Over the course of more than four years, Kimbap Cafe has made a name for itself with its Korean-inspired dishes of bibimbap and dumplings made from local ingredients.
But owner Kim Hunter said her regulars tell her they “want to see more from us, some different kinds of dishes.” At the same time, Hunter hasn’t felt like herself for the past year and a half as she suffered an injury and had her hip replaced.
At one point, she considered closing Kimbap, but the idea for a more intimate concept continued to nag at her.
That’s why she’s switching up the concept with a new dinner service.
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For five days a week, it will still be Kimbap Cafe for lunch, where about 80 percent of diners order those Kimbap staples, along with a few new items.
But for two nights only – Thursdays and Fridays – it will be known as the Umma Project, in which diners will be able to choose a three-course tasting menu from a dozen seasonally changing options. Kimbap will end dinner service the other nights of the week, at least for now.
“I’m really excited to stretch myself a bit more,” Hunter said in an interview. “It will be a pretty eclectic mix, but tightly focused on Asian, primarily Korean-inspired dishes made with Southern ingredients.”
It will be a departure from what Hunter has done daily at Kimbap, but she’s ready to branch out creatively.
There will be ramen bolognese, which Hunter said is a take on a big spaghetti dish she ate growing up, but with house-made ramen noodles and Korean spices. Umma will also serve Korean pig trotters, house-made soft tofu and other small dishes, as well as gluten-free and vegan options.
Umma is the casual Korean word for mom, Hunter said, adding the name is a reference to her adoptive mother, whom she lovingly describes as the “average Midwestern white woman.”
“That word inspires me in so many ways,” Hunter said. “It’s a tribute to my adoptive mom and to my heritage and just the broader perspective of mothers, the farmers and women in the community I’ve gotten to know.”
Hunter said she will add additional nights as demand picks up. The Umma Project will begin Nov. 2, and reservations are recommended.
“Whenever I took big risks on, (my adoptive mother) always gave me advice to go with your gut, that whenever something keeps coming back to you, it’s probably the right thing,” Hunter said. “And this kept coming back to me, so I thought there’s probably something there.”
Info: Kimbap Cafe is at 111 Seaboard Station, Suite 118, Raleigh. kimbap-cafe.com
Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson