Archive for September, 2010

September 30, 2010

the cocoon stage

You know when a caterpillar goes through a really ugly stage before turning into a butterfly?  I would like to compare Danji’s transformation to just that.  Here is proof:

Yes, construction is still underway.

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I attended a Korean-American conference in DC last weekend and was very interested in seeing (and tasting) the food featured at the gala.  Headed by two of several prominent Korean-American chefs in the nation (Akira Back and Edward Lee), the multi-course dinner included modern interpretations of traditional Korean cuisine.  Bossam wraps, tuna pizza, Korean short ribs, blah blah blah.  Been there, tasted that.

What really intrigued me, however, was the innovative and aha!-inducing dessert finale.  Titled in the menu as “flavors of soo jung gwa” (traditional Korean drink with dried persimmon, ginger, cinnamon, pine nuts), it was a decadent dish of cinnamon-pine nut financier, candied ginger-chili sauce, persimmon pudding and honey ice cream.  I asked for an encore.

September 23, 2010

construction underway

Construction is underway after Team Danji received its construction permit — pictures will be up next week.  The restaurant also signed with Handcrafted PR, Inc. for representation.  Everyone is hoping that exciting updates will continue trickling in, including me!

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Unrelated to food, but another example of the Korean culture infiltrating the haute fashion scene: Carolina Herrera’s Spring 2011 collection presented during NY Fashion Week clearly had influences from the designer’s trip to Korea.  Models donned traditional hats worn by men back in the day, and most dresses presented featured the goreum bow found on hanbok, traditional Korean dresses.  My bet is that Danji will provide the perfect segue for foodies to dive into haute Korean cuisine.

September 14, 2010

furniture scored!

The chair you see above is sold out worldwide for the next two years.  Currently a grad student who scored my furniture via Craigslist, I can’t begin to fathom how furniture could be exclusive (or even sold out).  Luckily, Danji was able to nab these Magis Pipe chairs and stools designed by Jasper Morrison and become the only restaurant in New York to have them for the next two years.  The team was able to intercept a chair before it was sent to a factory in LA from Italy to check it out and they really really like it.

Magis describes itself as a “brand that has given a novel twist to domestic design, building its identity on incorporating leading edge technology into mass production.”  This Italian company was founded by Eugenio Perazza in 1976, and famous furniture designer Jasper Morrison created this stacking “Pipe Chair” in 2009 by side of an English chair from the 17th century.  Details about the chair are as follows:

Stacking chair.
Also available with arms.
Year of production: 2009.
Material: frame in polished aluminium tube or painted in polyester powder.
Seat and back in punched aluminium plate polished or painted in polyester powder, or in beech plywood.

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The New York Times recently came out with their fall preview:

DANJI Small plates of Korean inspiration will be the focus of chef and owner Hooni Kim’s cooking. The restaurant’s name refers to the clay jars used to contain kimchee, and they have inspired the décor: 346 West 52nd Street. October.

September 10, 2010

featured on NY Mag’s Grub Street!

Hello, new visitors!  If you’re visiting this page because you read about this blog in NY Mag’s Grub Street, feel free to take your shoes off, come inside and look around.  While I can’t offer you fresh cut fruit like any other domesticated Korean woman (aka my mom) would, I hope you enjoy the pictures and updates on Danji.

For our usual readers, NY Mag says “Project Danji Blogs the Construction of a Masa Vet’s Solo Debut”:

As we continue to track the progress of “Fall Preview” restaurants, may we turn your attention to Project Danji? An independent blogger is chronicling the construction and opening of Danji, the 33-seat Korean small-plates restaurant that Daniel and Masa vet Hooni Kim is bringing to East 52nd Street. Team Danji had been aiming for an October opening, but the blog is chock-full of hand-wringing about construction and licensing delays.

September 9, 2010

i’ve never witnessed a grown man yelp like a little girl before…

…until I saw Hooni meet Ferran Adria.

