Restaurant review: KimJi Korean, Winckley Street, Preston
Down cobbled Winckley Street, just off the main artery of Fishergate, and a hop and skip from the Georgian square is KimJi Korean restaurant.
Opened in November last year, this is something different for Preston city centre and intended as a casual dining experience sharing traditional Korean dishes.
It also reflects an interest in Korean culture in the city - the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) recently became the first university in the UK to be awarded a special status by the Korean Embassy to showcase Korean artefacts of cultural and educational importance.
The university has now been teaching Korean students for more than five years and has the largest teaching team for Korean in the UK..
KimJi’s manager Shen Chen and team also claim a first - but for the palate - with their traditional Kimchi (salted and fermented vegetable) dish.
Made with the eye-watering Carolina Reaper chilli, they think it’s the world’s hottest - but more on that later.
KimJi’s location in the historic centre of Preston means the building faces the challenges of the other historical and charming but essentially narrow terraced properties on the street.
The lower level, which houses the kitchen area, is small and we arrive through the front door, we huddle at the bottom of a steep stairs and watch the hustle and bustle - one table of guests seem to be enjoying themselves to the right but it’s obvious the main restaurant is upstairs..
Soon enough, we are summoned upstairs to what is fairly bare but creative setup - the tables with plastic chairs offset with a dramatic pink floral arrangement hanging from the ceiling in an Instagram-friendly manner while interesting iconography and artwork is scattered on the wall.
Our first impression is that the staff are very friendly and welcoming if a little chaotic.
It took 20 minutes for us to be offered drinks and then once they arrived even longer to order from a clearly under-pressure staff on a Saturday evening.
When it arrives the menu tales some poring over to establish what we wanted to try.
With three of us at the table we decided to share some starter- type dishes and order our own mains.
It’s worth noting that vegetarian, gluten -free options and vegetarian options all can be available from many dishes.
Of course, after being given careful advice and offers of a glass of milk for emergencies, Gray had to order the chef-recommended red-hot Reaper Kimchi and we also ordered the regular version for safety.
We also chose the famous KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) a dish the cuisine is know for - it’s crispy chicken pieces, coated with smoky Korean chilli paste and toasted sesame seeds with a light drizzle of honey.
The dumplings also got in on the order.
First to the Reaper Kimchi, which certainly did blast your head off if you like that sort of thing.
I’d recommend the standard version unless you are a food challenge junkie.
Keep a drink close.
The KFC chicken was an absolute hit and honestly, we would have happily eaten just that - the dumplings were also light and delicious.
When the mains arrived , and there was await, it was more of a mixed pictures. Lynn and I lucked out.
My choice was Bulgogi -thin slices of chicken marinated in a blend of fruits, soy sauce, sesame oil, onion and garlic and served with lettuce and sauce. I ordered rice on the side and it was tasty and delicious.
Lynn opted for the Chicken Bibimbap - a much loved Korean dish.
Steamed rice was served in a traditional heated stone bowl, and with various thinly sliced vegetables, egg yolk and chilli paste. It sizzled its way to the table and got a thorough thumbs up.
Unfortunately Gray ordered the Galbitang.
Marketed as tender and moist beef short ribs in a clear beefy broth (the beef is cooked for at least three hours) along with daikon radish -with traditional Korean glass noodles.
What it actually amounted to a lump of inedible beef on the bone in beefy water.
Gray, known for eating anything, couldn’t eat this.
It needed another three hours or maybe six.
I’d choose something else.
Finally for a quick sweet hit we opted for Mochi ice cream - a soft sweet rice dumpling filled with green Tea, Vanilla and Mango ice cream - complete with defrosting timer.
Chaotic but tasty and definitely an experience, if you pick the right thing.
* KimJi Korean 12 Winckley Street, Preston, PR1 2AA [email protected]This review, as all of our food reviews, was conducted anonymously as a paying customer