Hooni Kim's Danji in Midtown
The word "traditional," much like its brethren "authentic" and "organic," is often loaded. As a result, organizing one's menu around the word--as Midtown newcomer Danji does--invites an additional layer of critique.
But chef Hooni Kim (pictured), a Daniel alum, is up to the challenge, and his bifurcated menu approaches Korean food from contemporary and classic angles.
From the modern side, bulgogi sliders ($14) continue the ascent up the city's well-trodden slope of bao; Danji's fluffy buns contain chunks of tender filet mignon, which are offset with spicy pickles. Likewise, an egg-topped, kimchi- and chorizo-studded paella ($14) straddles the happy line between staunch Korean flavors and New American cuisine.
From the traditional side, start by spooning up a velvety butternut-squash congee ($5); the combination of sweet squash, leeks and dried mushroom unite with mochi for an incredibly airy texture.
Segue into a square of sablefish ($16), also an exercise in textural supremacy; the fish is poached alongside daikon in a syrupy soy-sauce reduction, rendering it too soft to hold up against a fork.
And the restaurant recently launched lunch service, which might be one of Midtown's best-kept secrets: The chance to have two courses and two banchan for $12 to $14 makes a good argument to extend your lunch break.
Consider it your new tradition.
Danji, 346 W. 52nd St. (between Eighth and Ninth aves.); 212-586-2880 or danjinyc.com
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