Ferran Adria, chef of elBulli fame, came to Harvard (where I’m studying public policy.  Yes, a subject far removed from food, I know) to give a public lecture with Jose Andres, with Harold McGee sitting at the table with them. Andres, the guy who has several highly rated restaurants in DC and is all about molecular gastronomy, pretty much came up to Cambridge to serve as Adria’s translator for the entire night. I scored these highly coveted and limited tickets by chance and of course invited the only guy I know who cooks to see these food icons in person.

Ferran Adria is teaching a course this semester at Harvard (for undergrads only, which is totally unfair) titled “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter” — featuring guest chefs like Wylie Dufresne of wd-50, Grant Achatz of Alinea, and Dan Barber of Blue Hill.  To expand the wealth of knowledge beyond the undergraduate labs, there are several public lectures scheduled to be given by these guest chefs, but this event headlined by Adria, Andres, and McGee required tickets reserved in advance.

Adria showed the audience a few cool tricks and talked about his restaurant, but the highlight of the evening was simply hearing him speak of his affair with food as a daily journey of curiosity and emotion.  You could tell that food was more than a profession to him — it was a special treasure that he was (and is) willing to share with the rest of the world.  Not a lot of chefs are willing to reveal even a shred of their tradecraft, but Adria is closing his Michelin three-star restaurant for two years to devote his time and energy into a non-profit foundation in which younger chefs can be challenged to create new dimensions — and the next future — of food.

Spanish beer was freely flowing while the two chefs signed books immediately after the event.  Being impatient New Yorkers, we quickly stood in line to get autographs and were successful in getting the fourth spot in the queue of groupies.  I swear, I’ve never ever seen a grown man giggle with excitement like that before.  The last time I was ever that giddy was when I met Nick Lachey (98 Degrees fan here, I grew up in the boy band-era) at a club in the Meatpacking District and told him that I was his fan ever since their “Invisible Man” days.

Anyway, Jose Andres perked up with excitement when Hooni took his Danji business card out to get it autographed by them.  He asked what modern Korean food was, when the restaurant would open, and whether Hooni could give him and Ferran Adria a tasting when they come to NY in a month.  Andres is going to open a Chinese-Mexican restaurant in Vegas next and was serious enough to tell his executive assistant to be in touch with Danji.

Pretty cool, eh?

September 2, 2010

welcome to hell’s kitchen

Definition(s) of HELL’S KITCHEN
noun

1. Region in western Manhattan encompassing 34th to 57th street, zip codes 10019 to 10036

2. Danji’s neighborhood

Origin: Wikipedia isn’t even sure how the name “Hell’s Kitchen” was created to describe the gritty area inhabited by Irish, Italian, and Puerto Rican immigrants way back in the day.  It is said that a gang, tenement, local dive, and slum in London all took on the name in as early as the 1880s, so basically no one has any idea of its origin whatsoever.  It was pretty much always a shady area up until Giuliani cleaned up the streets as mayor of New York.

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Today, Hell’s Kitchen is gentrified (like almost every other corner of Manhattan).  While it’s lacking good food in general, there are a few very well-established restaurants that have been around for ten years or more.  What makes this neighborhood good for Danji is that it is on the border of big corporate offices, expensive condos and apartment buildings — a result of a sudden real estate boom, um, before 2008.  Its diverse, local community naturally caters to the yuppie crowd.

A few of Danji’s neighbors (with my personal commentary):

(1) Therapy – A gay bar right next door that was slamming almost a decade ago and regaining in popularity today.  It’s been around for a long time.
(2) Yakitori Totto – A really, really good yakitori place.  Older sibling of Totto Ramen (see numero 3).
(3) Totto Ramen – I don’t know what it is about Japanese ramen shops but there are always lines out the doors to these places.  This place was no exception.
(4) Wondee Siam – Authentic, spicy Thai food.
(5) Xai Xai – One of my favorite places in the neighborhood.  A South African wine bar… mmm.

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More press for Danji, this time in the NY Post:

Danji: Contemporary takes on Korean tapas from a chef who honed his chops at Masa and Daniel (346 W. 52nd St.; October).