What once used to be O Bar has now been replaced by The Kimchi Project, and the change is incredible. The dark courtyard with strings of fairy light are long gone and instead, you’re greeted with a lovely suburban looking backyard that is the most welcome escape from the brisk, businesslike tone of the city. They have not held back at all in the renovation with the glass ceiling and rocky walls adorned with leafy green plants high enough to block out views of the adjourning buildings that would have otherwise ruined the illusion.
The restaurant was in full swing when we arrived for dinner on a Thursday night. We were smart enough to have booked ahead and quickly occupied the last standing table reserved aside for our group. The soju cocktail menu is short and sweet which makes it easier to choose, especially for those indecisive decision makers out there.
The dishes came in no particular order. We each ordered a bao, and I opted for the Soft Shell Crab Bao w. Namjim Sauce, Cashew Nuts, Red Onion ($12.00)
The bao was sadly devoid of any sauce or cashew nuts as stated in the menu description, resulting in a dry mouthfuls and unfinished buns.
Kimchi Waffle Fries w. Pan-Fried Kimchi, Sriracha Yoghurt, Streaky Bacon ($16.00)
If you came to The Kimchi Project and didn’t get the waffle fries, did you really go at all? The kimchi was delightful- cooking tends to mellow out the sharp tang of the fermentation and give it a rich, heady flavour instead. Topped with streaky bacon and the cooked kimchi, it was easy to see why everyone comes here for this. However, the serving size was rather small and needed more kimchi and more sauce.
Ssam w. Slow-Cooked Pork Belly, Bulgogi, Gochujang Chicken ($25.00)
Five lettuce cups for three types of meat doesn’t quite add up, but we had five diners so it worked out in our case. They were very well received among our group and one I’d recommend you to get if you visit.
The rest of the group’s baos finally arrived later on in the night as well as our final dish:
Two Ways Chicken w. Grilled Chicken, Sweet Gochujang Chicken, House made pickles ($32.50)
This was definitely my favourite dish of the night. The morsels of chicken were so moist and tender, and great on their own as well as when dipped in the sauces. One was made from fermented soybean paste and very reminiscent of miso, while the other seemed to be a sesame-mayo type. The chilli paste was subtle enough for those inexperienced with spice to still enjoy the dish yet still provide that deep, piquant flavour and heat.
The Kimchi Project stands out and it is obvious to see why it is the current “it” place. It achieves a good balance for those both familiar and unfamiliar with Korean cuisine, making it a versatile option for all. Personally, I felt the portions were on the small side for the prices charged (I mean really, $17 for a glass of soju cocktail vs $17 for a jug at other places?), but the food was generally well thought out and it is undeniable that no expenses were spared on the fit out. I can’t say I was particularly impressed but if a friend decided on this place for a catch up, I wouldn’t be that fussed about it either.
The Kimchi Project | 20 Lorne St, CBD | thekimchiproject.nz