Sometimes, even the best ideas run their course. That’s how chef Won Kim feels about Kimski 1.0, the Polish/Korean mashup that has delighted diners in Bridgeport (and around the city) since 2016. After some time off, Kim is reopening Kimski with a new focus on Korean food. But don’t expect traditional Korean dishes; the new menu combines Korean flavors with Kim’s particular tastes to create an entirely new thing.
The original idea for Kimski was more of an experiment than a fleshed out restaurant concept. “It started off as a joke, because we did Korean/Polish barbecues in the back of Maria’s,” remembers Kim. “I was tasked to see if that combination was even possible, or if it was something that would be a terrible experiment gone wrong.”
Given the ensuing popularity of Kimski, the experiment was (obviously) a success, but during the COVID lockdowns, Kimski didn’t decide to pivot to takeout like many other restaurants. Instead, Kim focused on using his space to help those in need, feeding hospitality workers and working with a local non-profit to provide food. After a brief reopening, Kim devoted his kitchen to hosting pop-ups.
Now, however, it’s time to get back in the kitchen. “I realized how inexperienced I felt because I wasn’t [cooking] every day. I gotta get back into the flow of this,” laughs Kim. But while Kimski 1.0 was an experiment, Kimski 2.0 is personal. “The food I was making before was an expression, and it was creative,” says Kim. “This is just my personality — I am going to subject people to what I want to eat, rather than trying to stick to a theme.” Despite his many years of cooking Polish-inspired dishes, the cuisine never really invaded his personal tastes; “I never craved a cabbage roll or a potato dumpling when I was off work. I’m always on the Korean side for my snacks.”
You’ll see classic Korean dishes listed on the menu (bulgogi, chap chae, Korean BBQ), but don’t expect familiar presentations. That Korean BBQ is actually smoked brisket, made for Kimski and served with traditional Korean condiments. “It’s presented in an American way, where you taste the great American smokiness and the fatty unctuousness of brisket,” explains Kim.
Bulgogi has been transformed into a cheesy beef sandwich. “We are doing our own Cheez Whiz sauce, making our own liquid gold, making a gigantic stupid messy bulgogi cheesy beef sandwich with charred shishitos and onions,” says Kim.
Kimski won’t be totally ditching the pop-ups, and Kim feels committed to continue to help new chefs explore their concepts. The restaurant will be open with the new menu from Wednesday through Sunday, while other concepts will take over the space, on a rotating basis, on Mondays and Tuesdays.
While the menu might have changed, the spirit of Kimski hasn’t. “We respect ingredients, we respect the process, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” says Kim.