Sunday, 19 May 2013

Kimbap Cheonguk 김밥천국

Kimbap Cheonguk, meaning kimbap heaven, is a tiny gem located in the heart of Koreatown. Always filled with Korean customers, you know you can trust this place.

I've passed this small complex countless times but never bothered to venture in until Peanut Crumpet and I were looking for lunch at 2pm on a Saturday after visiting the Winter's Farmers Market back in April. With a growling stomach and not much cash left (since we spent it on mushrooms and tomatoes...) we were seated and given a simple menu. 

The interior is very narrow and only holds, give or take, 10 tables. I would recommend going in groups of six or less. It appears to be a family-run business, with the dad and son cooking in the kitchen and the mom and daughter serving. 

The menu is limited, with many items being more 'snack-like'. But that doesn't mean you can't make a meal out of it! Their kimbap is the best I've had; the seaweed is still crispy, perfect ratio of rice to filling... I've been craving it since my first visit and dragged my family to go again this past Saturday. Good to know they live up to their restaurant name.

On my first visit with Peanut Crumpet, we shared one roll of regular kimbap and one order of ddukbokki. The ddukbokki, spicy rice cakes, was good. The sauce was not overly spicy and it had a good amount of rice cakes and fish cakes. Since I'm not a master at Korean food, I'm not too sure what the best would taste like or the worst. 

Peanut Crumpet and I spent a solid 2 hours there chatting away. We watched at least 3 waves of customers come in, finish eating, and leave. I think the owners though we were weird foreign people. Thankfully it was a downtime so we were not pressured to leave.

On my second visit with my family, we got to try a wider variety of their menu. At 12 noon on a Saturday, we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table. We got their amazing kimbap in regular and bulgogi (marinaded beef), Al Bap,  Jang Teo Kook Bap, and Bibim Naengmyun. All of which were solid choices. 

As I've mentioned above, their kimbap is the; it is a must when you visit. 

The next must-eat item is the Al Bap (egg rice). It is like the 'modern style' dolsot (stone pot) bibimbap (mixed rice). Instead of the traditional toppings of beef, mushrooms, carrots, spinach, and a fried egg, there are fish roe, canned tuna, cheese, picked radish, and carrots. Maybe there was cabbage too but I don't quite remember. There are two reasons this dish has already made it to one of my favourite foods. First, I'm a big fan of eating the burnt crispy rice that results from a hot stone pot. I was so elated to find the large amount the crispy rice with their Al Bap, it's kind of childish. Second, the flavours of all the toppings just worked so well together. The shredded cheese would melt between the rice as you mixed it, the fish roe would pop when you bit it, there was the sourness from the's just pure deliciousness. I think nearly every table ordered this. I'm going to dream about this Al Bap until my next visit. My mom already said she's planning to bring my grandma here to eat this, cause she shares my love for burnt crispy rice too!

Next is the Jang Teo Kook Bap. It is a spicy beef stew with rice in it. Even though it was my dad's order, my brother couldn't stop eating it. The idea of rice in soup sounded slightly odd to me as I don't like soggy rice. However, I quite enjoyed this dish too! This dish has little cubes of beef, plentiful shitakke mushrooms, and white rice swimming in a spicy broth. This would be a perfect one bowl meal on a chilly winter day. 

The last dish is the bibimnaengmyeon (mixed cold noodles). The noodles looked slightly different from the other naengmyeon I've eaten, but maybe I remember incorrectly since it's been ages since my last bowl. They give you plenty of radish, half a boiled egg, and some cucumber over a mountain of chewy noodles and hot sauce. The waitress will ask if you would like her to cut the noodles for you. It's much easier to eat that way. On both visits, I have seen multiple seniors order naengmyun here. So I guess it must be good here!

My parents giggled at how much this little joint resembled a street-side Hong Kong-style cafe. The tables and chairs are somewhat old and can be sticky here and there. The "Oh, it's dirty? -Brushes off with hand-" mentality may disgust some people, but being Chinese, it's not that uncommon. Utensils are placed in baskets that stay on the table, so you just take what you need to use. They're all clean though! If the waitress is busy, you may have to go and get your own sauces. Although all the owners are very friendly, customer service can be sparse at peak hours.

Good food, cheap prices, homey feel, student friendly, Coconut Crumpet not only approves of this place, but will recommend it to others!

Update: Please see this newer post for photos.

Kimbab Cheonguk 김밥천국 on Urbanspoon

Love from Coconut Crumpet's Corner ♡

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