The newly-opened I’m KIM Korean BBQ Restaurant tantalizes meat lovers with a hearty buffet spread.
You know you’re close to the entrance of I’m KIM Korean BBQ Restaurant when you see the cheerful caricature of the restaurant’s namesake, Kim. Just outside the restaurant, a megawatt Hollywood-style sign screams the restaurant’s name and a smoky, mouth-watering barbeque smell wafts towards you, drawing you in.
You step into the bustling atmosphere, greeted by a fridge full of soju and beer and an all-around vibe of light-hearted rowdiness. An exposed black ceiling and white walls reflect the simple concept of the place—good, no-frills Korean food for everyone. The crowd runs the gamut of local families, groups of young adults, and Korean tourists.
Tables are set for four or more and there’s even a room tucked away for larger private events.
A wall-mounted television plays K-pop videos but barely anyone takes any notice of it—they’re too busy tucking into the strips of meat sizzling on the grills. With no smoke chimneys to absorb smoke, the heavy aroma of meat wafts through the air, adding to the atmosphere. We weren’t crazy about the open-concept washing area, though. It left the area damp and was a little too close to the food for comfort. But the allure of the buffet dishes soon pulled us toward what mattered most—the food.
Prices are affordable, starting at $9 for children, $14 for adults on weekdays and $18++ for children and $24++ for adults on weekends.
In case you’re wondering about the restaurant’s name, Kim is the Korean partner of owners Sulim and Christopher Chew, who are also involved in the 77th Street fashion retail brand with their sister Elim Chew. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot the clean-cut, handsome Kim cheerfully greeting customers and making his rounds around the room.
The buffet bar is split into four sections, starting with side dishes of cooked food. The selection is changed once in a while. The Thursday evening we dropped by, gimbap (seaweed rice rolls), crispy chicken wings, seafood pancake, marinated fish chunks and dishes like sweet potatoes were on hand.
Out of the lot, the crunchy wings were the clear favourite, disappearing onto the plates of eager diners as soon as they arrived. Soups and rice were also available for those who wanted a more balanced meal. A salad bar with fresh greens and cold potato salad filled another section, while condiments like bean sauce, soy sauce and lettuce wraps filled yet another.
We saved our stomachs for the meat section—that’s where the magic is. Thick slabs of pork, beef and chicken filled the trays, marinated with rich sauces. Must-tries are the tender, juicy pieces of beef and Volcano pork, which delivers a nice punch given its spicy marinade.
The rib-eye and short rib came in a savory sweet marinade, with a smoky aftertaste after a few flips on the grill—cook it right and you’re in heaven. The piece-de-resistance, however, is the bacon, a customer favourite.
Our dining companion, a big fan of bacon, filled plates with the stuff, carefully laying them out onto the hot grill and watching the fat bubble till the edges became crisp and crunchy. Perfect on its own or, as suggested by the owners, wrapped around stalks of enoki mushroom, each scrumptious slice was slowly savoured.
As the night wore on, the conversation faded into companionable chewing, and as the food settled in our tummies, we struggled to work our way through our plates of meat. Raising our eyes to the heavens for strength for “this last piece,” our eyes met the sterile glow of a shopfront on the second floor of the building across the road. The hungry eyes of the business’s occupants watched as we popped a slice of bacon, and then another, into our mouths. Our starving observers were gym rats on treadmills with a bird’s eye view of I’m KIM from the gym.
It was time to leave—but not before concluding the night with some icy treats. We were stuffed, but as the saying goes, there’s always room for ice-cream. Stopping by the big fridge next to the cashier, we bypassed the traditional Asian-flavored ice lollies like Red Bean and Black Bean for the fruit-flavored ones. Our favorites were the strawberry and creamy melon lollies, which left a delicate, lingering sweetness that washed away the heavy aftertaste of barbequed meat.
I’m Kim Korean BBQ Restaurant
School of the Arts,
1 Zubir Said Drive