TRAVEL

Kimchi and Me: celebrating kimjang in Rome

Kimchi.

Two syllables that can easily put me into a dream state. For several years, I was spoiled-- living on the edge of Los Angele's Koreatown, I was used to having bulgogi, galbijjim, bibimbap, seolleongtang and soju on a weekly basis.  And, if anything, kimchi was my comfort food for ridiculous dates, bad break-ups, broken hearts and the flu.  It was a curative, metaphysical experience, and by the end of my days in Los Angeles, kimchi was mythical- in other words, everything is better with kimchi.  So of course, it was an easy "Yes",  when I was invited to celebrate kimjang at Galbi Roma, a new Korean restaurant in Rome's Pinciano/Salario neighborhood.

Kimjang:the making of a large amount of kimchi before or soon after the onset of winter

In 2013, Kimchi and kimjang were inscribed onto UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage items, joining cultural practices including Azerbaijan' copper craftsmanship, Lebanon's Al-Zajal (recited or sung poetry), Mongolia's knuckle-bone shooting, Indonesia's batiq and Sicily's Opera dei Pupi.   Kimjan, a late November, early December festival, is celebration of kimchi and community, where the people come together to create enough kimchi to last through the spring for everyone.   Galbi chef Daniel Kim carefully explained he Kimchi process, (simplified by my rough vernacular)  where cabbage is spiced (ground pepperoncino, fish sauce, salt and more) and then stored in a kimchi-specific refrigeration system for several weeks.  Traditionally it is stored in underground jars, though often no longer the case.  Kim shared, to my delight, that some of the very best kimchi are three or four years old and there are more than 150 varieties.

Yes, I'd like to try them all.

 Pang: Galbi's mini-burger: succulent pork belly, kimchi, picked zucchine, radish

Galbi, marinated beef with kimchi, cabbage, on a basil patty.

The Review:

Rome is not shy to Korean restaurants.  There are few which tend to have a more traditional vibe with both atmosphere and style, and often have menus that cater to the local culture, understandable as cultural authenticity is mutable as it migrates.   Galbi has stepped up the game on the usual "Korean restaurant in Rome".  Galbi's menu is meat and fish focused, both as dishes and table barbecue.  Additionally, it has  four Lunch Box selections (where my favorite bibimbap appears] a kind of combo platter.  Overall the cuisine is straightforward and traditional with no oversimplification nor overt fusion.  Service is polite, helpful, and efficient.

Designed by architect Marco Gaudi, Galbi is modern minimalist-- light, natural woods, simple lines, and black and red accents.   The open plan is luminous- a central room with "social" bar-style table ideal from groups, two flanking rooms with table seating, and a small cocktail bar.  It's easy on the eyes and spacious.

Galbi is located on the border between Rome's Salario and Pinciano neighborhoods, which may be just a dot on a map to you, but to me, it's a great encapsulation of a Rome I love-  old school and new style, (more and more non-Roman restaurants are opening up here), artsy (the MACRO and Cinema Savoy around the corner) and vintage (you can find Nonna's antiques just by traipsing via Nizza).

Galbi Roma Via Cremera 21 06 884 2132