The best private kitchens are the ones that take some good navigational skills to find and are housed in a nondescript apartment block, allowing for a truly private meal. Newly opened KimChi in Hung Hom ticks both these boxes.
Unless you’re very Hung Hom street-savvy, I’d recommend getting a $20 taxi from the MTR station, as KimChi really isn’t easy to find. Once you’ve located it and gone up to the seventh floor in the rickety old lift, you will find an elegant, shiny-wallpapered dining room set up for a maximum of 12 people.
Despite the name, KimChi does not serve Korean fare. The name is actually an amalgamation of the two owners’ names: Kim and his girlfriend Chi, the chef behind the incredible food. There are two choices of set menu – Molecular Cuisine Set or Red Chamber Banquet Set, both priced at $350. We chose the latter, which was especially tailored to include traditional Chinese New Year dishes, with a slight molecular twist. What surprised me is that Chi can create the sort of intricate, beautifully presented dishes you’d expect to find at a Michelin-starred restaurant, yet she has never had any form of professional training; she taught herself by watching hour upon hour of cooking programmes through her sheer love of cooking.
The first dish to be served was the fried eggplant cube. This combination of finely diced aubergine with garlic, ginger, peppers, mushrooms and minced pork, served with optional chopped nuts was exceptional. It was absolutely bursting with flavour, causing silence around the table.
To follow, the Lotus seed with green delight soup was slightly less impressive, although I still polished mine off. The lotus seed and chicken component of the soup was rich and creamy, balanced by the slightly lighter spinach and fish component. I liked the added texture of the whole lotus seeds but found the soup as a whole a little too heavy, especially as it was only the second course of the night.
As a Chinese New Year special, we were served some sticky rice lollipops. I don’t know why I’ve never had these for CNY before and I’m sad there was only enough for one each! They had a slightly crispy exterior that gave way to a wonderfully chewy interior, all sprinkled in grated coconut to create an unexpected yet delicious dessert-like treat.
People often ask me what the strangest things I have ever eaten are. I think I can now add braised deer tendons to this list. I had no idea people even ate such things! The presentation was beautiful, like a flower emerging from a plant pot. Inside this ‘plant pot’, beneath the delicious pak choy, was a melange of deer tendon and fish maw. Although I enjoyed the taste, I couldn’t really get over the slimy, unusual texture of the tendons, a view shared by most people around the table.
The half boiled pigeon egg with white mushrooms had a very delicate flavour, which some argued could be described as bland. Once the soft-boiled egg yolk was mixed with the mushrooms and shredded pork, however, it was excellent; all the textures and flavours worked well together to create a lovely, warming dish.
Having given up wheat for Lent, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to eat the crab dumpling. We asked Kim, however, and he completely made my evening when he confirmed that the dumplings were made with rice flour. The huge dumpling, served in a light tomato sauce was packed full of fresh crabmeat, delivering an amazing taste, enhanced by the perfectly chewy dumpling skin.
As a palate cleanser, a cute fish-shaped chestnut and carrot juice sorbet served its purpose just right, ready for possibly my favourite dish of the night.
Just a glance at the chicken stuffed with frogs legs was enough to wow us all; encased in crispy tofu skin, topped with chestnut paste and sprinkled in icing sugar, it looked like a decadent dessert. Although the thought of eating frogs’ legs scared a few around the table, one bite of this dish and their fears were long forgotten.
Unfortunately my decision to give up wheat for Lent did get in the way of the crispy cream pine nuts puff; all I could eat was the delicious custard, pine nut and cream centre, of which I definitely made sure I scooped up every last bit! Judging by the sounds of delight I heard around the table, apparently the flaky homemade pastry was also incredible.
Service at KimChi is efficient and you can tell that all of the team are passionate about what they do. Albeit a little after we’d started eating each course, the lovely Chi came out to explain each of her dishes to us. I am still amazed at what she is capable of doing without a hint of training.
As with most private kitchens, KimChi is BYOB, with the most bizarre yet endearing corkage policy: you pay $150 per colour of wine! The total bill per head including service charge is therefore around $420 – definitely a reasonable price for well thought out food that is as delicious as it is interesting, and will certainly take you far out of your comfort zone.
KimChi Private Kitchen
Flat C, 7/F, Loong Wah Building
36-42 Baker Street
Tel: +852 5364 6623