The Insatiable Palate Review #9: Danji (Hell’s Kitchen, New York) (Midtown West)

My moment to sit in one of Danji’s 36 seats/The Insatiable Palate tastes his first Michelin Star

During Columbus Day break, I was raving to Mama Cho about the brilliance of Danji and Chef ( Three Michelin Star, Daniel Boulud and Masa-fied) Kim Hooni.
My mother, clearly not giving a shit about what I had to say continued on with her daily reading of the Korean newspaper editorials. Four weeks later, Mama Cho calls me during my glorious nap time.

MC: “Hyunwoo, I found an amazing restaurant that I pay for during your birthday!”
JC: “Which one?”
MC: “Danji!”

DAMN. SHE DOES NOT LISTEN TO ANYTHING I HAVE TO SAY. Regardless, my friends and I made our first trip to the Hell’s Kitchen to witness Chef Kim’s Korean-Tapas. I fell in love at first bite.

Steak tartare with quail yolk, pine nuts, asian pear (Yook Hwe)

Mama Cho occasionally supplies my sister and me with homemade steak tartare when the beef is impeccably fresh. However, my voracious stomach has witnessed better days. The recent quality of beef at the local Lotte has yet to meet her meticulous standards. Thankfully, Danji presents the most enticing form of beef with quail yolk and Asian pears. I just want to devour a tub of Danji’s steak tartare while intently gazing into Zooey Deschanel’s eyes during episodes of New Girl (in the most heterosexual way possible, of course). Both very delicious.

Jon’s favorite: Spicy Whelk Salad with Buckwheat Noodles (Golbaengi Moochim with Bibim Gooksoo)

The dish is crafted beautifully. The golbaengi doesn’t have the sandy, grittiness taste you often get after pulling them out of the can and the buckwheat noodles are perfectly tender (not gloppy).
However, Mama Cho can definitely build the better golbaengi & buckwheat noodle combination. Our grandmother from back home priority-mails the Cho family homemade gochujjang pepper paste so that we can in some essence (“go ham”) when we make kimchi, noodles, casseroles, et al. A delicious dish, but I’ve had much better.

The least, best rated dish at our table: Poached sablefish with (Spicy Daikon Eun-Dae-Gu Jjo-Rim)

In all honesty, the fish was perfectly cooked and the daikon was braised very well. We scooped up every bit of the sauce-reduction and scoured for every single bite. However, the sablefish (being the most expensive dish on the menu) was particularly unmemorable. We should have just ordered more tofu.

My Personal Favorite: Danji’s Braised Short Ribs with fingerlings cipollini onion and Toasted Pine Nuts

According to Jon, you can masticate the short ribs with your tongue. It was mind-bogglingly soft. Koreans often use a pressure cooker which can turn the texture of the shortribs into rubber gloves. The flavor is definitely there, but the meat is a total bitch to chew.
Chef Kim Hooni braises the short ribs for a decent amount of time before it’s served to the public. Respect the braising.

The group’s Final Farewell: Bulgogi Beef Sliders with Spicy Pickled Cucumber & Scallion Salsa

To make up for the fact that the size of the sliders were small as well, our table created this “puff-puff-pass” sort of method during dinner (a scrumptious joint?). Puff-Puff-Passing this tender, savory burger definitely made us feel less guilty about spending twelve bucks for six bites. The group next to us was displeased by our trashy manners.

Word of Advice: Order lots and lots of the tofu (pictured at the top). The flash-fried morsels of goodness topped with ginger scallion dressing are bits of food MDMA in yo’ mouth.

Anthony Bourdain told David Chang that “of all the world citizens, Koreans seem to have fucked up their food culture the least.”

Damn straight, Tony Bourdain. Damn straight.

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