Having opened this past July on the West side of Ithaca Commons, Kimchi is a fairly new and cozy Korean restaurant that has a vast menu from noodles to Korean barbecue — the essentials of Korean cuisine. As a Korean student who was desperately craving home-cooked Korean food, I was more than excited to discover Kimchi on my daily Yelp search. When I first looked at the menu, I was overwhelmed by the amount of options they offered. I was already picking and choosing which Korean dishes to eat, something I hadn’t done in over a month. Ultimately, I ended up ordering tteokbokki, or spicy Korean rice cakes, the spicy Korean fried chicken and budae jjigae, a sausage stew that comes with a variety of toppings such as ramen, rice cakes and kimchi.
Right after we ordered, the waitress brought out banchans, complimentary side dishes that come before every Korean meal. It included kimchi, mini rolled omelettes and marinated fish-cakes. Although the dishes were small, they were the perfect appetizers before a big dinner. Then the main dishes rolled out one by one until the table was filled with steaming meals.
The first dish I tried was tteokbokki, served with plenty of ramen noodles and rice cakes mixed in. Although the visual was promising, the taste was bland and was lacking the sweet kick I was anticipating. The rice cakes were chewy and didn’t blend in well with the sauce, leaving barely any taste at the end. I was expecting a spicier and sweet tteokbokki sauce like what I’m used to having back home, but I immediately noticed the sauce’s ratio of spicy and sweet was off.
The budae jjigae, however, had just the right amount of seasoning and wasn’t too spicy. It came out in a traditional Korean stew bowl, bubbling with flavor. I was pleasantly surprised by the many toppings like sausage and rice cakes added to the stew, making each bite just right. It wasn’t too salty and was complemented by the rice cakes and kimchi mixed in. It was the perfect stew to mix rice into.
Lastly, the spicy Korean fried chicken came drenched in sauce, making the wings barely visible. The chicken was perfectly fried but each bite was soaked in seasoning, making it hard to taste the actual chicken. In terms of the sauce, there was a strong kick of either ketchup or sriracha, leaving me wondering if the sauce was more sweet than spicy. I was expecting a more lightly tossed fried chicken rather than an overload of sauce. The Korean fried chicken I was used to eating had a more subtle flavor and a less liquidy sauce.
Overall my high expectations for this new Korean restaurant were let down by a lack of seasoning and flavor (or too much!). Although some dishes were tasty, I left wanting a more authentic flavor that I’ve been craving ever since moving to Ithaca. I still crave home-style Korean food and hope to come back and give Kimchi another try in the future.
Grace Kim is a freshman in the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. She can be reached [email protected].