When Jill and I declared this Korean Week at IF, that was in part because I’d just heard about the Taste of Korea NYC truck‘s month of free eats. Each week has a different theme, and this week, those kind folks were giving away sliders created by the chef at Danji, a restaurant, as you may recall, I’ve been dying to try. I would’ve jumped on the opportunity in a heartbeat, but travel complications, work obligations, and line-length apprehension—New Yorkers love not paying for things, so the queues for this kind of event can be out of control—got in the way.
But we’d promised, dear readers, a week of Korean coverage, and what else is a dedicated blogger to do but suck it up and eat some food? I roped in a friend for an impromptu dinner at Danji proper, and, as an added bonus, got to cross a restaurant off my list in the process. Today’s Friday Five comes with a special bonus entry; below the jump, six tasty plates await.
At 7:00 p.m., we were quoted a wait time of forty-five minutes to an hour; we checked back in just over half an hour later and were seated immediately.
We pulled food and beverage menus from our two-top’s slim drawers (a nicely authentic touch) and ordered two traditional dishes, four modern, and a bottle of pinot grigio to keep it all company.
1. Spicy Yellowtail Sashimi.
First out of the kitchen was this plate of thinly sliced fish, wrapped around a little bundle of cucumber and greens. Served with cho jang, a peppery, vinegar-based sauce, and thin slices of jalapeño, this spritely bite got our palates off to an exciting start.
2. “KFC” Korean Fried Chicken Wings.
Deep-fried and glazed with a combination of garlic, soy, honey, and garlic, these wings were, as the line goes, finger-licking good. Though I could’ve used more soy or maybe a bit of heat to temper the honey’s sweetness, my friend thought they were perfect as-is; there wasn’t any meat left on the bones by the time we were finished.
3. Spicy Pork Belly Sliders.
At $12 for two, these sliders were exorbitantly priced—I mentally kicked myself for missing the truck’s giveaways. The pork was so thinly sliced that it got lost under the deliciously spicy gochujang chile sauce, but the overall collaboration of flavors was really, really good. Between the expertly toasted, buttered roll, the tangle of scallions and that addictive sauce, I barely missed the meat.
4. Grilled Pork Belly, Kimchi, and Tofu.
I had no such problems locating the pork belly in this dish—sturdy chunks of the stuff mingled with the kimchi, firmly asserting themselves against the fermented assault. When eaten with a forkful of the warm, quiveringly fresh tofu, this was my favorite bite of the evening.
These sliders were $2 more than the pork, but in this case, I didn’t mind paying the markup. I love a good bulgogi marinade, and when you combine that with tender beef, a scallion slaw, and a slice of pickled cucumber, you can’t go wrong. Again, though, I was bummed that I missed out on the truck’s free version.
6. Skirt Steak Korean BBQ Style.
The final dish was also the one we enjoyed the least; though well-prepared, the promised traditional flavors were so subtle as to be nearly nonexistent. Thin pieces of medium-rare steak were plated with grilled scallions and a dab of paste we thought might be horseradish, but turned out to be mostly flavorless. It wasn’t bad by any means, but when compared to the strong profiles of the other dishes, this one fell short.
Thanks to my current budgetary constraints, this might not be an everyday-dining option, but as a refined—and modern—take on classic Korean cuisine, it makes for a nice change of pace. As usual, I’m already looking for an excuse to go back and try everything else on the menu.
346 West 52nd Street
New York, NY