Despite last year’s whirlwind, worldwide craze of K-Pop sensation GangNam Style reaching Dubai with a vengeance, a much more exciting import from Korea, namely its food, is still under-represented in the city. While JLT’s new Korean eatery KPOP Chicken seemed like it may be following on the coat tails of this musical fad (with dishes named ‘KPOP GangNam style chicken’) the promise of a new Korean option on the currently minimal scene sounded like much more melodious music to my ears.

Visiting for dinner, my friend and I walked in to the modest restaurant space to find friendly, welcoming staff and a pleasant modern canteen, with clean basic walls, simple pine tables, and minimal adornment aside from the acid splash of lime green in elements of the decor. The restaurant wasn’t full, but we noted that the diners sitting at the occupied tables appeared to be mostly Korean (and certainly Far East Asian).

We browsed a lengthy, takeaway style menu, which (once we’d ignored the odd burger) looked like a pleasingly classic and comprehensive range of Korean favourites. Our waitress was nice and helpful. However, it was evident from the interaction between her and my friend (who hadn’t tried Korean food before) that although the waitress seemed to know what she was serving, she wasn’t able to give much guidance on the menu.

From the appetising sounding selection, we ordered some of the signatures highlighted on the menu, in addition to Korean classic, including vegetable mandu dumplings, crispy shrimp kimbab, chicken bulgogi K-Japchae, noodles, beef bulgogi bibimbab and K-Spicy and sour fried chicken (which came with rice or fries and a salad).

To start proceedings, a complimentary plate of pickled radish and cucumber and a bowl of soup arrived. I should concede that I am quite a pickle fan, but these struck me as particularly fresh, crunchy and perfectly sweet-yet-sour. The soup, described as soy-bean, was not your average miso with a hefty, beefy, umami thwack of flavour.

The rest of the food arrived swiftly, and as it was ready. The crispy shrimp kimbap (similar to sushi rolls) had a nicely chewy, glutinous edge to the rice and a lovely extra salty punch from the bonito flakes on top, although I wasn’t keen on the sweet edge from the sweet-pickle chunks inside. The beef bulgogi bibimbap wasn’t quite the classic dish I might expect; it wasn’t served hot in a claypot, or with a gooey, runny egg on top. Nevertheless, it also used this fantastically nutty-chewy rice and was a success thanks to the great sesame dressing with a chilli kick and fresh mix of mushrooms and vegetables. While the beef was beautifully sweet and flavoursome, the slices included in the dish were far too few on the ground.

New to Korean food, my friend was completely sold, almost from the japchae and mandu alone. The japchae noodles, made with potato starch were light and sweet, while the slices of chicken accompanying it were deliciously tender. The mandu dumplings, stuffed with flavoursome diced vegetables, were also excellent, with a crackling, bubbling crispy outer casing. Finally, the Korean-style fried chicken (from which the restaurant takes its name) was pretty spectacular. The hard outer shell of batter coating was superbly crunchy and crumbly, while the chicken flesh was perfectly juicily and succulent.

The bibimbap could have been tweaked a touch, but even so, on the whole the food at KPOP Chicken offered excellent choice and a thoroughly enjoyable eating experience, and the menu is fairly affordable. This modest little eatery is a pleasant space in which to dine, making KPOP Chicken a new must try for Korean food
in Dubai.

The bill (for two)
1x kimchi Dhs8
1x mandu dumplings Dhs24
1x shrimp kimbab Dhs35
1x chicken japchae noodles Dhs42
1x beef bibimbap Dhs56
1x K-Spicy and sour chicken Dhs43
2x Korean mocktails Dhs52
1x large water Dhs12
Total (excluding service) Dhs272