean chef’s childhood nickname; a suggestion to more playful dishes and a throwback to familiar flavours. Kimme is meant to be casual, but it still shares elements with Meta. The mirrored interiors recall those at its sister restaurant, and on occasions certain dishes are borrowed (or adapted) from Meta – such as Irish oyster with a tangy shrub of ginger, lemon and gochujang (Korean chili paste).

(RELATED: How Michelin-starred Meta’s chef Sun Kim masterfully blends Korean and Western cuisines)

  • Irish oyster, lemon ginger, trout roe

But Kimme stands out on its own. Louis Han, who has worked with Kim closely, heads the kitchen and serves up a sharing plates menu that is robust with Korean influences. There are no kimchi stews, bibimbap or rice cakes here (there’s the Korean eatery right opposite to satisfy those cravings). Here is a careful reinterpretation of these flavours in familiar and unfamiliar ways.

  • Kampachi sashimi with pickled ginger, pomelo, shiso, and gochujang.

Take the burrata starter for instance: a standard fare of mozzarella with basil oil and skinned heirloom tomatoes. The surprise is in the latter, a burst of sharp yuzu citrus accompanying each bright red fruit. The wagyu tartare of finely chopped rump beef is done ‘Korean-style’ or mixed with a fragrant combination of soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil and a touch of Dijon for heat which is intended to reminisce marinated meats. The crunch and slight bitterness of the accompanying sago chips add bite and contrast. There are roasted Spanish king prawns with squid ink and artichoke puree and mussels. The star of the dish is the homemade spicy XO sauce with crispy bits of anchovy topped on each prawn.

  • Bossam, endive, ssamjang, white kimchi

Over to the big plates, items lean more to European influences. Medium-rare Australian Wagyu striploin can never go wrong, served with shiitake mushrooms, onion puree and delicately sliced pearls of pickled onion. There’s linguine cooked with fresh Australian spanner crab and wakame, which is modeled after Korean japchae of stir fry glass noodles – satisfying for those eager to get their fill on carbs (it’s the only pasta dish on the menu after all).

The clear winner here is the bossam; pork belly slow-cooked over 12 hours in soybean paste, coffee powder and soy sauce. The result is a pale chunk of meat, subtly perfumed by its savoury marinade. It is part of a DIY dish, meant to resemble Korean cabbage wraps. Cabbage is replaced with endive leaves, accompanied with ssamjang and white kimchi. The white kimchi is also a star: refreshingly mouth-puckering pickled cabbage that is based on Han’s family recipe.

The sweet side of the restaurant offers light endings to the meal with strawberry and yoghurt sorbets or mango and passionfruit sorbets. Go for the pear and cranberry pie with walnut ice cream, a heartier dessert choice.