The Kim­chi Project; some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent

En­joy­ment is at risk when your ta­ble run­neth over

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - Kim Knight

Dear shared-plate res­tau­rants: If you plan to de­liver six dishes over the course of five min­utes, please con­sider big­ger ta­bles.

It is stress­ful, as a diner, to re­ar­range the tiny or­na­men­tal cac­tus and the hip­ster ta­ble marker and the bucket of cut­lery, while a wait­per­son stands by with an over­sized board of food for your ta­ble for two that al­ready seats three plus their wa­ter and wine.

If you’ve read this far, you’re prob­a­bly won­der­ing how did The Kim­chi Project get a “9” for am­bi­ence? One (oc­ca­sion­ally-in­cor­rectly-hy­phen­ated) word: Courtyard.

This Lorne St eatery has a bright and mod­ern shop front. So far, so pleas­ant. But fol­low those clean con­tem­po­rary lines past the kitchen, and en­ter a nikau palm-fringed se­cret gar­den drip­ping with vines and gochu­jang sauce.

It’s a cen­tral city oa­sis of cool that opened in De­cem­ber, but is per­haps yet to be dis­cov­ered by the des­ti­na­tion din­ing crowds — busy im­me­di­ately af­ter work but by 7.30pm there were mul­ti­ple spare ta­bles.

The food? “Easy eat­ing,” said James. “Not huge amounts of depth and so­phis­ti­ca­tion, but de­li­cious.”

That’s a good sum­ma­tion of the Korean-in­spired Asian-fu­sion menu that does the ex­pected salt-sweet­spicy, but also de­liv­ers chicken with a soy-parsnip puree so rich and creamy I ini­tially mis­took it for may­on­naise, and a melty beef short-rib that tastes like a Sun­day roast, al­beit one that comes with shi­itake mush­rooms. The lat­ter was a rea­son­ably hefty $35, but you can take a much cheaper route to sa­ti­a­tion.

Start with a steamed bao ($9-$10). I wish I’d gone with a col­league’s crumbed por­to­bello mush­room rec­om­men­da­tion be­cause de­spite our pulled pork with sweet pick­led cu­cum­ber and spicy ssam­jang-spiked mayo be­ing tasty, it was a fairly stan­dard ren­di­tion.

There is a slight same­ness across the menu. Pick­led gar­nishes and green beans made a reg­u­lar ap­pear­ance and there is a lot of chicken and pork. In fact, said our wait­per­son, we’d or­dered too much. We stuck to our greedy guns. She re-emerged from the pass. The kitchen had asked her to dou­ble dou­blecheck we wanted all that food.

And this was when things got lit­er­ally sticky. De­spite an as­sump­tion (based on a re­quest) that dishes would be stag­gered, they ar­rived in a rush. Sud­denly, we were up to our knuck­les in soy-glazed yakadori skew­ers ($13.50 for a mix of pro­tein, in­clud­ing prawn), mul­ti­ple let­tuce cups ($25) and a spicy, sweet chilli chicken ($26.50) that is a def­i­nite con­tender for an Auck­land Top Five fried chicken list (KFC counts only if you are hun­gover).

We also had the kim­chi waf­fle fries ($16), be­cause when you’re in Kim­chi, etc. Cut like ten­nis rack­ets, they were splat­tered with a spicy fer­ment, bits of smoky ba­con and sriracha yo­ghurt — a de­li­cious, salty snack that on a hu­mid Auck­land night gave beer an even bet­ter rea­son for be­ing (choose from Tu­atara on tap, as­sorted bot­tles and Garage Project cans).

“Ssam” means “wrap” in Korean and, for us, this also trans­lated to our favourite dish. The Cos let­tuce cups were stuffed with pork belly, bul­gogi (thinly sliced, mar­i­nated and grilled beef) and more chicken, sticky with gochu­jang, a fer­mented Korean condi­ment that gas­tro­nomic pun­dits are pick­ing to over­take sriracha in the hot sauce stakes. Fresh, clean and quickly de­mol­ished — partly to make ta­ble room for a heap­ing pile of that highly rec­om­mended deep-fried chicken.

We had no trou­ble get­ting through our or­der. A slightly slower de­liv­ery pace would have made for a more pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence, but on an­other night (say one where you had theatre book­ing) that ef­fi­ciency would be wel­comed. We ini­ti­ated a long pause be­fore dessert. Wait­staff de­bated their favourites, but the win­ner, hands­down, was a very rich tiramisu piled with bit­ter matcha pow­der ($13.50). Green tea is in and on desserts all over town but pair­ing it with a cof­fee-soaked Ital­ian dessert was ge­nius. We took our time, and scraped the glass clean.

A world of colours Re­sene Turk­ish De­light 3000+ colours are on the menu at Re­sene ColorShops

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