From Michelin-starred names and celebrity chefs to experiential cooks and local restaurateurs, Expo 2020 Dubai is a culinary hub like no other. In this series, we profile the chefs invited to be a part of the world fair and get a preview of the menu they’ve put together for discerning diners.
Located in the Opportunity district is a restaurant that mirrors a modern-day home in Seoul – one that's filled with eccentric sculptures, quirky light fixtures and high-end craftsmanship. This is Kojaki, which has a kitchen that melds Korean and Japanese flavours, and a dining room that aims to promote a sense of sharing and socialising.
“The Kojaki experience is a social dining concept and all about having a good time. We want guests to feel a sense of warmth and togetherness when they walk through the doors,” says South Korean chef Jin Chul Kim, who described the experience as authentic and innovative at once.
“Our aim was to retain the authenticity of Korean flavours, but add a modern twist with some Japanese essence. We took inspiration from other cuisines and dishes that evolved during various wars, specifically traditional street food, and implemented them in a ‘Kojaki-style’ dish,” he says.
Korean cuisine has soared in popularity the world over, and at Kojaki, diners can sample popular dishes but with a twist. “My aim is that when people try my food, they feel like they’re having a home-cooked dish, but just a little more elevated,” says Kim.
On the menu are small bites such as kimbap (Korean sushi roll), deep-fried baby squid and blistered shishito peppers; appetisers such as mun-eo gui (octopus slices with sesame sauce), karaage (Japanese fried chicken), fried tofu and chamchi (tuna stew); and mains such as Korean mac and cheese, kimchi stew, tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes) and jajangmyeon (saucy Korean noodles).
“My favourite ingredient has to be garlic. It’s an ingredient that can elevate any dish and is essential when cooking Asian cuisine,” says Kim, who has also helped open Hashi at Armani Hotel Dubai.
Hashi aside, Kim has assisted with the opening of several restaurants in Dubai and Seoul, including Junsui in Burj Al Arab and Nama in W Hotel, Seoul. He has also worked at Japanese restaurant Hanazono in The Ritz-Carlton, Seoul.
The chef credits his out-of-the-box culinary techniques to his mentor David King, director of Culinary Asia Pacific at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “I consider him to be the most creative chef when it comes to Asian food and I learnt from his crazy mind how to be innovative and unique,” he says.
However, it was his brother who sparked Kim's interest in cooking when he was all of 14. “ I cooked my brother some Korean ramen noodles and he told me how impressed he was with my cooking and was so happy that I made him food. That’s when I decided that I was going to be a chef, because I felt so happy making food for others.”
Reservations for Kojaki at Expo 2020 Dubai can be made at 052 500 9299