A thank-you to those of our readers who participated in La Vendemmia last week, especially those who tweeted.
Anyone who followed the tweets during the Preston Street Moveable Feast event, you likely had seen mention of diners being lead from restaurant to restaurant, sampling some of the best Ottawa’s Little Italy neighbourhood has to offer. One of the stops was Le Kim Chi (420 Preston Street), a Korean Restaurant.
The foodiePrints team visited Le Kim Chi during the week leading up to La Vendemmia.
Let me start out by saying Jenn and I highly recommend Le Kim Chi, but it won’t be our regular “go-to” for Korean food. How does this work? Le Kim Chi succeeds where North American-catering Asian food restaurants fail. Its menu gently introduces authentic Korean staples, flavours, and textures. But, it serves good food. There is no fusion here, no confused juxtaposition of cultures to pander to clientele, no stereotypes. There is however downplayed heat and approachable dishes.
You will not find jjamppong (a classic spicy soup noodle dish with seafood and vegetables) here.
As served by Koreana (711 Somerset Street W., Ottawa), $9.95
[and yes, Koreana is owned and operated by the same family that used to run Seoul House on Somerset]
You will not find gamjatang (a spicy pork bone soup made with pork back bones, usually spine, vegetables, and potatoes, garnished with green
onions and coriander seeds).
As served by Song Cooks Dolsot Korean Restaurant (6-72 Steeles Avenue W., Thornhill, Ontario), $14
You will not find naengmyeon (a handmade buckwheat noodle dish with vegetables and black bean sauce, served cold)
As served by Incheon House Korean & Japanese Restaurant (9 Gren Watfort Drive, Scaroborough, Ontario)
These are three dishes we like to see on a Korean restaurant’s menu.
What you will find is bibimbap, a hot rice dish with vegetables, bits of meat (unless vegetarian), red chili sauce, and an optional egg yolk, made-to-order with very fresh ingredients.
The one our wine blogger was served was vegetarian ($12.95). It included lightly cooked zucchini, sauteed mushrooms, blanched bean sprouts, and nori. Our very friendly and helpful server demonstrated how to mix bibimbap the “traditional way.” Accordingly, Claire wasn’t “aggressive” enough with her steaming bowl of rice and fixings. Vigorous mixing cooks the egg yolk, which she opted for, and integrates the flavourful chili sauce. Claire thoroughly enjoyed her dish.
You will find galbi ($20.95), thinly sliced, marinated, and grilled beef short ribs, finished with a fruit sweet Korean barbecue sauce.
Galbi and bibimbap are “usual suspects” when first dinging Korean. Claire’s daughter, who had already developed quite the affinity for kimchi (preserved and spiced cabbage), seemed to enjoy her galbi, eating it with rice, the various banchan (vegetable side dishes), and leaving not a morsel on her plate.
You will find galbi jjim, tender braised beef short ribs, seasoned with a sake, ginger, and soy sauce.
According to its menu, Le Kim Chi is the only restaurant in Ottawa to serve jjim. Slow cooked with something sweet, something nutty, and something gingery, the meat on the ribs came off the bone easily. Sweet and savoury, it was delicious, paired with rice and kimchi.
You will find dulucheegee ($15.95), stir fried pork and vegetables with house-made hot and sweet chili sauce.
Our server mused, the dulucheegee was the spiciest dish on the menu. Everyone at our table remarked the heat seemed intended to accentuate flavours, the savouriness of the beef and the sweetness of the onions and red bell pepper. It was not overpowering.
Appetizer-wise, you will find one of the best pa jeon ($11.95) Jenn and I have ever had in Ottawa.
Pa Jeaon is a seafood pancake, made with squid, shrimp, scallions, and vegetables. Not only was Le Kim Chis’ generous in seafood morsels, but, while crispy and crunchy, it was not at all greasy.
Menu-wise, while there is some romanized Korean on the menu, mostly names of dishes, it is almost entirely written in English. Detailed descriptions follow each dish, along with numerous photos. Prices are slightly higher than those at the Dolsot Cafe (512 Bank Street) and Chinatown’s Koreana (711 Somerset Street W).
Restaurant-wise, Le Kimchi retains much of the outward decor of what we presume was the previous restaurant in the space, Angelina’s. There is a balance struck between an influx of oriental decor and what was formerly an Italian restaurant.
This harmony is exemplified in the distinctly Asian landscapes inside the brick arches that reminded us of the mouths of wood ovens.
Family-owned and operated, the staff at Le Kim Chi are very patient. They explain how a Korean meal works. They recommend various dishes, answering questions as they arise. They smile, available to assist when needed, but otherwise unobtrusive to the meal.
If you are a new initiate to Korean food, Le Kimchi is a prefect place to make an introduction.
Jenn, Claire, Lil’ foodiePrints, and I greatly enjoyed our meal.
Le Kim Chi
420 Preston Street
Tags: beef short rib, bibimbap, gamjatang, Korean, La Vendemmia, Little Italy, Toronto