Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt.
But in the case of Kimme, the Amoy Street-based casual offshoot of the one Michelin starred Meta, our growing acquaintance with a contemporary cuisine native to Korea and which is spreading its tentacles everywhere from Seoul to New York to Singapore, cultivates an unexplained admiration, even appreciation.
Perhaps it’s the familiar tastes of soy sauce or sesame oil, or even the chillies, coupled with a discovery of Korean jangs (be it doenjang, gochujang or ganjang). Add to that the rock-solid western cooking techniques that underscore every single dish brought to us by a fresh-faced Korean head chef, Seok Hyun Han, the former sous chef of Meta, and his mentor, Sun Kim, the executive chef of both Meta and Kimme, you have a journey of discovery that promises to enrich as much as it rewards.
Unlike its more famous stablemate, the less than year-old Kimme is a 48-seat bistro that shies away from tasting menus. Instead it serves an a la carte menu of “Small”, “Big” and “Sweet” dishes that encourages sharing. But in a one-off departure from its dining format, Han has created a four-course prix fixe menu exclusively for OCBC Gastronomic Adventures that showcases not one but three special OCBC special dishes.
For OCBC special menu only, Han proffers his take on saeujang (soy sauce marinated raw shrimp), a traditional Korean dish of cured raw shrimp typically eaten with rice. Here, he cures the raw ama ebi and its coral-coloured roe for three days in a mellow, slightly spicy and decidedly heady potion concocted with Korean soy sauce, pear juice, onion, garlic and torched chillies. Topped thoughtfully with refreshing slices of Korean strawberries cooked in a French dressing of shallots and olive oil for a zesty counterpoint, the dish is riveting, showcasing an orchestra of arresting textures brought together by the thirst-quenching Korean soy-based “tiger’s milk” (or curing marinade).
You may have had Kimme’s BBQ quail with celaraic puree and watercress salad in Korean dressing from the a la carte. For the second OCBC special dish, Han serves the same quail with its trademark smoky tang on a bed of Korean-style mushroom ragout that speaks volume of umami, thanks to dashes of the secret ingredient of Korean soybean paste that’s been tossed with the ragout. To lend the dish a clean finish, the young chef plates the mound with pickled turnip, ice plant and fresh peas.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a dessert that blows us off our feet. Han’s third special dish achieves that feat by looking to hwachae (Korean punch made with fruits and edible flowers) for inspiration. Instead of serving it straight up, Han fields an iteration of hwachae that might just taste better than the punch itself. First, he ferments grapes to touch base with his innate Korean talent with fermentation. Then he serves it as a granita alongside roasted grapes, mint leaves, a scoop of makgeoli sorbet and just enough marscapone to give the dessert a creamy, somewhat tart but clean and remarkably refreshing finish.
For mains, the OCBC prix fixe menu gives you a choice of the Korean-style braised pork rib or the New Zealand lamb rack. The choice is not an easy one – the fall off the bone tender pork rib topped with a veil of pickled red cabbage has a decidedly Asian aroma with distinct notes of ginger and Korean soy sauce. The grilled lamb rack offers an equally meaty option, paired with a most interesting Korean-style eggplant and garlic shoots “dumpling” wrapped in a leaf of charred savoy cabbage.
Impossible to pick? Then perhaps you want to turn your attention to a rare rice wine that Han offers as a pairing with the meats – Hansan So Gok Ju, a rice wine by grand rice wine maker Woo Hee Yeol based on a 1,500-year-old recipe that ferments rice with ginger, chrysanthemum and chilli for 100 days. This beverage is reminiscent of a sweet sake with a strong character and deep caramelized flavour.
Kimme offers this special OCBC Gastronomic Adventures Menu at both lunch and dinner for $88++ from 21st May to 20th August 2018 for OCBC Cardmembers. VOYAGE Cardmembers are entitled to a special four-glass ‘Flights of the Orient’ pairing, including the aforementioned So Gok Ju , for $60++ per person. Find out more about OCBC’s exclusively curated menus at ocbc.com/gastronomy.
This post is presented to you in partnership with OCBC