One could argue that there are no two cuisines more at odds than Korean and Polish. The former’s assertiveness and complexity has well established its adaptive qualities, from Korean-Mexican mashups pioneered by L.A.’s Kogi BBQ trucks to cheffy permutations prepared through a Western culinary lens (see Ruxbin, Parachute, Hanbun). What you don’t often see are global collaborations with Polish food (pierogi pizza, zapiekanka, and doner notwithstanding). That’s surprising. The stereotypically heavy, starchy, frequently bland qualities of hearty Eastern European chow should be a blank canvas for all sorts of dynamic foods.
But it’s no great surprise that one of the first really captivating collisions of Polish and Korean food comes out of Bridgeport’s Marszewski Empire, itself born out of the storybook romance of an American serviceman of Polish extraction and a churchgoing South Korean hairdresser, Maria Marszewski, the titular figure of Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar.
Earlier this spring the family opened Kimski, an extension of the bar serving Korean-Polish under the direction of street artist and onetime Food Network star Won Kim. The signature item here is the Maria’s Standard, a fat, snappy Polish sausage on a bun topped with soju-spiked mustard, scallions, sesame seeds, and a sweetish, purple cabbage kraut fermented with a kimchi-boosted hot sauce—made in collaboration with Co-op—that’s something every household should stock.
The de facto pairing with this is the poutine, a formerly late-night-only morass of respectably thick-cut fries drenched in a kimchi-based gravy and bonded with molten cheese curds, all given a further acidic boost from pickled red onions.
I certainly expected some form of pierogi on the menu, but the veggie potskis are about as unpierogilike as possible, apart from their interior kapusta filling of braised cabbage and mushroom. (They’re more like deep-fried pot stickers. But can it be a pot sticker if it hasn’t stuck to a pot?) These are arrayed on a layer of soy-spiked cream and garnished with more pickled onion, farmer cheese, and dill. Very Polski.
On the other hand, the scallion-potato pancake manages a nice balance between placki ziemniaczane and pajeon: browned, spuddy disks, quartered and served with a side of kalbi-like smoked pork shoulder and kimchi. Meanwhile the Ko-Po beef—bulgogi drenched in gochujang butter with shishito peppers on a bun—is more of a Philly cheesesteak than any kind of cross-cultural combo.
While these are all perfectly intriguing expressions of the Korean-Polish hybrid, the past daily specials are even more compelling. They include a kimchi Reuben; chap chae noodles with squash, smoked mushrooms, and soy-sesame sauce; and a buttermilk chicken sandwich with scallion-kimchi aioli and charred kimchi shishitos with scallion-kimchi aioli—all of which go to show that this laboratory of hallyu-Slavic experimentation is well worth developing.
Kimski, 960 W. 31st, 773-890-0588