Tuesday, 15 May 2012

La Bodega Negra + Kimchi Cult

The backstory:

I have often said that I would never want to be a critic as I hate critiquing unless 1) it concerns myself or 2) as constructive criticism as agreed with the critique-ee - I would much rather recount my more wonderful experiences 1) for my own memory or 2) for others to emulate if they so wish.

Recently, a friend pointed out that perhaps 1) it might also be helpful for people to hear about the misses as well as hits, and 2) I should just grow some and put some potentially controversial opinions into the public domain.

Which is how we get to:

Disappointment is dangerous.

It's one of the more unsettling feelings in the world to come into a situation with high hopes only to have them dashed against the proverbial rocks. (A cure for which ironically comes 'on the rocks', but that's a story for a different day). What do parents say when they want to hit hardest? "I'm not mad... just disappointed". Burn.

I wanted to say exactly that to the brooding hostess (followed by "you call that a skirt, young lady?") on the way out after a recent meal eaten at La Bodega Negra, the new outpost from New York nightlife empresario Serge Baker of NY's La Esquina and the trans-Atlantic freakshow The Box. I hadn't heeded several critics' and friends' reviews and was instead swept away in the celeb-drenched hype of the spot, convinced it was going to be fantastic food in a sexy setting.

Instead, we settled for mediocre Mexican, admittedly in a sexy setting, which left me wondering how to best pretend I was a victim of credit card fraud to recoup my rent. The ambiance, the drinks, and the (two! tiny!) tacos were great - the rest? Disappointing. And having had great experiences at La Esquina to compare to definitely didn't help. I have previously recommended drinks and small plates in the upstairs cafe, and I don't rescind that rec - stay street-level and you can still get the pepper-laced Pepino and 3 tacos for the price of 2 in a much more low-key setting.

But there it is. Bitter disappointment, served with a side of broke.

After such an upsetting evening, I knew I needed to end the week on a reliable high, so I gathered the troops and we marched to new Friday food fest Street Feast in Shoreditch. As previously described, the line up includes street food faves running from The Ribman to Homeslice to Bhangra Burger (saviours of my last disappointing scenario), but I only had one thing on my mind - Kimchi Cult and their bangin' burgers.

As I'm always overwhelmed by the options at similar set-ups, I had never hit up the Cult as I had considered a basic burger a cop out when there was so much variety to be had. But nothing was calling my name more than the siren song of something simple and satisfying, so we grabbed beers from Camden Town Brewery and a box of The Ribman's finest (what? It was a long line...) and joined the queue. Let me tell you - it was worth the wait.

The burger is cradled in bacon, crowned with tangy kimchi, and covered in melted cheese, the whole served in a sweet brioche bun. Although the patty was slightly overcooked, the combination of salty, smoky, and sweet along with its deep beefiness, only enhanced by the kimchi, made for a mindblowingly moreish meal.

Tempted to order more, we proactively removed ourselves to a tent, painted by one of my favorite street artists, Malark, and kicked back with a few more beers amidst a crowd buzzing with the satisfaction of solid food in a mellow setting.

Not disappointing in the least.

Street Feast
Fridays, 5pm-midnight
Sclater Street Carpark, Shoreditch, E1 6HR

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