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Oiji (Korean in the East Village)

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#1 LiquidNY

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Posted 16 August 2015 - 09:18 PM

This is a new upscale Korean restaurant on First Avenue in the East Village, right across the street from Noreetuh. The chefs, according to their website, had previously worked at Bouley and Gramercy Tavern.
 

I arrived with my date at around 10pm on Friday night.  It was crowded, but there were a couple tables open, as well as a few seats at the bar and a few seats at this big community table they have in the front of the place.  I was asked if I had a reservation (I didn't), and we were seated at the bar (which I actually might have enjoyed better than a table at a place like this).  At that hour people gradually started filtering out until, by the time we were finished, it probably wasn't even half full.  So I'm not sure why they couldn't give us a table, but whatever.

 

This is fancy Korean small plates, with fairly precise technique and (mostly) excellent flavors.  There's no free banchan, and if you want a real meal you're going to have to order three or four things per person.  The prices don't look too bad (most stuff is around $13-$18), but of course it adds up.

 

We had:

 

homemade tofu (good)

wild sesame soup with oyster mushrooms (weird but not bad)

beef tartare (very good)

"jang-jo-rim" with buttered rice (very good.  this was slices of braised beef over rich, buttered rice)

smoked mackerel (outstanding)

pork belly & kimchi (good)

sides of kimchis (good) + rice

dessert: potato chips with honey (very good)

 

Mostly very enjoyable food.  The mackerel is, in my opinion, a must-order.  My date ordered it and I got a taste, and I was envious.  The jang-jo-rim was also terrific, and one of the more filling items on the menu (other than the rice dishes, the food is pretty light).  The pork belly was fine, but not good enough that it's worth ordering, in my opinion.  If I were to compare this with another, similar restaurant, I guess it would be Danji.  Glad to have this place right around the corner from my apartment.  One of the better new restaurants this year.  Worth a visit.


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#2 nuxvomica

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Posted 17 August 2015 - 06:54 PM

cute spot. the ssam and beef tartare were my favorites.  a couple good drinks, too.  NY Times review should hit this week.


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#3 LiquidNY

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Posted 18 August 2015 - 05:24 PM

Two stars.

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#4 mongo_jones

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Posted 18 August 2015 - 06:44 PM

sounds interesting and i might even be able to talk mrs. jones into it if we were visiting nyc. but, man, i wish critics would stop using the words "updating" or "updated" when a restaurant does any sort of fusion cooking/presentation of "ethnic" cuisine. making things more palatable/agreeable to people who don't normally eat that cuisine is not to update it.


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#5 Wilfrid

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Posted 30 December 2015 - 03:16 PM

My take on Oiji.  Some very nice things (and a lot of sweet things).



#6 Wilfrid

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Posted 30 December 2015 - 03:18 PM

sounds interesting and i might even be able to talk mrs. jones into it if we were visiting nyc. but, man, i wish critics would stop using the words "updating" or "updated" when a restaurant does any sort of fusion cooking/presentation of "ethnic" cuisine. making things more palatable/agreeable to people who don't normally eat that cuisine is not to update it.

 

A "new perspective" is what the owners/chefs call it.  But I do indeed suspect that that's what they're doing.



#7 taion

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Posted 09 March 2016 - 02:01 AM

Huh. Didn't realize until now that Dok Suni got replaced by another Korean-ish restaurant. I guess I should read the Times restaurant reviews or something. Nah.


I didn't tip at Per Se either.

#8 Daniel

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Posted 15 July 2016 - 04:23 PM

Went last night and had a lovely time with my bride.. We sat at the bar and ate a bunch of stuff. My overall impression of the place was that it was very good.. The food was flavorful and beautifully presented.. Drinks were great, service was great.   Everything was so well balanced.  We ate a lot yet, I don't feel like we did.. It was some how light.. Nothing disappointed most things were exceptional. 
 
We sat across from the bartender.. He had been brought in from cooking at the modern to do their cocktails..  I started with the Ladyboy which was fantastic. Miss A had another cocktail which she loved.  It We started with the morel mushroom salad and the seven flavors.. The seven flavors was a build your own tiny pancake type arrangement. there was shredded egg yolk, egg white, pickled chiffonaded carrots and cucumbers, some beef, maybe mushroom and a really lovely mustard sauce.. While it was good, it was not super exciting.   What was exciting was the mushroom salad. Morels and shitake slices were coated with a light batter and fried.. Like a really light batter as Miss A didn't even realize it at first.. There was a creamy  dressing which only coated the lettuces there were alsoraisins and pinenuts and there was a lot going on but, it was fantastic.. I loved this dish. 
 
