Fermented cabbage burger pop-up at The Black Heart
The Black Heart pub in Camden clearly likes hosting pop-up restaurants and has a thing for burgers too if its choices so far are anything to go by. First there was Mother Flipper, now it’s Kimchi Cult’s turn. Like Mother Flipper, Kimchi Cult is a stand that makes appearances at London’s various street markets and other venues. Unlike Mother Flipper, Kimchi Cult’s burgers have a distinct Korean influence.
The headline kimchi burger is a case in point. The smoothly ground patty cooked medium/medium rare-ish is surprisingly flat in shape, but it’s moist and mildly tangy. This is complimented well by the firm, zesty and tingly, if not especially spicy kimchi. The tang of the beef and the kimchi go together very well indeed and the soft, floury bun holds everything surprisingly well while remaining in the background, staying out of the way.
Dalk galbi is a popular Korean stir-fried chicken dish and here it’s been turned into a burger. It doesn’t use some bargain basement patty made of reconstituted mince, but a whole, moist chicken fillet instead. The moist meat has been marinated with a musky, earthy, gently spicy, bean-like paste. This, along with the mayonnaise, produced a very satisfying combination. The crisp, gently toasted bun couldn’t quite contain it all though, with some leakage of the mayo-paste mixture dribbling out.
One of the vegetarian options some times available is the arancini burger. Arancini is an Italian dish of crisp yet soft deep-fried rice balls, but Kimchi Cult’s burger doesn’t quite live up to arancini’s potential as a beef-substitute. The patty, while sweet and starchy with visible grains of rice, was also a little too chewy with none of the crisp fluffiness I’d normally associate with arancini. The ginger coleslaw topping was forgettable, but the kimchi hot sauce was tangy, tingly and surprisingly hotter than the kimchi by itself although it inevitably dribbled out of the soft, floury bun.
Bulgogi beef is a classic Korean dish and here it’s been used as a topping for fries. Although thin and tender, the lipsmackingly moreish flavour I’d normally associate with bulgogi was absent here with sesame seed oil and rice wine the predominant flavours. Still, it’s far more interesting than just plain ol’ salty fries.
The soft, salty fries are also available topped with kimchi and cheese. This sounds like an unholy combination, but the cheese stays out of the way and lets the tart, tingly sourness of the kimchi dominate this side dish. Although it’s not especially spicy, it’s still very satisfying kimchi and makes the fries much more interesting as a result.
A meat-only side dish is the chicken wings, twice-fried and coated in a spicy sauce. The coating has a firm bite, but the heat of the sauce is muted. It does have a gentle earthiness, but it’s almost too subtle for its own good. A rather disappointing dish, but at least the accompanying pickled radish is a good palate cleanser.
Kimchi Cult’s food may not be spot-on perfect, but it’s still tasty, fun and inexpensive too. Plus, for many, it could act as a gateway drug to more traditional Korean food and that can only be a good thing. Kimchi Cult will be at The Black Heart until Saturday the 15th Feburary and makes regular appearances at various markets.
Name: Kimchi Cult
Address: various London markets
and until 15th Feburary The Black Heart, 2-3 Greenland Place, London NW1 0AP
Phone: none listed
Opening Hours: Black Heart pop-up – Wednesdays and Thursdays 17.00-22.00. Fridays and Saturdays noon-22.00.
Reservations: yeah if you want
Average cost for one person including soft drinks: £10-15 approx.