Kim's Restaurant

Kim's Restaurant
5955 N. 5th Street
(215) 927-4550

There are times when an attorney, usually chary and decorous, simply desires to try new things, different places and faces; dauntless adventure. Culinarily, said aforementioned lawyer should meander toward 5th Street and head north, where Columbian, Chinese, Portuguese and Korean restaurants abound. By entering these enthralling eateries one may gormandize with impudicity, for you are unknown to anyone.

You will venture into new appetizing jurisdictions (for a member of the Philadelphia Bar) when you arrive at Kim's Restaurant. Kim's is the oldest Korean restaurant in Philadelphia. It will knock your woks off.

Enter from a packed small-mall parking lot into what first appears to be a diner. But the diner is integrated into the design of a larger armory of varnished picnic tables above each of which hang huge inverted electric air-exhaust-funnels.

In the middle of each table, just under the funnel, is a removable board, which when eliminated, creates a rectangular deep pit for insertion of a blazing charcoal brazier. Lower the electric vent (top red button) about a foot and you’re ready for a smokeless "C-1" or "C-3" on the five page Korean menu.

The C’s mentioned are platters piled high with pounds of superbly raw, red, thinly sliced marinated meat (from beef ribs), spiced and sauced for self-barbecuing mid-table.

You are surrounded by brash but helpful waitpersons and other staff in street clothes. Boisterous Korean patrons enjoy cooking their meals, while drinking Korean beer from shot glasses or American beer from frosted glasses. They carouse jovially with large, gruff guffaws, hesitating noiselessly and only momentarily to imbibe or to bow to guests arriving at their table.

Before you can even begin to barbeque the meat (with careful use of aluminum tongs and wooden chopsticks), servers place eight to ten three-inch-round bowls of garlic pieces, sliced green unseeded chili peppers, onions, a ground sesame mixture, kimchi, pickled mung bean sprouts, fried tofu, seaweed salad, spiced softened peeled radishes, sticky rice, and mounds of red leaf lettuce, around you. These same persons smile and yell at you in Korean (just as you would do if you were attempting to explain in English to a Korean), gesturing how to place the meat for a minute on the grill, how to turn it over, and how to place what’s browned into the lettuce, accompanied with assortments of fillings from the other surrounding bowls. Smile, and don’t yell back. And if you intend to use the kimchi as a filler, order three cold beers to have on hand. Trust me on this.

Bulkogi (C-1), a beef rib meat and kalbi (C-3), a beef short rib meat, seem identical to my untrained palette, especially if both are barbecuing simultaneously over the hardwood brilliant-blue-orange charcoal. When the beef has turned caramel, place four pieces of the darkened slices upon a large freshly washed lettuce leaf. Top with grilled garlic, kimchi, sprouts and rice. Roll into a sloppy cigar and bite with gusto. The beefs sweetness emerges at one’s first crisp chomp; then the rice clings to your tongue as it begins to undulate, tickled by the mung beans and garlic spikes. Finally, as you swallow, the synapses to your brain register the presence of the heated exchange between peppery crimson-hot kimchi and your esophagus. You gurgle. Eyes tear. Nose dribbles. Lungs gasp. Eyebrows are singed when you exhale. Down the fire-pole to quell the smoldering remnants goes a bottle of beer.

You may also wish to have a Pa Jon within arm's reach. It's a huge Korean pancake filled with scallions. It's ready, willing and available to wipe your lips clean. Otherwise you’ll be giving kimchi kisses for days.

Or you may try one of Kim's "house" soups. There's a grandiose bowl of U Dong, a bombastic dark amber broth filled with slick slippery lengthy noodles. Your server will appear again, surprising you by brandishing scissors from Staples with which to cut the aforementioned noodles for easier mouth-fit. She’ll smile and yell at you again, so that you use a specially provided long spoon-like utensil, whose top is enveloped in a flimsy filmy paper "sanitary cover." (Don’t ask.) Amidst the now-chopped noodles are denuded mussels and clams, teensy former dried shrimp, tentacles, mushrooms, cabbage and carrot slivers. Enter the Demilitarized Zone of your tastebuds.

There are, of course, hundreds of napkins (in holders) at your table, and a plethora of toothpicks. Use at will. And don’t miss the steamed dumplings to take home, half-moons of silky pockets made plump by pork filling. All are provided with a dark soy sesame dipping puddle. They are fabulous with tomorrow mornings breakfast eggs.

By meal’s end, there’ll be a slight sweat above your brow, and a notion that you’ve attended a new world order, an order which gracious restaurateurs are willing to fill.

Sticks of Juicy Fruit chewing gum are given gratis as you pay your bill.

Remember to bow out.


Copyright 2004 Richard Max Bockol, Esq. Back