Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mingle's Kimchi Fries

It all started with a single tweet:

Then our fairy godmothers at All Over Albany, derryX, and Mingle Albany stepped in 
and made our culinary dreams come true

The end result is a unique cultural mashup whose introduction to the Capital Region has long been overdue. Kimchi fries have been on the urban food truck scene for awhile now and my only encounter with these loaded fries has been through my television screen as I salivate over the creation. Lo and behold, one and half days later, Mingle came through with a version of their own: "Our Kimchi Fries begin with skin on & baked fries layered with bulgokee chicken & beef, pork belly and kimchi layered with Havarti from The Cheese Traveler."
Tasting is believing so J and I ventured on a recon mission for these sought after kimchi fries. Mingle has long been on our to-check-out local eateries. My hesitation has partly been due to higher price points for Korean food and fusion can either be a hit or miss. After a bite of The Cheese Traveler's "Dude What?" grilled cheese (a sandwich made with Fourme d'Ambert French blue cheese, Flying Pigs Ham, and Mingle's Kimchi), I knew we had to stop by next door. The kimchi was so outstanding that I couldn't stop thinking about it. 

Having survived a hefty Tour de Disco Fries with FUSSYlittleBLOG and Albany Jane, J and I were ready to pack on the calories and tackle Mingle's Kimchi Fries. Poutine has long had a special place in our hearts and stomachs, so we're pretty picky when it comes to any variation of cheese and fries. We had pretty high expectations for these kimchi fries, a Korean poutine if you will. The first bite was a special one; these were familiar Asian flavors yet there was cheese too which shouldn't make sense. On paper it's hard to wrap your head around this odd pairing of dairy with Asian ingredients but somehow it works! Havarti was a great choice of cheese; melty enough to create beautiful strands as you pull the fries apart, yet nutty and mild enough to let the other ingredients shine. The highlight of the dish were actually the meats: big flavorful mix of sweet, spicy, and succulent bites of tender marinated beef, chicken, and thinly sliced pork belly with plenty of garlicky punch. These proteins worked very well against the canvas of starchy potato. 

The flavors were spot on, but our inner gluttons needed more. While the meat topping shined, what should have stood out the most is the kimchi. The ratio of meat to kimchi was far more than the starring ingredient. If anything, more kimchi would have balanced the richness of the dish with a much needed acidity. I love the tang and brightness that fermented cabbage lends and missed it a lot. The pan drippings from the meats created a light sauce but J would have liked to see more of a gravy a la poutine. While baked fries might have been healthier, it really could have used more crisp and crunch from a deep fried version to hold up to such bold flavors and massive amount of ingredients. Don't hold back on the calories, bring on the grease. Lastly, while it looked pretty, the fries could have used more green onion flavor and whether it was omitted by mistake or modified, I would have really liked to see a drizzle of yogurt sauce that was mentioned on Mingle's Facebook page. The dish wasn't blow-your-head-off spicy even with the sprinkle of chili flakes, but could have used a creamy and cooling element from sour cream or yogurt. 

The mammoth of a creation will set you back $17 and while a bit steep for our wallet, you get plenty of quality ingredients. Nonetheless, we finished the plate clean and are very grateful to Mingle for answering our Twitter prayers. Kimchi fries are a great addition to the food scene here in Albany and worth coming back to nosh on. By the way, they're great with a flight of beer. We're looking forward to coming back for a full dinner service and exploring the rest of the menu. Special thanks to AAO and derry X for getting the wheels going. Who knew our food wishes would only be a Tweet away from reality.

** Mingle Albany closed its doors in August 2015

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