Cah Chi, New Malden: ‘An umami-drenched patch of extreme deliciousness’ – restaurant review | Grace Dent on restaurants


The whole thing is perfect, not to mention hugely entertaining for the lunching Korean grandmothers watching me try to eat aubergine with metal chopsticks

New Malden is an area of south London that, due to a quirk of fate, has one of the highest concentrations of good eating in the entire UK. It’s a neighbour of Kingston upon Thames, and close to Worcester Park, Norbiton, Tolworth and many other semi-anonymous suburbs that never trouble the Places To Eat Before You Die foodie bucket lists. What gives the area its sparkle, however, is its large Korean population, as well as all the temporary visitors, and hungry South Korean and Chinese-Korean tourists. As a result, there are upwards of 20 more-than-decent Korean restaurants in New Malden, providing the opportunity to eat pajeon, bibimbap, bulgogi, noodles and hotpots; there are also a load of supermarkets where you can stock up on gochugaru and soju, plus cafes selling sweet treats such as patbingsu, a shaved ice dessert topped with sweet stewed adzuki beans that, to my mind, is one of the most delicious things on earth. It’s the firmness of the beans, you see, and the sugary hit of the burgundy-coloured sauce surrounding them.

If you’re not hugely familiar with Korean food, consider patbingsu and the spring onion and/or seafood pancake pajeon as your gateway drugs. I had been tipped off that they served a very good pajeon at Cah Chi on the Kingston Road, a family-run spot that has changed venues a few times over the years and opened here only a month or so ago, but has retained a loyal fanbase for its simple yet delicious taste of home. I visited on a wet Wednesday lunchtime, half-expecting to be one of the only customers, but found the place packed, due in no small part to Cah Chi’s warm welcome, and to the fact that a round of steamed saewoo mandu (seafood dumplings) comes with some of the most glorious fresh banchan (small plates): a dainty pile of lush, green, wonderfully seasoned spinach, pickled cucumber, fierce, roughly hewn kimchi and a mound of black, sticky, braised soy beans.

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