Set in an area informally known in London as "Little Seoul", Kimchee is one of the largest and most stylish Korean restaurants around Holborn and Centre Point. I have always been a great fan of Korean food, and having spent a week in South Korea recently my appreciation of and interest in the gutsy flavours of this cuisine have been revived.
I have been wanting to try Kimchee on High Holborn since it opened and a couple of weeks ago, having cravings for Korean Yuk Hwae (Korean beef tartare) and Bulgogi (barbecued beef), that is where I headed.
The restaurant is large, roomy and tastefully designed. It has long, dark wooden tables and partitions giving it a casually elegant feel. The decor reminds me of Busaba Eat Thai or a relaxed version of Hakkasan. Watching the chefs in the busy open plan kitchen and barbecue area is entertaining.
The menu is extensive and covers most categories that are to be expected in any respectable Korean restaurant. Accompanying me was Reiko Hashimoto, Japanese cookery teacher and author of HASHI - A Japanese Cookery Course.
We started with a selection of small dishes to share and a few choices from the charcoal barbecue. The "Yuk Hwae" @ £4.90, a classic Korean dish similar to beef tartare but made with thinly sliced raw beef, sliced pear and egg yolk was excellent, as was the "Crab Tuigim" @ £5.40 - soft shell crab fried in breadcrumbs served with a plum dipping sauce.
"Kkakdugi" @ £2.50 is a dish of pickled radish kimchee intensely flavoured with chilli and garlic. It was a great accompaniment to the barbecued meats we ordered.
A favourite of mine (and a dish I make at home frequently) "Tofu Kimchee" @ £5.40 is a simple but satisfying dish of sliced boiled tofu topped with stir fried pork and kimchee.
The "Seafood Dolsot Bibimbap" @ £8.40 was a delicious dish of Korean rice cooked in an earthenware pot with vegetables and a medley of seafood including scallop, calamari, squid and prawns cooked in an earthenware pot.
From the charcoal barbecue Reiko and I shared three "Chargrilled Scallops" @ £3.85 each. The scallops tasted deliciously fresh and sweet but at £3.85 each, we both felt that they were not as large as they could have been.
We also ordered "Bulgogi" @ £7.90 - a must on any Korean meal this is thinly sliced beef marinated in a deliciously fruity sauce with onions and garlic, and also "Lemon Sole Gui" @ £7.40 - lemon sole fillets barbecued and served with grated radish.
The best dish from the charcoal grill in my opinion was however the "Beef Rib Eye" @ £8.40 - juicy pieces of beef marinated in garlic and sesame oil and served with crisp lettuce leaves. To accompany the beef we also had barbecued asparagus @ £2.90 per skewer.
The house wine was Sicilian. Priced at a very reasonable £18, "Catarratto Inzolia 2010" was deliciously refreshing but with enough fruity character to withstand the strongly flavoured dishes it accompanied.
To round off the meal, Reiko and I shared "Golden Sweet Chestnut" and "Black Sesame" ice creams @ £3.40 per scoop.
Cost: £25 to £30 per person excluding drinks.
Likes: cool decor, central location, excellent value and quality house wine. The barbecued rib eye steak in lettuce leaves was particularly good.
Verdict: Good value Korean fare in the heart of central London in a modern, trendy location. Recommended.