Looking to add to your Asian food knowledge or to sample excellent versions of the classic Korean dishes you crave? Head over to Kimchi Time, a casual dining spot in central Tucson.
Korean cuisine is the overlooked ‘little brother’ to the more popular and widely represented Chinese, Japanese, and even Thai cuisines. Its typical offerings have a fraction of the name recognition of such menu items as egg rolls, ramen, and pad thai. The only dish that many Americans have heard of is the underrated kimchi, a spicy fermented cabbage that serves as a Korean meal staple.
Thus the name of Kimchi Time, a Korean restaurant that’s built a loyal following over the past seven years. Like many authentic ethnic restaurants in town, it’s located in a nondescript strip mall, in this case Village on Broadway. Those who have sought it out or found it by accident before or after a visit to the nearby Laff’s comedy club tend to return over and over again.
“My mom wanted a restaurant, and my dad is business savvy,” said owner David Kim.
Opened by Kim’s father and powered by his mother’s longstanding home recipes, the restaurant offers a wide selection of tasty — and often good for you — Korean dishes.
“Korean food is very healthy, it uses a lot of vegetables and we use very fresh ingredients,” Kim says. “The unique blend of spices that we have, it’s difficult to compare to Japanese and Chinese, or even Thai food. It’s very bold and flavorful.”
Consider, if you will, bibimbap: a freakishly hot stone bowl of rice smothered with an impressively organized assortment of ingredients such as thinly sliced carrots, sliced cucumber, sauteed spinach, bean sprouts, and sliced beef. It’s crowned with a fried egg and served with gochujang (a unique, spicy chili paste) on the side. It’s an ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink’ approach that somehow doesn’t feel random. Every color, flavor, and texture forms a mosaic of taste goodness.
Although it’s impossible to do justice to the restaurant’s extensive menu, here are some suggestions.
Newbies might try the bulgogi, thinly-sliced steak that marinates in the signature sauces and spices, a complex sweet and sour combination. Those looking to be a bit more bold might consider the dduk bok ki, pan-fried rice cakes served in a spicy sauce with ramen noodles. The rice cakes have a soft, pasta-like texture that perfectly absorbs the heat and flavor of the sauce.
The bibimbap deserves a second mention as it takes a variety of forms. Try the dolsot bibimbap, which comes with all of its rice, veggies, and sliced beef served in a piping hot stone bowl. The heat of the bowl continues to cook the rice as you partake, leaving you with a perfectly textured crunch of rice waiting for you at the bottom.
Other menu favorites include gal bi (short ribs marinated in a process that takes a minimum of 48 hours). For those who are less meat inclined, there are grilled mackerel, several fried rice dishes, and plenty of high quality tofu options.
Kimchi Time contains a full bar with a nice selection of familiar beer, wines, and spirits, and also ventures into the Asian potent potables arena with both sake and soju, a traditional Korean distilled liquor that carries a mild, sweet taste that will pair perfectly with just about anything you order.
And consider this: Five nights out of the week Kimchi Time breaks the Tucson curse of restaurants closing shop at 9:00pm. Every night except Sunday and Tuesday, the restaurant is open until at least midnight, making this an ideal spot for everything from a late night drink accompanied by light munchies to an after-party hangout.
Kimchi Time is planning to expand and renovate its current modest space, which will bring with it the introduction of a karaoke bar and allow the restaurant to accommodate larger parties.
The accompanying menu expansion will maintain new street-style Korean dishes such as kimchi burgers and the recently introduced cheesy street corn, and will enhance the bar selection. The Kims plan to introduce several Korean-style mixed drinks to their cocktail menu that will incorporate soju and other Korean liquors.
So whether you’re a seasoned veteran of Korean cooking or looking to expand your palate and try something new, Kimchi Time has something for you.
Kimchi Time is open Sundays from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 4:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. View more information on TripAdvisor.