Tucked away on a little quieter lane of bustling Thamel, Korean Kitchen Picnic has been serving delicious fare for almost two and a half years. Kim and Sujata (her Nepali name), the amiable Korean couple who own the restaurant, smiled as we introduced ourselves and took the time to make us feel welcome and comfortable.
Contrary to my expectations, the restaurant, though clean and comfortable, looked a little small. But there’s more than what meets the eye. There’s a room next door with tables and chairs. Yet another room on the other side of the building allows privacy. When we stepped through the door, I was immediately transported ten years back to a lunch with my grandparents, which I am sure had nothing to do with sitting on a comfortable cushioned floor. Patrons have a choice of savoring the food either seated on the cushioned floor or next door at a table and chair set up, depending on their idea of comfort. The special third room allows a family to enjoy privacy and the magic of Korean delicacies seated cozily in a quiet homely setting. “Korean cooking has a distinct identity that in its contemporary form combines dishes and techniques from both peasants and royal palace food,” explains Sujata as she serves us black tea. “Black tea is good for health. We serve them to all our customers”, adds Kim.
You feel a restaurant is authentic when you open the menu and not only wonder, ‘What are all these things?’ but,’ How does one eat this? ’ An extensive menu was laid before us and it looked impressive. Each item in the menu is complemented by a photograph. “The photos in the menu help new customers to select the food without much difficulty,” informs Sujata. As we went through the menu, we realized that we had some crucial decision to make – there are too many attractive options.
At the top of the menu is Vegetable Kimbap; rice and vegetables wrapped in seaweed. Similarly there are Kimbaps of Kimchee, Tuna, Ham and Cheese. And there are alluring vegetable and Beef Barbecue Bibimbap- a variety of sautéed vegetables served with rice and topped with beef barbecue, fried egg and Korean chilly sauce in a large bowl. Ramyum, famous spicy Korean instant noodle soup looking awfully tempting stays next in line. Kong Gooksu is the other variety of noodle that surely cannot be missed. There is Korean Miso Stew set with tofu, vegetables and mushrooms served with rice, Kimchee and two side dishes which look rather enticing.
After deliberating for ten minutes over the menu I settled for Fried Chicken Lunch Box. It is a lunch set consisting of rice, coleslaw (made of cabbage, corn, mayonnaise and tomato ketchup) fried potato, fried green vegetables, fried mushroom, egg roll, seasoned moong bean sprouts, seasoned radish, seasoned cucumber, hard-boiled bean curd, Capche (noodle) and fried chicken. “You should not miss this,” added Sujata. Every Korean meal is supplemented by a soup, coleslaw, along with an array of sauces, pickles and other condiments. Kimchee is next in line when it comes to popularity. It is a part of nearly every meal and its production is an ancient and revered art. Despite a reputation for being spicy, most people usually develop a taste for it, and many foreigners also find themselves missing it after returning to their homeland.
The most famous Kimchi is made with napa, cabbage, but Koreans make it from radish, fish, squid and cucumber.
“Cooking is something that I love to do. I am confident about it. I have an ardent interest in food and cooking, which gave birth to Korean Kitchen Picnic,” says the friendly and cheerful Sujata as she mulls over black tea. With a relaxed, friendly and warm atmosphere complemented by its convenient location, Korean Kitchen Picnic is more than a restaurant; it is a whole cultural experience, be it through food or hospitality. Kim and Sujata are meticulous about their cuisine. Their cuisine is based on primacy of ingredients keeping them close to their natural form and highlighting them by beautiful presentation.
Popular among the locals, Korean Kitchen Picnic is also frequented by expatriates and naturally, Korean nationals. Its casual atmosphere with exposed brick walls is pleasantly boisterous; it is the sort of place where a group of friends can gather and enjoy the authentic taste of exotic Korean cuisine. “Good food, quick service and cleanliness are what we deliver to our clientele. We ensure customer satisfaction through our service,” informs Sujata, as Kim nods his head in agreement. Although the restaurant keeps its atmosphere light, it takes its food extremely seriously.
“In many respects, Korean cuisine is a combination of Japanese and Chinese techniques in preparing food. If compared to Japanese cuisine, it relies less on fish and seafood and if compared to Chinese, it relies less on oil,” explained Kim. Our lunch arrived and as we ate, silence prevailed. The food was mesmerizing. Fried Chicken lunch box was a feast of enticing authentic flavours. Capche; sweet noodles mixed with mushroom and vegetables is a must try. As for us, we were unable to take our hands off Bindetok - Korean style flat cake and coleslaw. To help savor the food there is the very famous Korean cinnamon juice made of cinnamon, ginger, and sugar. For those who want to try something homely, there is soymilk in the offing. Whatever you try, it will only make you want to linger more in this clean and comfortable restaurant.
Open 9am to 10pm everyday; the Korean Kitchen Picnic is closed on the 25th of every month. “It’s basically our cleaning day,” smiles Sujata indicating the clean environment of the restaurant. With a smile on her face and a song in her heart, I could see Sujata attend to all her clientele with great care and concern. The cuisine served at Korean Kitchen is highly original and truly delectable dishes are characterized by their quality and freshness. I would surely return for more. So, if you have a penchant for Korean cuisine or even if you have never tried Korean food, you owe it to your taste buds to visit Korean Kitchen Picnic.
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