October 31, 2011

Korean Hipster Bashing

Kimchi Princess - Kreuzberg

I have promised myself not to start another entry with a new report about the weather. Another weather rant would set the seal on my creative ambitions, as it would – justifiably – appear as if I had nothing else to write about. I mean, I would not like to convey the impression my life had no more substance than discussing the weather and watching Downton Abbey (a fine neo-Victorian combination if there ever was one).

And thus heavy hearted I realised I had no choice but to opt for the second least original activity after talking about the weather (and procrastinating with Downton Abbey): hipster bashing.

I usually try to keep hipster bashing to myself. First of all because everyone else around me (especially Two Broke Girls) does it so much more eloquently than I ever will. Secondly it’s because deep inside I really am a failed would-be hipster. And yes, I’ve finally said it: I see all these young people with a trust fund somewhere in their pantry and coolness smeared all over their collars and I get green with envy. Literally. My insides turn with nausea that is not so much hatred as it is pure jealousy. As we all know, the aspiring kind is usually worse than the real thing.

The obstacles preventing my metamorphosis into a real hipster are manifold. First, I don’t have the right parents. Meaning – no trust fund to speak of. The only trust my parents ever bestowed on me was a grave talk about the lack thereof as I had taken (my parents used the word “stolen”) my mother’s only ring and given it to a friend back in year one. The second reason for my acceptance of being nothing more than an aspiring cool person for the rest of my life would have to be my aversion of stupid hats and neon colours (beside the fact my hair gets too rebelliously curly when I try coaching it into an asymmetric hipster-do). It’s not that I haven’t tried. I once even walked through Dalston wearing skinny neon-coloured trousers, thick rimmed clear-glasses and a stupid hat with a butterfly on top, but I think it was too obvious I had the wrong hair beneath my hat and that I felt like a court jester in what I was wearing. Not owning your look is probably the biggest deal breaker on the hipster credibility (a.k.a. coolness) scale.

For a long time being spießig in Berlin had been my refuge. I had been inherently cool by proxy of being an expat in Berlin and inherently free of hipsters because I usually went for good food. This week’s visit to Kimchi Princess in Kreuzberg taught me that the times, they are a-changing.

So Kimchi Princess, right? I’ve known the place for a while. It was the first credible Korean restaurant in Berlin. It is also – like – designed and stuff. A large space divided into a main space and second floor amidst post-industrial wannabe beams and construction elements. Dimmed lights, nice accessories, the lots. Not only is it all beautifully executed, but they even have a cooler-than-thou club facing Skalitzer Straße. And needless to say, the place is packed. Has been for a while, but this time I was just overwhelmed by the amount of strange neon-coloured hats that greeted me as I had set foot past the threshold. Fortunately enough though, as I had not reserved a table we had to be seated in the crouching corner away from the coolness (where you sit Japanese-style on a higher platform and crouch over a low stool). This way I was actually able to concentrate on the menu.

The menu at Kimchi Princess has always been quite blissfully manageable. It contains a few starter classics, the usual Korean grills (starting with 16 € per person) and a few Korean classics. We did not try any of the grills, but rather chose to concentrate on the more affordable parts of the menu (knowing that the real Korean test is the holy trinity of the pancake, kimchi and bibimbap).

Kimchi Pajeon
Bibimbap (not yet mixed)

The starters were the mul mandu (steamed meat dumplings, 4.50 €) and kimchi pajeon (kimchi pancakes, 6.70 €). It was an OK start. The portions were large, the presentation pleasing and the overall quality was high. The dumplings were fairly well executed – just the right texture and moisture, the right size and all. The seasoning was fine as well, but lacked something in order to be perfect. Alright really. The pancakes were good. The Korean softness was there and the entire thing was a fine experience. No complaints. Other than the fact that the kimchi pancakes are supposed to be heavenly (no exaggeration here. My short life has introduced me to a fair amount of kimchi pancakes that made me want to re-enact the entire orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally and to mean every bit of it). Those were just nice. They tasted too much like pizza and too little like kimchi.

And so we continued to the main courses: the haemul udong (a spicy noodle soup with seafood and tofu, 10.50 €) and the unavoidably classic bibimbap (a hot pot with rice, beef, vegetables, egg and spicy deliciousness that you get to mix up and enjoy, 10.50 €, also available for 9.50 € in the vegetarian variety). They were both served alongside an impressive selection of sides (these change every time. The only obligatory one is – of course – kimchi. That wonderful, stinky Korean cabbage which really is what Korean heaven is made of. This time it was accompanied by bean-sprouts, anchovies, green beans and green cabbage, all marinated in something rather pleasing).

The soup was alright. The noodles were delicious, one could argue about the amount and quality of the seafood used, but the general size of the dish was impressive and the general taste very agreeable. The best thing about it was that broth managed to be pleasingly spicy and have a strong presence all at the same time. The bibimbap, however, was more than just alright. It was really good. And that’s an improvement. I know I’m supposed to base my reviews on that one evening only, but the reason I had not set foot at Kimchi Princess for a while before that evening was because their bibimbaps had been just alright whereas Madang and Ixthys offered superior choices. Well, no more, or partly so. The ones at Madang or Ixthys are still better, but this week’s bibimbap at Kimchi Princess was A LOT better than what it used to be like. The meat was just right, the overall size, taste and abundance of the other vegetables as well as the taste and availability of the spicy red bean paste were very good as well. At last, I managed to actually enjoy a bibimbap at Kimchi Princess without too many ifs and buts. And now to the sides, not any less important here. They were actually all very good. The kimchi, the most important one, was also another sign of improvement – I used to find the kimchi at Kimchi Princess fairly bland. It still isn’t the best in town, but the cabbage had just the right consistency and age, the seasoning was good as well. Definitely enjoyable.

At the end of the day – Kimchi Princess is a good address. Good Korean food in a very pleasing setting. There may be cheaper and better quality Korean restaurants in Berlin. However, what Kimchi Princess lacks in pure food quality, it compensates with the accessories: service, ambiance, presentation and oh yes, how could I ever forget – coolness.

Overall Mark: 

Kimchi Princess
Skalitzer Straße 36, 10999 Berlin

Größere Kartenansicht

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