Have you heard? There’s a new girl in town. Her name’s Kim and she’s bringing contemporary Korean to the heart of Potts Point. Anyoung! (That’s "hello" in Korean. You better brush up.)
And yes, by girl, we meant restaurant.
It’s 8.30am and David Ralph (ex-Quay/Flying Fish) and his business partner Tae Kyu Lee a.k.a TK (ex-Ms Gs/Mr Wongs) are in the kitchen of Kim, the newest Korean eatery to enter Potts Point. Doors to their outfit won’t open until 5pm, but already the boys are at work preparing the beef short ribs’ 5-hour-long braise for their Kalbi Jjim dish to ensure that, come dinnertime, it’s so damn tender it very-nearly gives at the touch and very-surely melts in the mouth.
It’s a dish that doesn’t sound typically Korean - beef braised in pear and soy, really? - but David, who’s been cooking Korean for over four years and whose business partner is Korean himself, assures us it’s more traditional than the Korean BBQ destinations in Sydney might suggest. “Kalbi Jjim is a classic palace dish that only uses beef short ribs,” he says. “It’s only really eaten in Korea for festivals and special occasions.” It’s more common that pork and offal are eaten at BBQs, as beef (hanoo) is expensive in Korea, selling for about $100/kg. So... we’re guessing the meat on our plates today isn’t from the motherland? “It’s from South Australia,” David admits. At $26 and of royal quality, we’re not complaining.
Next on the prep checklist is the neverending vegetable kimchi. Between Kim’s mandoo Korean dumplings, her pork rib biggies, her bokkeum baps and her bossams (why do those all sounds dirty?), the three-week old outfit is already going through 1kg of the stuff per day. For the uninitiated, kimchi is the fermented poster child of Korean food. You may know it as that white cabbage, drowning in neon-red chilli sauce, that’s served as a complimentary side-dish at your typical Korean restaurant.
Not here, though.
At Kim, variety is the spice of kimchi.
Try the ironically named kojengi kimchi mix of three white boy made seasonal kimchi, or the spicy kimchi cabbage, chilli and shallot dumplings if you don’t believe us. “Looking at all the hundreds of kimchis and fermentations in Korean food, it can easily be as diverse as Chinese food,” says David.
Which is something we begin to realise later that evening when we find ourselves sitting on retro, mismatched chairs from ebay, sipping fermented green tea on crockery from Korea and supping on soy fermented prawns from Kim’s kitchen. Called a prawn jang, this unique cuisine is presented in two parts: the seasoned rice with raw egg, which you mix bibimbap-style, on one plate and the shelled, jelly-like fermented prawns, on another.
It’s this kind of deconstructed presentation that David prides his outfit on. The idea behind it is to educate and stay true to traditional cooking methods and ingredients (they source their vegetables from Korean suppliers in Flemington and Campsie, who grow their produce in a traditional Korean way), while providing a contemporary twist to suit its Australian audience.
As we mix our egg into our rice with our standard metal cutlery, we ask David just how long our prawns had been on the fermentation mill. “Three or four days,” he says, before doubling back to confirm with TK, as prawn jang can be fermented for anything from three to seven days. “No wait, this one’s six,” he corrects. Clearly TK’s been working on the prawns today.
“The longer the fermentation, the dryer the prawn,” he says in a spate of culinary insight as we bite into the translucent crustacean. It’s slightly crunchy, slightly sweet and, just like in a sooljib (a Korean eating and drinking house), goes well with a nice, cold, alcoholic beverage.
Good thing Kim’s liquor license just came through today.
Where: 7/24-30 Springfield Avenue, Enter via Llankelly Place, Potts Point
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 5pm-10pm, Saturday 12pm-3pm (lunch, from 14 June 2014) 5pm-10pm (dinner)