There were times at Rabbit Hole when I wanted to shout: “Chef, throw off your self-imposed shackles!” The food at The Left Handed Cook is actually often easier to love, with its tossed-off quality of I’ve-got-talent-to-burn-so-I-think-I-will.
My favorite dish has that brilliant afterthought quality; it’s the innocent-sounding kimchi fried rice, a concoction Kim served as a staff meal once and the staff clamored to have it put on the menu. Order it. It’s a bright orange soft thing, made by stirring bacon cracklings into porridge-like soft rice with butter-cooked kimchi and garlic confit until a sort of savory rice stew develops, which is then crowned with a soft-poached egg. Imagine cassoulet, sort of inverted and made Korean punk rock after-bar with five-star French technique. It was a dish that struck me as being as fresh and as sparky with easy genius as Isaac Becker’s fried egg sandwich was when he opened 112 Eatery in 2005. More like this please!
Do this: Order the poussin, a perfect, small fried chicken, tender and boasting a skin like the most delicate tempura, golden and good. Then get the banchan, the various housemade fresh pickled vegetables, and now you’ve got something fun, jangly, and spicy and fresh.
The cocktail bar at Rabbit Hole excels in all things. The bloody mary, called a Bloody Rabbit, sizzles with kimchi juice and is spicy and energetically good; every time I sipped one I felt like I just took an energy potion. The Cabra Vieja, made with Kim’s mother’s special bokbunja syrup, which includes imported wild Korean blackberry-like berries, is already on my list of the best new drinks of 2014.The combination of tequila, rhubarb bitters, Cynar, lime, and bokbunja syrup results in some of the most bewitching aromas I’ve ever experienced—now it’s a campfire, now currants and lychees, now mint—balanced on the fulcrum of an overall brisk and balanced citrusy cocktail. A fresh Wisconsin ginseng-infused whiskey cocktail called the Will Power (after the farmer, Will Hsu, who grew the ginseng) is made with absinthe. It’s a whirlpool of woodland and mentholated flavors, and it’s both a Sazerac and a tribute to Asian drinking traditions. Rabbit Hole is already the best cocktail bar in south-central Minneapolis, and it’s faster than anywhere else due to the many kegged cocktails, made by Kim himself. There is also an excellent beer list and a very good (tiny) wine selection, as well as options for soju, that halfway point between sake and vodka.
Rabbit Hole takes drinking so seriously that it shouldn’t be surprising it takes the Korean pojangmachas, small street-food eateries for drinkers, as its inspiration.