The mere mention of the word kimchi is enough to get me interested. Put it in the name of a restaurant and I'm there eating everything faster than you can say 'Korean fermented cabbage'.
So understandably I lost the plot when I discovered there was a whole restaurant devoted to the stuff. I must say though, there's not as much of the delicious side dish as I'd like on this menu, but The Kimchi Project is awesome for a range of other reasons. First of all, it looks incredible. Located in the city centre on Lorne St, the narrow front room of the restaurant is all clean white walls, bamboo coloured furnishings and lush planted walls as you stroll in.
The staff are reliably friendly and will probably guide through the back of the room, where you'll catch a glimpse of the busy kitchen through a small opening and be greeted by a surprisingly spacious courtyard. This bountiful kimchi oasis may be one of the coolest outdoor dining spaces in the entire CBD, with rock walls, plentiful palms and two levels scattered with a variety of booth and table seating.
To properly lubricate before consuming far too much Korean food, choose from a solid range of wines, New Zealand made craft beers and cocktails. The house red is an excellent drop at the price of only $9 and a can of Garage Project's Pernicious Weed is perfect for those who like their beers hoppier than a bunny rabbit.
The menu is designed to share and includes a succinct selection of starters, sharing mains and tempting baos. To start, grab the Korean style beef tartare ($22). It's an incredibly fresh and tasty dish bursting with the flavours of nashi pear, mango and crushed pistachio. Bao-wise, the vegetarian option is surprisingly delightful with a crumbed portobello mushroom, Korean mayo and pickled cucumber ($10). The soft shell crab also goes over well.
For the main course the ssam (meaning 'wrapped' in Korean) is our favourite. Six crunchy leaves of cos lettuce hold generous portions of bulgogi (Korean marinated beef), gochujang chicken and slow cooked pork belly ($25). It's an incredibly simple, but interesting and delicious dish. If you haven't filled yourself to the neck with kimchi grab one of their desserts— from a matcha tiramisu with mascarpone to a red bean panna cotta, they're both unique and delicious.
It's always refreshing to see an Auckland restaurant that takes a different angle on a popular cuisine. And that's exactly what The Kimchi Project has done— fusing Korean with Southeast Asian and Chinese cuisines to create something new and delectable.