Taste of Las Cruces: Kim-Chi House offers simple, flavorful menu of authentic Korean food
Jul 12, 2012 (Las Cruces Sun-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Kim-Chi House might well be Las Cruces' first, authentic Korean restaurant.
"There's no Korean restaurant in Las Cruces," said Emily Meskimen, owner of the new eatery. "Luckily we had a good turn out and people who walk through the door seem to like it."
The Meskimen family opened the restaurant on June 15. Just four days after launching their Facebook page, they already had 111 likes from the social network community.
There were quite a few people who visited the restaurant out of curiousity to sample the traditional Seoul food. Then there are those who came in because they were already aquainted with the taste and love it. Some of these people were military folks who have been stationed before in Korea, Meskimen said.
When approaching the doors, a mouthwatering smell of smoking, grilled meat fills the air around the red and white building.
The inside is also red and white and is brightly lit from the outside light coming in from the surrounding windows. It has a small diner feel to it mixed with Asian art, including a framed traditional Korean child's outfit.
The menu is pretty basic and quite small. But that doesn't mean there's a lack of flavor. One of the reasons why there's not too much choice is the cooks want to make sure everything is as fresh and quick as it can be, she said.
One of the most popular dishes is No. 1, or "BulKalBi." It's a few sections of short ribs marinated in a special sauce with rice and three side dishes that comes in
a sectioned box.
These grilled beef ribs are extremely delicious. The meat has soaked up its sweet marinade, which tastes sort of like teriyaki sauce, and it has a slight smoky taste from the grill.
On the side is kimchi, a staple of Korean food. It's a fermented vegetable made with different kinds of spices. With the No. 1 comes a cucumber and cabbage variety.
"You either love it or you don't," Meskimen said about the kimchi. "It's an acquired taste."
Meskimen describes kimchi as being similar to the jalapeno. Folks down here in New Mexico use it in everything in myriad ways. Koreans use it in everything also; from soups, sides and sauces. Meskimen's mother, Suki, will even eat it with speghetti and on hamburgers, she said.
"We eat kimchi with everything," she said.
Kimchi has an earthy taste mixed with a small to fiery spice. If you have never had it before, it could be an interesting experience.
"Come try it, get experience," "Mamma Suki" Meskimen, who is the main chef, said. "When you try it, give it a chance, you find out what you like or not."
She has been cooking for more than 35 years and learned how to in her hometown of Seoul.
Also, if there are any special requests for "Mamma Suki," she would be happy to oblige. Although kimchi soup is not on the menu, she can make it. It's her favorite dish after all, she said.
"I don't think anyone wanted to take the risk of doing Korean food," said Larry Meskimen, also a cook -- and Mamma Suki's son.
There are different textures and tastes in this cuisine. Certain things are served cold but nothing is deep-fried. It's actually quite healthy, Meskimen said.
Although Kim-Chi House was sort of a risk on the family's part, this is not their first rodeo. They are starting out fresh. Just a year ago they were the owners of Five Brothers on University Avenue. After the restaurant was taken under by the economy, they decided to start over, Emily Meskimen said.
The Meskimens have also owned and operated Suki's Restaurant in Albuquerque, before they all came to Las Cruces about 10 years ago.
In the beginning, they all decided that "Mamma Suki's" cooking was so good, they ought to start a restaurant.
"Mom's the chef. She loves it," Larry Meskimen said.
Andi Murphy may be reached at (575) 541-5453.
If you go
Korean Seoul food
Where: 1605 S. Solano Drive
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday
How much: $7.95 for rice bowls to $9.95 for noodle bowls
Info: (575) 652-4745. Find them on Facebook at "Kim-Chi House"
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