Danji is a modern and trendy Korean place located in Hell’s Kitchen. I discovered it about a year ago, and I had been meaning to get back ever since. Generally, I have found that I’m not all that into traditional Korean fare. While I can always find something that I’ll eat on the menu, and I certainly like Korean barbecue, it’s never been my go-to cuisine. But I definitely love whatever Danji is doing here. The food across the board is just really light and fresh and their flavoring is spot-on. I also love the fact that everything comes as a small plate, which makes for a great sharing situation and provides an opportunity for trying more dishes. With that said, Danji is a great concept, offering up food that everyone will love.
Soju Sangria: This is made with fruit-infused soju (like vodka), rosé, and orangina and, like the food at Danji, this drink is also light and fresh. Though flatter with subtler flavoring than regular sangria, the drink pairs well with the meal and goes down easy. It is definitely a good choice.
Chilled Spring Pea & Edamame Soup: This soup tastes exactly like spring, for better or worse. It has a very strong flavor and is way too earthy for my palate. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but after two tries I had had enough.
Spicy Yellowtail Shashimi: In contrast, this was probably my favorite (new) dish of the night. Incredibly flavorful, while also refreshing, they were perfect spicy bites. Make sure not to skip this!
Crispy Calamari with Wasabi Mayo: This was some of the best fried calamari I think I’ve ever had. It’s lightly coated in batter and perfectly flavored. And despite the fact that the dish is fried, the calamari somehow feels light and the wasabi mayo adds that refreshing compliment. I couldn’t stop eating this.
Scallion & Korean Pepper Pancake: I’ve had this dish more than once, and I think in my more recent visit it was even better than I had remembered. Really well salted and flavored, the pancake is worth ordering, and it tastes great with the soy dipping sauce.
Trio of Kimchi: I’m not a huge kimchi fan, but this was good. You get a radish kimchi on the left, a cabbage kimchi in the middle, and a cucumber kimchi on the right. The cucumber one was my favorite, pickled and spiced just right.
Spicy “K.F.C” Korean Fire Chicken Wings: I thought that I was going to like these a lot more than I did. While the flavoring was good, I thought the wings were far too wet and messy for this kind of dining setting. I also found this dish to be really heavy, which may have been more apparent since everything else up until this point had been light. In fact, it actually felt like the wings had interrupted the momentum of the meal. I also thought that 5 wings were a lot for a small plate. I’m not sure you can put less than 4 wings out there, but 1-2 wings per person depending on how many are splitting should suffice with everything else being ordered. When I return to Danji, I won’t be ordering these.
Bulgogi Beef Sliders: It comes with two sliders and each is topped with the spicy pickled cucumber kimchi, a scallion salsa and is served on a soft, delicious bun. These are amazing! They sort of just melt in your mouth. In fact, I included them on my “13 Best Bites of 2011” list at #2. While I found myself moaning as I ate these the first visit, I was far more composed this time around and I even made sure to order the dish just for myself. These are so good, I find that one slider just isn’t enough. This is a must-order.
Danji: 346 West 52nd Street New York, NY ($$-$$$)
Don Antonio, a Neapolitan pizza locale located in Hell’s Kitchen, is the creation of Kesté’s Robert Caporuscio and his old mentor Antonio Starita, the owner of one of Naples’ oldest pizza places. The atmosphere in Don Antonio is really vibrant, and with a bar at the front, it is far more livelier than its West Village sister restaurant Kesté (previously reviewed). Though both need to be kept in the pizza rolodex, there are far more pizza options at Don Antonio, and most specifically they offer up the Antonio Starita Specialty the Montanara (Neapolitan fried pizza), which is the pizza that is not to be missed here! Though I’d probably say Kesté wins out with a slightly more flavorful hot crust, and maybe even slightly fresher ingredients, there are certain pizzas that you can only get at Don Antonio. Plus the openness of the kitchen, as well as friendly manager and staff, give Don Antonio the edge in ambiance.
Pistacchio E Salsiccia: With fresh pistachio pesto, sausage, homemade mozzarella, pecorino romano, basil and extra virgin olive oil, it is one of the most unique pizzas I’ve ever tried, and I loved it. The pesto has such a great nutty flavor and everything comes together to make for a flavor combination that is spot-on.
Burrata Roberto: This pizza is like the one at Kesté that I’m obsessed with. It is topped with homemade burrata, grape tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil. While I’d probably think it was awesome, had I never tried the one at Kesté, this was our least favorite pizza of the three. It was good, but the one at Kesté is just better. It just didn’t give me the same “OMG this is the best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth” moment.
Antonio Starita’s Specialty: This is the Montanara (Neapolitan fried pizza). It is lightly fried pizza dough topped with signature starita tomato sauce and imported smoked buffalo mozzarella finished in their wood burning oven. This is one of the greatest creations ever. Think of it as the original Pizza Hut pan pizza—not as greasy with fresh cheese and all the fried goodness. This is the pizza you want to make sure is on the table. SO GOOD!
Don Antonio: 309 W 50th Street New York, NY ($$)