I know I promised to share the details from my meal at Danji last weekend. The story starts off with Twitter…
Four days before my trip, I tried to make a reservation at Danji in Hell’s Kitchen. I called about three times over the course of two hours but each time, no one picked up and it went straight to voicemail. I didn’t feel like leaving a message for someone to call me back because I wanted an instant answer. I gave up and tweeted: “Tried to make a reservation at Danji but they refuse to pick up the phone. Is this a good business tactic?”
I just left it at that and proceeded to make plans for my weekend eating adventures.
On Friday, on the bus to the airport, I saw that the Chef and owner, Hooni Kim, had responded to my tweet a few hours after I had tweeted. (I’m new to twitter so I’m learning how it all works still!) He said that he had been on the phone with a reporter from Seoul so couldn’t pick up the phone but that I should call again.
I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t realize that anyone would pay attention to any of my tweets.
I tried asking a couple of friends in town if they wanted to go with me on Saturday night but all of them had plans or were already out of town. So I decided to just go by myself.
I met my editor from Hyphen Magazine (we are working on an article on kimchi, which will be published early next year) in Dumbo. When I told her my plans for dinner, she was immediately on board. She quickly invited her friend who started up Toki Underground in D.C. and I got in touch with Kheedim Oh (Mama O’s Kimchi) to see if he wanted to try the restaurant as well. It was very short notice but everyone said YES!
The place was full when we arrived but because it was still snowing, there wasn’t much of a wait. (I couldn’t take any photos inside the restaurant because the lighting was so dim. I noticed that this was the theme in most places I went to over the weekend.)
Highlights: menus were stored in little drawers under the table for each seat. The front: traditional–the back: modern
We ordered dishes from both the traditional and modern sides of the menu.
Traditional: Scallion and Korean pepper pancake, japchae, boodae jjigae (DMZ stew), and the trio of kimchi.
Modern: Tofu with ginger scallion dressing, crispy calamari, spicy Korean fire chicken wings, bulgogi sliders, spicy pork belly sliders, and kimchi, bacon, chorizo “paella” with a fried egg on top.
At first we ordered about 5 dishes but was encouraged to order 3-4 dishes per person. We looked around and saw that some of the portions looked quite big so we settled with 10.
The group’s favorite: the tofu (the texture and the ginger scallion dressing was wonderful) and Korean fire chicken wings (no elaboration needed!)
The group’s least favorite: japchae (the noodles were overcooked, limp, and soggy. It was also a bit too sweet.)
The side order of kimchi took awhile to arrive and we all kept on exclaiming: “this would be so much better with kimchi!” When the kimchi arrived almost at the end of our meal we devoured it!
We also received a plate of the Bossam (braised pork, scallion, dehydrated daikon kimchi cabbage wrap) from the Chef, which was delicious! My favorite part was the dehydrated daikon kimchi. It was crunchy and slightly tangy.
Verdict: The overall meal was great. However, as N observed “where are the vegetables?” I liked her idea of a a side of 4 different types of banchan that could be ordered to balance out the rich flavors.
But what was more important than the food was the structure of the meal. Sharing Korean tapas was ideal for our group because it quickly made us bond over the food.
-Kheedim portioned out the DMZ stew for each of us, ladling out perfect ratios of soup and noodles.
-Our conversations seamlessly interweaved our impressions and thoughts about the dish, revealing our personal preferences and characteristics.
After the meal, we all dispersed into the cold and slushy night with a jar of Mama O’s kimchi. If you want to make new connections and new friends be sure to try Korean tapas!