Kimchee is a fast food outlet and is the little sister to Kimchee restaurant in Holborn. The latter is a restaurant and karaoke bar that we have also fancied visiting. Tonight we had tickets to the Opera at the Coliseum to see Madam Butterfly. My friend had got tickets for the ‘Opera Undressed’ festival which sells tickets for the first night of opera’s at a heavily discounted price to younger audiences to introduce them to the arts. Beforehand we wanted to grab something to eat before the opera at 8pm and Kimchee based on the Strand was an obvious choice as we wanted fast, Asian, warm food yet couldn’t face another Itsu meal, as that is our usual lunch haunt.
Kimchee is Korean in style with wooden panels on the walls, minimalist wooden tables and a modern counter area. To one side is the food counter for people to choose the cold food and there are large windows on two adjourning wall. At the far end is the kitchen/counter where they served the hot food and take the payments.
The food all looked fresh and tempting and I finally decided on the tuna & egg salad and sushi and my friend went for the sweet crispy chicken which is served cold and the vegetable box with minced beef. At the counter my friend was told that the vegetable and meat came with rice with “bits in it” and he asked if that was ok. She shrugged and said that was fine. He then went on to explain that if she ordered something else her drink would be cheaper. Did she want that? It was a bizarre experience as the waiter went on to offer her different options which were not advertised (as far as I could see) and needed to reconfirm she was “ok” with everything and happy. While this was going on I decided that I was too cold for a salad and instead would have the same as my friend. If I had known that her vegetable and beef box came with rice I would have chosen it in the first place but it certainly wasn’t clear on a first visit.
Having gone through the same rigmarole as my friend when paying at the counter we finally sat down at one of the large tables. The stools leaned downwards with a point at the top of the stool; almost like a diamond, but was rather uncomfortable. The place was busy with many people taking orders away, yet all of the benches were full with a constant buzz. The majority of the people eating here were Koreans and foreigners, I liked this as it felt as thought this place was at least partly authentic.
The vegetable and minced beef box was separated into two with the bottom box holding the rice. The “bits” that he mentioned were peas, sweetcorn and herbs so he really did under sell. The minced beef was served cold as when taken from the fridge counter but when mixed with the rice turned to room temperature. The beef was salty and juicy packed full of flavour. The vegetables were all placed together and included grated carrot, bean sprouts, bok choy, spring onion, chili and green leaves. We mixed these together with the beef than onto the bed of rice. Delicious.
I also had the sushi which was a little too much altogether but I did want to try it looked different to Japanese sushi; with a thicker seaweed wrapping which is much darker in tone and they were larger rolls but thinly sliced. The meat tended to be red meat or vegetables rather than the fish served in most Japanese sushi. The sushi was nice yet heaver. We had asked if they do wasabi at the counter but the man looked at me as if I was mad then pointed me to the fridge again which had soy and wasabi mixed together “was that ok” he said. I assured him that it was – Hard work! My friends cold fried chicken was delicious although too sweet for my liking served in a caramelized sticky sauce which stuck the meat together. I was not a fan but my friend seemed to like it, so it was just a matter of personal taste really.
We really liked this place and were a nice change to Itsu if you wanted fast, healthy Asian food. The counter service is confusing but I think once you have been the first time you get to grips with what you want and can avoid confusion by being confident and taking the polite, nervous waiters in your stride. The food is heartier than its Japanese counterparts but is fresh and healthy still. We like the varied menu and the hot and cold options which are perfect for the unpredictable weather in British. All in all a good night.
Food Atmosphere Service