346 W 52nd Street
(between 8th & 9th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
Considered by many to be the best Korean restaurant in the city, Danji occupies a minuscule space in Hell’s Kitchen, and is worth checking out for their exciting take on modern and traditional Korean fare.
According to the restaurant’s website, “We offer small but shareable portions served in multiple courses, allowing diners to enjoy each dish hot out of the kitchen.” Size this up to small plates designed for diners to split, or Korean tapas.
If you’re willing to endure the customary waits and endless lines spilling out the door, then you’ll be handsomely rewarded by Danji’s craveable and unique flavor combinations.
The menu here is broken down into traditional dishes (which are still jazzed up versions of their traditional Korean counterparts), and modern Korean bites, which take full advantage of the chef’s classical training and experience cooking in some of New York’s finest kitchens. Let the waiter be your guide, he’s adept at sorting through the offerings and leading you to the very best selections.
Our first bite out of the kitchen, a dish that friends of ours had raved about, the tofu. Now hold your chuckles for a second, and understand that tofu can in fact be a raved about dish. In this case, vegetarians are not the only ones to benefit. A silky bean curd interior was surrounded by a crisp, deep fried coating, then finished with tempura flakes for additional crunch and texture. All topped with scallions and a ginger soy vinaigrette, we gobbled these little bites up in rapid succession.
Tofu with ginger scallion dressing and soy vinaigrette (Modern)
Next up, the spicy yellowtail sashimi, stuffed with jalapeño and a sweet and spicy chile pepper sauce. Here, the fish was fresh and clean, and paired beautifully with the spicy pepper filling. We could not get enough of these flavor packed rolls. They were as good, if not better than any sashimi dish you’d find in a top notch Japanese restaurant.
Spicy yellowtail sashimi- tsukiji market hamachi, cho jang, jalapeño (Modern)
The Bossam, loosely translated here as admirably braised pork belly wraps, were like having a mini Korean burrito bar at the table. Grab a salted and steamed cabbage wrap, a thick and mouthwatering slice of pork belly, and a sweet, vinegary and crunchy spoonful of daikon kimchi, then fold them all together into one compact and flavorful package. Pork belly cannot be prepared any better than this.
Bossam- braised pork, scallion, dehydrated daikon kimchi, cabbage wrap (Modern)
Now, on to the real star of the show, the beef and pork belly sliders.
Buttered, doughy potato rolls are steamed, then grilled, and packed high with braised and shredded beef bulgogi. Topped with spicy pickles and a cucumber-scallion salsa, these were exceptional, and reason enough to visit Danji.
In retrospect, we absolutely should’ve ordered another batch of these sliders. They were right up there with the best we’d ever tasted.
Bulgogi beef sliders- spicy pickled cucumber & scallion salsa (Modern)
The pork belly sliders were even better. Easily the best thing we ate all night, these were spicy, sweet, meaty and smoky. Less a burger than a mound of mashed up porky goodness, I still can’t stop dreaming about these, and have been scouring my neighborhood to find something even remotely comparable.
Spicy pork belly sliders- scallions, cucumber julienne & gochujang (Modern)
Redolent of the ubiquitous glazed miso cod found on many high end Japanese menus, the poached sablefish took on a buttery and smooth texture, with each piece yielding and flaking to a fork’s touch. Accompanied by a bitter round of turnip, this dish was well conceived, but not a must order at the restaurant.
Poached sablefish with spicy daikon (Traditional)
Also from the traditional side, the Danji braised beef short ribs. These were as tender and hearty as they look, with the meat literally melting in your mouth. While we would’ve appreciated a bit more sweetness in the glaze, as is common with many Korean short ribs, these were still extremely tasty, and a hearty representation of classic Korean food.
Danji braised short ribs with fingerlings, cipollini & toasted pine nuts (Traditional)
Putting a slight speed bump in our overwhelmingly successful ordering was the kimchi paella with fried jidori hen egg. The least successful dish of the night, our consensus was that this plate was missing something. We all agreed that the preparation needed a few dashes of salt, or a generous pour of soy sauce. The astringent vinegar overpowered the dish, which could’ve easily been rectified by the aforementioned salt, or even a bit of honey.
Kimchi bacon chorizo ‘paella’ (for 2) with fried jidori hen egg (Modern)
Lastly, a wing showdown to cap off the meal, in this case the traditional versus the modern.
The traditional employed a crunchy garlic and sesame seed coating, making it a sweeter option than the modern.
Garlic honey wings with sesame seeds (Traditional)
The modern, which was the waiter’s recommendation, was spicy, crispy, garlicky and sweet. This dish was everything you would expect great chicken wings to be. When you visit Danji, give both renditions a whirl, and judge for yourself if the traditional outshines its contemporary cousin.
Spicy ‘K.F.C.’ Korean fire chicken wings- honey, garlic, four chilies (Modern)
What else is there to say about Danji other than, it lives up to its impressive billing. A restaurant in this city where a line out the door is commonplace is clearly doing something right, and in Danji’s case, they’re doing just about everything right.
So the next time you find yourself in Midtown, head over to the restaurant, give your name to the hostess, and wait at the lounge next door for the your phone to ring. And when it does, make sure the first thing out of your mouth after being seated is, “we’ll have an order of both of the sliders please.”
Danji is open for lunch Monday – Friday, 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm. Dinner is served Monday – Thurday from 5:15 pm – Midnight, and Friday – Saturday from 5:15 pm – 1:00 am.
Reservations are only accepted for parties of 6 or more.