Danji’s Modern Korean Food
Pdho and I can always depend on Ckoh to give us great suggestions for places to eat, but I have to admit that I was a little hesitant at first when he mentioned eating at Danji. It seemed to be a modern, refined take on traditional Korean dishes which sounds promising, but it wasn’t until Ckoh confirmed that he had gone several times before I got excited about going. After all, Ckoh would never steer us astray.
When Pdho and I met Ckoh and his sister, Mkoh, at 6pm, we were immediately seated. All tables are high bar style with little drawers which held the menus, and there isn’t much space in the restaurant, so the capacity was less than 20. It’s a cozy little place. As usual, we let Ckoh do most of the ordering.
Ckoh felt he needed to balance out the meal with some vegetables, so he ordered the Mezclun Salad which was dressed with a Perilla yogurt vinaigrette. It tasted okay although pretty uninteresting, but I really wasn’t expecting much from a bowl of mixed greens.
I can’t remember if I have ever eaten Bossam at a real Korean restaurant, but I really enjoyed this particular take on it. I imagine it is much more refined than the usual preparation. The braised pork (which must have been pork belly) was extremely tender, and it was served on a bed of finely sliced scallions. The cabbage, perfectly cut into rectangular pieces, served as the edible wrapper to hold all the ingredients including a dehydrated daikon kimchi which interestingly enough tasted like real kimchi but didn’t smell like real kimchi. The bite-size serving was small, but I absolutely loved it.
The tofu was pretty similar to the agedashi tofu commonly seen in Japanese restaurants. Truth be told, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this dish. I love tofu, but the glutinous-like layer that surrounds the tofu has always tasted weird to me, and I actually thought that outer layer was especially chewy in this dish. It was perfectly fine but just not as tasty to me.
We ended up ordering both the Bulgogi Beef Sliders and the Spicy Pork Belly Sliders. I appreciated the fact that they did sliders instead of tacos which are all the rage amongst food trucks across the country lately, even though they both pretty much tasted like their taco version brothers. Both the beef and pork tasted quite typically Korean, and if it weren’t for the different toppings, I probably wouldn’t have easily been able to differentiate the two. The beef came with pickled cucumbers and scallion salsa while the pork was topped with scallions and kochujang. I enjoyed the soft brioche-like buns, and I think it made the sliders as a whole much better tasting and more filling than the every day Korean tacos. There were pretty small, but I liked the flavor packed in them.
The Crispy Calamari came with a very subtle tasting wasabi mayo. The calamari rings were quite tender and the batter was not too heavy. The light dusting with spice and pepper gave it a nice little kick.
These chicken wings were the bomb. They tasted hot and crispy like they had just come out of the fryer, but it was the honey, garlic and four chiles sauce that made them all the more memorable. Even though all of the portions of the other dishes have been on the smaller side, I was more surprised to see that the chicken wings were even smaller than regular chicken wings.
I’m not quite sure what kind of fish sablefish is, but it had a similar texture to black cod. It is slightly fattier so I enjoyed how moist and unctuous it tasted. The sauce was rich and full of flavor which made it a perfect companion to the white rice.
Like the sablefish, the short ribs were braised in way that reminded me of non-Asian preparations and in this case, like beef bourguignon, but the flavors were distinctly Korean. I thought it was quite well done and the addition of fingerling potatoes, cipollini onions and toasted pine nuts balanced the dish and really increased the similar feel to beef bourguignon or beef stew.
I’ve always liked the noodles used in Korean ramen. It is thicker than regular ramen, almost like an udon, but with more texture. This bowl of ramen was essentially the hot pot of ramens also known as Boodae Jigae. It is a spicy hot broth with kim chi, tofu, various meats and who knows what else. I believe it had its roots from back during war time era when people would throw a bunch of stuff (like spam, canned sausages, etc) into a bowl and eat it. This was obviously a more refined execution, and the flavor was just exploding out of the bowl.
Overall, I really enjoyed the food. All the dishes had distinct Korean roots, but there was definitely a more modern, Western slant with the execution of all the dishes. Not only are all the dishes “tapas” style which are meant to be shared amongst the table, but they literally are small plates. In fact, even though the waitress subtly called us pigs after we put in our initial order of 8 plates, we ended up adding on 2 more and at the end of the meal, Ckoh and Pdho kept repeating, “You know… I don’t feel gross at all.” Seriously, when the two of them get together, they are always telling each other in the most surprised yet proudest tone how amazing it is that they didn’t gorge themselves. Anyways, by the time we were done with dinner, there was already quite a number of people waiting for a table. So it’s definitely a popular place, and I would recommend it if you’re ever in the Midtown West area near the Theater district.
346 W 52nd St.
New York, NY 10019
PAFO Ratings for Danji:
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 3½ stars