The next two dishes that arrived were the cold buckwheat noodles and the mackerel..  The cold buckwheat noodles were as expected with the addition of pickled ramps and was delicious. Very familiar to the traditional dish, with a beautiful poached half a chicken egg resting on top.  The mackerel, which happens to be one of my favorite fish is fantastic.. I believe it was smoked with pine needles. It had a nice underlying smoke flavor mixed with that pine or green herbal flavor.  It's simple one of the best pieces of cooked mackerel i have ever had.  
 
We then finished with the butter rice and the kimchi .. (or did we)  Well, that was our original plan.  The butter rice was indeed very buttery.. It was reminiscent of a Japanese homey dish I had the other day.. The Japanese dish  was king mushrooms with butter and soy and a large piece of tuna.. It was a soupy buttery soy sauce.. At Oiji, there was buttery rice with soy mixed with mushrooms in a mushroomy or beefy broth..  I loved it with the exception of the beef itself.. I felt like it was slightly dry and tough and added nothing.. They should have stopped with the beef broth.  But, hey, this is me complaining about an excellent dish..  The assorted kimchi was garlic scapes, cabbage and cucumber.  The cabbage was exceptional.  Had that fermented bubbly feeling that just makes you happy.  
 
Everything was so good and despite the deep flavors and richness, there was clean lightness to it all.   So, we were drinking our Korean Rice wine and figured we should try the truffle seafood soup.. Definitely a surf and turf.. I usually shy away from anything with truffles because, i don't need you to take an average dish and douse it was that fake truffle shit.. But, we felt confident enough in the kitchen to know that was not what they are about.   This was a beautiful seafood broth with just a slight hint of truffle, almost unnoticeable.  There were pristine curls of baby squid, rock shrimp and mussels.. I love seafood soup more than the next guy and this was fantastic.  
 
We ended with the honey butter chips and ice cream.  The honey butter chips were homemade chips covered in a caramel made with honey.. it was sticky and salty and had a hit of cayenne that added a really lovely spice.. the ice cream worked perfectly with it.. It was a perfect way to end a flawless meal.  
 
I am going back for sure, bringing Miss K who will flip over this place.. The oxtail, the fried chicken and the pork belly will be next on the list. 

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#9 Wilfrid

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Posted 15 July 2016 - 04:43 PM

I strongly recommend the oxtail.  They should bottle the broth and sell it.  (Or just open a bone broth window.)

 

Your assessment largely agrees with mine, except that I did find the honey crisps absurdly sweet.



#10 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 15 July 2016 - 05:19 PM

We went during the winter time.  I like Korean Food.  It was OK.  I would go back given I live relatively close if I didn't need a sitter.


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#11 Sneakeater

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 05:57 PM

I've been avoiding this place since it opened because I don't much like the Korean flavor profile (I think it's the combination of fermentation and spice:  I'm OK with either of them separately, but together they just turn me off).  But I guess I shouldn't have been, because their food doesn't taste like that at all.

 

Started with a smokey cocktail.  Very good.  Then, beef tartare, also very good:  rich but not too (the spices cut the fat blah blah blah).  Then, the buttery rice with braised beef:  almost off-the-hook good.  Then, braised octopus in a chili paste:  the only dish that was only good, rather than deeply good.  Even this, however, was extremely well-cooked:  the octopus was at the perfect level of char, just short of being burnt.

 

The honey crisps (with ice cream) for dessert.  All I can say is I have much more of a sweet tooth than Wilf.

 

I drank herbed soju with all this.  I've never had it before.  It's excellent -- gin to soju's vodka, but low alcohol (maybe 16 ABV at most) and much subtler flavoring.  White vermouth would be a better comparison, I guess.  Great with food.

 

I really liked this place.  (Which means that the food must be highly inauthentic.)

 

Thanks for the recommendation, The Flon!


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#12 The Flon

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 08:40 PM

This feels like getting an "good looking out" from a senior partner at a law firm!

 

 

I am not an attorney

 

 

And yes, the buttery rice and the potato chips are addictive.



#13 Wilfrid

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Posted 26 March 2017 - 11:25 PM

It's much better than it needs to be. And you can keep the chips.

#14 Nathan

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 02:52 PM

soju really does go well with food. 


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#15 Wilfrid

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Posted 27 March 2017 - 10:23 PM

Mm, that's the other thing I didn't like. :D





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