Raleigh, N.C. — Kimbap is a Korean restaurant that serves traditional dishes with meat and produce from local vendors.
The restaurant: Even though the space is small, the restaurant feels open, thanks to the big front windows. The decor is minimal but comfortable, with wooden panels lining the walls. Even though there were tables and bar seats, it might be difficult to get a table during peak hours.
The location: Kimbap is the newest addition to Seaboard Station, located on Peace Street in Raleigh. It's just around the corner from Bad Daddy's Burger Bar and 18 Seaboard.
The meal: The lunch menu was small and consisted of Korean-inspired cafe food made with sustainable local ingredients. Our choices were dumplings, rolls, bulgogi and curry, but we all tried something different. The dinner menu has many more options.
Caitlin: I went with the pork dumplings with a side of kimchi, which is a cold mixture of veggies like cabbage and carrots in a slightly spicy sauce. I had never eaten kimchi before, and I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. It struck me as one of those side items you just kind of pick at after you've finished your main dish because you don't have anything else to eat. I think I would have liked the japchae noodles as a side better.
The dumplings were pretty good and cooked fresh, but I felt like they needed more seasoning. I tried a bite without soy sauce and I couldn't really taste any of the pork or vegetables. My stomach had been growling before lunch, and I was still hungry after I finished my five dumplings...so of course we had to order dessert. We shared the ginger creme brulee, which was the highlight for me. The ginger wasn't overpowering, and I tasted some vanilla in the custard too. Overall, Kimbap unfortunately didn't deliver an amazing lunch, which was disappointing because I had heard good things about it!
Kathy: I had high hopes when I walked into Kimbap. I love trying new cuisine and this Korean inspired place definitely introduced me to some new dishes! With my two dining companions opting for the homemade dumplings - which were amazing! - I decided to try the shrimp fresh roll with a side of Kimichi. The roll was a little different from what I expected. I knew it was being served cold, but I didn't anticipate how chewy the rice paper wrap would be. I've always had rice paper after its been heated or fried, so it just falls away. The shrimp inside were well prepared, but there was a lot of lettuce in the rolls so it was a little harder to find the shrimp. The chili sauce that came with it was great! I ended up making a mini-salad out of it. I wasn't a big fan of my side of Kimchi. It is also served cold and maybe the cold weather outside contributed to my frigid reaction to it. Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean dish made of vegetables and covered in a spicy sauce. After a few bites, I was just not feeling it.
I have to say the service was excellent here because when the server noticed I didn't really like my food, she told the owner, who decided to make me a new dish with JapChae noodles she sautéed with some shrimp. It was great! And really made me happy I said something. Our ginger creme brûlée dessert was delightful. I really loved the sweet, but not too sweet custard center. If I go back, I would definitely order the dumplings.
Tara: The lunch menu at Kimbap is written on a chalk board and consists of about five different options. At lunch you order at the counter and then they bring your food to you. At dinner it is full service and they wait on you at your table. I decided to go with the Veggie Mandu (Korean vegetable dumplings) with a side of Kimchi.
My meal came with about six dumplings which were very good but I am not sure that it is really enough to make a whole meal out of. The dumplings were packed with fresh vegetables and after being dipped in soy sauce were pretty good.
I had never had Kimchi but when the waitress said it was spicy that seemed good to me. I was a little taken back by the fact that it is served cold but after a few bites I got used to the temperature and ended up liking the flavor.
For dessert we split the ginger creme brulee, which was incredible! However, the treats around the side are ginger candy and are extremely strong! The dessert on the other hand has only a hint of ginger flavor but it is not overpowering.
The bill: Five dumplings with a small side and water were $8, as was the shrimp roll and side. The creme brulee was about $6.50. For the amount of food we got for lunch, we felt it was a little overpriced.
The service: The woman helping us order at the counter was very helpful in explaining dishes that were foreign to us, and she said it was no problem to replace Kathy's shrimp roll with another option. The owner, Kim Hunter, came over to ask how our meal was and was very friendly. Our water glasses were never empty. The service at Kimbap was excellent!
The verdict: While we were let down by our meal, we think the friendly service and inviting restaurant could be enough to warrant a second visit.