I've been hearing bits and pieces about Charim for months and have been dying to try it. Korean food is a relatively new love for me so I've unfortunately procrastinated on my visit. The buzz I get about Charim online and off is that it's excellent. There are a few folks who prefer older Louisville establishments like Lee's Korean or Koreana better but regardless, most folks had great things to say about Charim.
I finally made it in for a meal this evening. Charim's interior is simple, quiet, and classy. It's not over the top, and while the price point is a little higher than other similar establishments, the atmosphere definitely lets you focus on the food.
We started off with some Mandu, a fried vegetable dumpling served with what seemed to be a chili soy sauce. It was very delicious but not very different from many varieties of vegetable dumplings I've tried. Regardless, they were a great way to whet the appetite.
The food came to the table piping hot. Steam was swelling off them as you can see in the photographs. We had many different Korean banchan, or side dishes, to accompany our meal. After a few puffs, we took our first bites. Delicious. Our first entree was Bulgogi, grilled marinated beef that was served sizzling on a cast iron plate with bright vegetables and green onion. The Bulgogi was tender and flavorful. The portions that sat on the hot cast iron plate had the perfect amount of caramelized flavor.
In addition, we ordered the Godeung uh Jorim, a whole mackerel that was stewed with Korean radish, spices, and onion. The mackerel's rich and oily meat was savory and well balanced with the juicy stewed radish which had sucked up so much flavor and spice.
We tempered the perfect amount of heat off the chili laden mackerel with a incredibly sticky and chewy brown rice. It was enough heat to get your blood going but still enjoy the flavors.
My favorite, however, was the Kimchi. Kimchi isn't rare in this town but Charim's Kimchi is the Kimchi I dream about. Crunchy and juicy, full of delicate flavor without a strong aroma. Each bite cleaned our palette so we could revisit the other flavors on the table.
The owner and chef was kind enough to visit our table after our meal and take the time to talk to us about the food and ingredients. She explained how she made everything by hand and by scratch (she also keeps up with her facebook page which is worth a visit). Her handmade approach was definitely reflected in our meal. I challenge you to try it out yourself, especially if you have a love of Korean food. If you've never had Korean food, Charim is a great place to start. Most of it is pretty adaptable to the American appetite but if you are a picky eater, perhaps give the Kalbi (short ribs) or Bulgogi (marinated beef) a try first.
I still dearly love my more down to earth Korean eateries here in Louisville. However, Charim takes Korean food to different level for me. The food tastes very fresh with attention to diverse detail. While a lot of Korean cuisine I have sampled locally are delicious. they are often drenched in sauce with a lot of focus on strong flavor with less attention to the texture, and quality of the delivery (which, for the record, also has delicious results). Charim's food is different; full of delicate, well balanced flavor, and prepared with meticulous care. The vegetables are not overcooked but lightly blanched, crispy, and juicy. The meats are tender, moist, with an occasional slightly crispy edge. The spice is warming and invigorating without killing your taste buds. I just have a hard time making a comparison to other places. It just seems like apples and oranges to me.
Charim Korean Restaurant 4123 Oechsli Ave. Louisville, KY 40207
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