Breaking away from the traditional focus on fermented dishes and pungent spices, contemporary Korean cuisine takes a lighter approach. It uses a variety of Western cooking and plating techniques, and is more delicate with the seasoning to allow the flavor profiles of the incorporated ingredients to really shine through.
The style is slowly but surely gaining in popularity around the world. This is due in part to the efforts of Korea’s trailblazing chefs who have over the years dared to take risks and explore untraveled gastronomic terrain.
Renowed chef Minji Kim is a shining example.
In 2007, Chef Kim opened Min’s Kitchen to share with Seoul her passion for cooking and to offer a new way to enjoy Korean food. Since then, she has become the poster child for the contemporary Korean cuisine movement, hosting a TV show and authoring a number of cookbooks including the recently published Four Seasons of Korean Cooking.
She was kind enough to invite me to stop by the restaurant’s Apgujeong location, where I was treated to a tasty feast of Korean classics with a special Chef Kim twist.
Min’s Kitchen, located just a stone’s throw from Dosan Park, boasts an atmosphere that is fitting for the prestigious neighborhood it calls home. Although a bit on the quiet side during my Thursday evening visit, the vibe is at once casual and refined, with a clean interior and modern furnishings.
The service is friendly and the menu is extensive. Various set lunch and dinner courses give diners the chance to taste a bit of everything, while à la carte offerings are divided by protein—beef, pork, chicken and seafood. Guests can opt to order half or whole servings of most of the menu items.
While Min’s Kitchen is most famous for its wine offerings, my dinner date and I started our meal with a bottle of Moonbaesool, a traditional distilled liquor that is reputed for being one of the finest spirits on the peninsula.
Admittingly, I am not a fan of soju and until I tried this variety, I had yet to find one that I actually enjoyed drinking. At 40% abv, I expected it to pack a punch, but was pleasantly surprised by its crisp smoothness.
With the first sip, the liquor comes off sweet with strong notes of pear, but soon becomes salty, then goes on to fill the mouth with a smoky essence. The aesthetics of its small, beautifully designed bottle only added to the experience.
At the recommendation of Chef Minji, we ordered a variety of à la carte items, starting with the Cold Bean Sprout Salad (₩18,500/ ₩34,000). A heap of sprouts was topped with beef, abalone, shrimp and octopus, and drizzled with a subtle soy sauce dressing. The flavors, more than anything else, were clean and incredibly fresh.
It was an excellent prologue for the more ambrosial Bulgalbi Salad (₩21,000/ ₩39,500)—succulent grilled marinated rib-eye set atop a bed of fresh greens. This was my personal favorite dish of the evening, as the meat was perfectly cooked and packed with all the quintessentially Korean flavors I’ve come to know and love since living here.
Another highlight of the meal was the Assorted Pancakes (₩19,000/ ₩34,500). As a jeon fanatic, it was nice to see such a wide variety of the savory Korean pancake dish, including mushroom, lotus root, zucchini and fish. Unlike the majority of the jeon that I’ve tried in the past, these were not greasy or oily, but superbly fried and paired well with the accompanying soy dipping sauce.
We followed these with the Chicken Gangjeong with Leek, fried chicken tossed in Min’s special sauce that reminded us of American-style Chinese food, and White Sauce Shrimp (₩28,000), ten pieces of crispy whole fried shrimp tossed in a creamy sauce.
Chef Kim brought us a chilled omija beverage to finish things off. It was subtle and sweet—a nice ending to a good meal.
The Dining Experience
Overall, I enjoyed our visit to Min’s Kitchen. Our meal was a delightful dining experience of balanced, delicate and subtle flavor profiles. In addition to the food itself, each of the dishes was plated in a memorable, modern way. The beautifully crafted ceramics enhanced the aesthetic.
More Information: Min's Kitchen
Address: 10-4, Dosan-daero 45-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-3pm; Dinner 5:30-10pm
Website: Click Here
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Disclaimer: The meal mentioned in the article above was provided free of charge in exchange for a review. The opinions, are of course, my own.
Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.