A new Korean restaurant opened in New Albany a little over a year ago, and you’re forgiven if you don’t know about it. I happened to be at a strip center on Charlestown Crossing one day and noticed a sign for Kim & Bab, announcing it would be coming soon.
Flash-forward way too long, and I finally stopped in for a meal at the all-the-way-across-the-river location. No, this isn’t downtown New Albany where all the restaurant activity seems to be happening these days — this is in a commercial district several miles north of downtown, just off Charlestown Road.
In a way, Kim & Bab fits right into the area, with its clean look, fast-casual approach, modern décor and brightly colored menu board complete with photos of the food you’ll be deciding on.
Anyway, Kim & Bab touts on its Facebook page it is, “(The) first restaurant in Southern Indiana owned by Koreans to serve authentic Korean food.” Works for me.
As I walked in, I was immediately greeted by a friendly woman who I took to be one of the owners (based on the many online reviews). I told her it was my first time in, asking for recommendations.
She pointed out the ramyun “because it’s cold,” and also pointed to the bibimbap, a classic Korean favorite, saying, “It’s very popular.”
I went with the ramyun (yes, ramen), and she then noted that I had a choice of mild or spicy, as well as possible add-ons like egg, tteok, kimchi, plus bulgogi, chicken and others.
I chose a spicy bowl with chicken and got a half-order of mandu, which are Korean dumplings one can get filled with beef mandu or vegetable mandu.
But the whole menu offers up tempting treats, from kimbab, which are like Korean sushi rolls, to tteokbokki, rice cakes with chili sauce. Galbi, which are grilled short ribs, are sure to fill you up, or you can play it safe and go for fried rice. Small plates and bowls start at $5.95.
In addition, as a season special, a pair of Korean soups were available.
Beverage-wise, there’s a selection of Korean teas, from various flavors of boba (bubble) tea to nok cha (green tea). You also can choose from a couple of bottled beers and other adult beverages.
I stuck with a soft drink, and I had been sitting maybe five minutes when the smiling woman came out with my plate of mandu. They were sizzling hot, with crisp, brown edges and soft middles, served with squirt bottles of hoisin and soy.
They numbered six and were packed with seasoned beef and vegetables — emphasis on the beef. Nicely presented on a square plate, tasty, and warming on a chilly day.
I had taken a bite of my second dumpling when she returned with my bowl of ramyun. Luckily, it was steaming, so I knew I had time to finish my starter without worrying my noodles and orange-tinted broth would get cold.
When I did get around to my first sip of the broth, I quickly got a sense of the spice. It didn’t light me up, but it was a tad spicier than I had anticipated, which was a good thing. I slurped my first few wavy noodles, which were spot-on, and immediately I felt warmer.
The soup was sprinkled with fresh vegetables, and for the $2 extra I paid for the chicken, I was quite happy with the portion. Even better was the freshness and flavor of the meat.
I managed to finish it all, but to be honest, the ramyun would have been plenty for my late lunch. Nevertheless, the whole meal came together for a bright, satisfying experience. The spice opened my sinuses a bit, but it wasn’t a cumulative heat — your palate will survive it.
Reasonable prices, friendly service and quality service make for a good combination at Kim & Bab. Located at 3012 Charlestown Crossing Way, it is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.