Kakawa's David Ralph might be famous for chocolate, but have you tried his Korean food?
It’s pouring rain on Llankelly Place. Neon signs blink dimly through the haze. The smooth grey pavers are glossy and slick with water. But just inside an open shopfront dotted with dinky little tables and chairs and lit by low-hanging bare bulbs captured in miner’s brackets, something exciting is happening. And it’s distinctly Korean.
David Ralph and Tae Kyu Lee’s restaurant bridges the gap between the refined elegance of Moon Park and the smoke, funk and fire of Danjee bringing pickles, ferments and hip hop to the fore. It’s Ugly Duckling on the speakers when we sit down and J5 when we order big floppy steamed dumplings filled with a fine dice of beef and pork, served with sweet black vinegar and house-made kimchi.
The Beastie Boys accompany thin, firm slices of pig’s head terrine drizzled with a light, slightly sweet chilli sauce and a rough-hewn pancake mostly held together by chopped-up prawn and squid. It comes bound by a nest of fried green onion like a crunchy – albeit slightly oily – nest.
It’s little dishes here at Kim, and lots of them. The squishy nuttiness of acorn starch cubes and enoki mushroom tempered with the bite of fresh sesame leaves is pretty kooky, but we wouldn’t say it’s an out and out win for Team Delicious the way the fried chicken is. Yeah, we know it’s an easy get, but how can you say no to a pile of fried winglets covered in a thick, spicy barbecue sauce, green onions and peanuts? You can’t.
We’re not quite as excited about the shredded lamb shoulder, which is kind of damp, and the table’s pretty divided about the chicken thigh ssam – firm slices of chook that you scoop up in baby cos and perilla leaves. Spice it up with a hot relish of garlic chives, and sliced pear topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.
Desserts are a bit of a mixed bag, which is interesting considering Ralph’s pedigree (he’s one half of the Kakawa team – Time Out’s favourite Sydney chocolate shop) but they’re still worth poking a spoon into nonetheless. Korean doughnuts taste kind of like deep-fried health-food bars, though the black sesame parfait is light and nutty and beautifully creamy. The red beans hidden underneath a light blanket of milk snow are a little chalky, unfortunately, but the chewy little lychee jellies hidden like jewels amongst shreds of fresh lychee are sweet surprises.
In other sugary news, you can order those incredible Kakawa chocolates at the restaurant. There’s almond praline rolled in roast soy powder and a very punchy dark chocolate ganache dusted in chilli powder. Or just order a cup of ginger-spiced malt punch and keep life super-simple.
Kim is fun, but still finding its feet. It’s BYO-only at the moment here, though word is their license is in the offing. Service is pretty up and down, though well meaning. And while a few dishes are hit and miss, it’s also really interesting stuff. You could do much, much worse than grabbing a six-pack and settling in for an evening of pickles and adventure.