Tucked on a side street in Hell’s Kitchen, Danji’s neon, electric sign looks like the front to a tacky, greasy, typical Asian restaurant. But stepping inside, the décor and feel is one of class and funky hardware utilized in unique ways. It’s a place you have to be committed to eating, since the hostess will not take your name down. Rather, there is a line out the door, determining your spot. My sister and I glanced over a menu, and were pleasantly surprised when we were seated about 10 minutes later, rather than the 30-45 the hostess had estimated.
The seats are tall, wooden, communal tables, with space for about 8 people per side. The crowd was an unusual mix between young, trendy girls and businessmen. It’s something about Hell’s Kitchen new rise to culinary fame that has prevented it from becoming a full stereotype, for now. The tables were decorated simplistically and I was pleased to find little knobs on the table to hang my bag. Only when the waitress came by to tell us our menus were in the drawers did I realize the knobs served more than one purpose. It was an adorable set up and perfect for someone like myself who likes to order slowly.
We were out to dinner to celebrate Leigh’s entry into the working, well internship, world. She was just offered her first job and was now planning to move into my apartment in NYC, so it was definitely meant to be a fun night! Leigh ordered the Soju Sangria and I decided to try the 5-2 (00).
Leigh’s sangria was delicious and light, with that wonderful Korean flare to it, utilizing the Soju instead of a typical white or red wine. It was fresh and crisp, with only apples as the floating pieces of alcohol soaked goodness inside. My drink was colorful and fresh. It felt like the perfect summer day with blended cucumbers and the light gin. Leigh spit mine out, but I enjoyed every green sip.
We then glanced over the menu, debating what to order. Leigh doesn’t eat red meat, so we had asked the waitress for suggestions. She promptly brought out a mini version of the menu, listing all of the vegetarian dishes and variations. It’s a perfect place for carnivores and vegetarians alike. We decided to start off the meal with the chilled edamame and pea soup.
The color was extraordinary. Upon first glance, the dish seemed simple. But then we dug in, and the flavor was so complex and built bite after bite. It was fresh and sweet, but layered with flavor. It was wonderful and left me licking the bowl clean.
Next, we ordered the ginger tofu.
Each piece was encased in a type of rice paper outside, allowing for the inside to stay silky smooth. The crispy rice pieces on top gave that perfect bite of crunch, and the ginger was sweet with the melt in your mouth tofu flavor. It was my favorite dish of the evening.
Then it was time for the final order. We decided on the crispy calamari and the scallion and Korean pepper pancake.
As Leigh described it, the calamari was unlike your typical Italian bread fest dish. The pieces looked so lightly breaded and quickly flash fried to give that crunchy outside without the heavy texture. The wasabi aioli had that perfect hint of fresh spice, clearing any sinuses with that addictive heat.
The use of the Korean pepper with the scallion pancake gave a unique twist to such a classic dish. The dipping sauce was made with sweet peppers elevating the flavor of the crispy pancake. Plus, the presentation was really fun an iron skillet.
All in all, the meal was really fabulous. And for the quality of food, the pricing was just right. I would definitely go out of my way to come back again, and maybe this time with a pork, steak loving person like myself. They do take reservations for groups of 6 and up, so it could be a fabulous place for a fun night out. Definitely recommend!!
G & L
Danji – 346 West 52nd Street – New York, NY
A few more winning dishes from another trip to Danji, with a red meat loving friend:
Location: Hell’s Kitchen, NY
Perfect For: Casual Meal, Impressing Foodies, Authentic Dining
Reservations: Not Necessary
Favorite Dishes: Ginger Tofu, Chilled Edamame & Pea Soup, Scallion Pancake, Bulgogi Beef Sliders, Korean Braised Short Ribs