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Review: Korean BBQ at Cah Chi Restaurant

BY Boon Koh
Published 6 November 2011
Our Review Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

There’s nothing better than a Korean Samgyetang (ginseng chicken rice soup) for a miserable wet day, which was why I found myself desperately trying to find a Korean restaurant within proximity of Kingston, where I was out shopping at on Saturday.

The power of the internet, and in particular Qype, meant that I found Cah Chi restaurant pretty easily, and a clutch of good reviews to go along with it. Taking the plunge – I was pleasantly surprised to find a very good Korean restaurant, if not slightly erratic in pricing, in Raynes Park.

Cah Chi has two branches – the original at Raynes Park and their second one at Earlsfield. The one at Raynes Park is near the station, yet requires a leap of faith the first time when walking down the residential Durham Road that there will actually be a Korean restaurant there.

At Cah Chi, service is very courteous, and efficient, although those who need some help with ordering Korean food will struggle with the limited English of the staff. But the menu is in English and there are pictures, so even the most novice diner will survive. Annoyingly, there are dishes on the menu described just in Korean – time to learn some before my next trip!

Quick to arrive was the customary Korean starters, banchan, consisted of the typical kimchi, some sweet glazed beans, slightly spicy bean sprouts, and a potato salad. Its interesting to see that Korean potato salad (and the similar Japanese version too) is not that different from Western potato salad – there must be a story behind that.

As it was our first time there, we decided to go with some standard dishes to gauge and compare the quality to other places we’ve been. Bulgogi, thin marinated strips of beef, was ordered, along with bossam (pork belly slices) and a standard bimbimbap (rice and vegetables cooked in a hot stone bowl). Sadly, the dish I came for originally, Samgyetang, requires two hours advance notice to prepare – something I will bear in mind the next time I am back.

The two meats did not disappoint – both wee sizeable portions, and the bulgogi was marinated just right, with the right mixture of saltiness and sweetness. The bossam came surprisingly unmarinated. But dipped in the sesame oil and with some bean paste in a ssam-bap lettuce wrap, it tasted good.

The bimbimbap arrived last, and we had ordered one to share. Unfortunately, it was a huge disappointment. It was probably half the size of most bimbimbaps that we’ve had in London, and the worst part was that without the chilli sauce, it was extremely plain. Which is not meant to be the case. To make a mediocre bimbimbap worse, it was expensive too, at £10 – I’ve had amazing ones in central London that were bigger for £6-7.

One other flaw at Cah Chi is that there is no extractor fan above the BBQ on your table, which means that my clothes will definitely smell of bulgogi for the rest of the night – so not the best if you’re going for a posh party afterwards. But otherwise, apart from the disappointing bimbimbap, food here is definitely very authentically Korean. A pity that I don’t live near Raynes Park!

Cah Chi Retaurant (Raynes Park branch)
Cuisine: Korean, Korean BBQ
Raynes Park Address: 34 Durham Road, Raynes Park, London SW20 0TW
Earlsfield Branch: 394 Garratt Lane, Earlsfield, London SW18 4HP
Reservation Tel: 020 8947 1081
Website: www.cahchi.com