NYC — Summer 2015: Danji

Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Having spent the entire afternoon walking around in a heatwave on Thursday, my mom and I were completely exhausted by evening, so I was incredibly relieved that our dinner reservations were nearby our hotel. I wanted some variety in the cuisines that we were going to experience on this trip, so I had decided on Korean. After some research through "Best of" lists and various review sites, and given our location, I decided to check out Danji, which is a Korean tapas restaurant that "fuses French techniques with Korean cuisine to develop unique dishes." We weren't expecting a prix fixe menu from a Korean restaurant, but as it's not traditional, neither is the menu, and we were delighted to find a seven-course tasting menu for $48 a person (incredibly affordable by NYC standards). So that is how we found ourselves indulging in our second tasting menu of the day.

Spicy yellowtail sashimi

Tofu with ginger scallion dressing

Seems like restaurants are really loving yellowfin tuna as their first courses, because we found ourselves having it again — though this time in the form of sashimi wrapped around cucumbers with a jalapeño slice on top. Not incredibly exciting as we've seen this combination of flavours and textures many times before, but it's fresh and crisp with a spicy kick, and it's a nice first course to whet our appetites. The second course is tofu with ginger scallion dressing, which sounds boring and really typical for an Asian restaurant, but guys — this is tofu done right. In fact, it might've been my favourite course of the evening. Blocks of tofu are deep-fried to a most delightful golden crisp and topped with tempura crumbs that keep it light and airy and satisfyingly crunchy. The tofu itself is soft and silky, but solid enough to provide a nice chew. The ginger scallion dressing gives it a nice tangy-sweet flavour, and red jalapeño slices gives it just enough spice. Honestly, I could've eaten a platter of these.

Spicy "KFC" Korean fire chicken wings


The third course is the "KFC" — Danji's tongue-in-cheek name for their Korean fire chicken wings. At the first bite, it's reminiscent of honey garlic wings, but these have a slow-building heat; by the third wing, your mouth really does feel like it's on fire, and yet the lingering sweetness of the sauce and the crushed garlic make the wings ridiculously addictive so that even though you're literally sweating, you still wanna eat more. We all know Koreans love their spice, and these won't disappoint. The next course is the bossam, a welcome reprieve from the burning in your mouth from those chicken wings. Thick slices of braised pork belly with perfect fat-to-meat ratio, served with dehydrated daikon kimchi for a nice crunch and a sweet-sour tang, and thinly sliced cucumbers to wrap. Bossam is usually served with cabbage or lettuce so it was interesting to see cucumbers on the plate, but it works really well here because the cucumber adds a really nice texture and sweet refreshing addition to the pork belly. I don't know if this is how they regularly serve their bossam (the regular menu says the bossam is supposed to come with cabbage wraps) or if this is a tasting menu exclusive or if they just ran out of cabbage, but it's a truly delightful option.

Bulgogi beef sliders

The fifth course is their famed bulgogi sliders. A pile of tender, salty-sweet bulgogi beef is served high on soft butter-grilled brioche-like buns, topped with a spicy pickled cucumber and scallion salsa that really help round out the flavours and add a satisfying crunch. There's not much else to say but that they are damn good. These are squarely in the "Asian hipster food" category, but even the New York Times has said they "might be the best mini-sandwiches in midtown — modern, traditional, or otherwise." And while this might be a bit of an overstatement, they are definitely another must-order from Danji's menu.

Trio of kimchi with white rice

Soy-poached black cod with spicy daikon

The last course of the evening was the soy-poached black cod. Like the yellowfin, this was our second poached fish dish of the day — though this time, it's 100% Asian. It's soy-poached here, and the flavour really reminds me of a Chinese black bean sauce, but lighter and sweeter. The fish is so tender, it's almost buttery. The daikon, or winter radish, complements the fish so beautifully here with it's mild bittersweet flavour and almost melon-like texture, it's like a match made in heaven. Because the black cod is so strong in flavour, it is served alongside a bowl of fluffy white rice and three different types of kimchi to act almost like a palate cleanser (kind of like how eating a pickle re-whets the appetite). Though, I'm gonna be real, you are going to be so freakin' full after the fish, that you won't even want to touch the remaining rice (my mom and I shared the bowl and we couldn't even finish half of it). Honestly, I had such a fantastic meal here that I wonder how they haven't expanded yet, or at least moved into a bigger unit (the entire restaurant seats 36 people, so reservations are seriously recommended). If you're a fan of Korean food but want something more exciting and upscale than the traditional fare, you have to dine here. And if you know a place that's similar to this in Toronto, let me know immediately.

346 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 586-2880
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