When Oiji opened early last summer, the restaurant quickly gained popularity and buzz for it's impressively executed contemporary Korean cuisine. The restaurant is located in the same East Village space that once housed Dok Suni, an old favorite for a number of years for their steadfastly good homestyle Korean food. The dining room has been updated in a style that evokes both a warmth and coolness with the use of brick, reclaimed wood and slate. A modern and grand chandelier hangs over a communal table while vintage style Edison lightbulbs illuminate the bar area. The individual tables are very well lit and that gets a big seal of approval from me because I like to see exactly what I'm eating and it also makes life easier when it comes to taking photos. As for the food itself, all the dishes are served tapas style for sharing. Most of the menu is based on home cooked classics, refined and prepared in unexpected ways. The fried chicken was a delightful way to kick off our meal. The dish which features thigh meat pieces battered and fried in tapioca flour was incredibly crispy and light and full of delicious flavor when dunked in the sauce that tasted like a spicy ponzu. The other revelatory dish was the jang jo rim with tender beef, daikon radish cubes, mushroom strips and a soft boiled egg on a bed of buttered rice which you mix together before eating. Each bite of this was both comforting and satisfying. The home made tofu was ok but nothing special and we didn't really care for the slow cooked oxtail with root vegetables. It was a little overseasoned and felt heavy. I actually make a version of this dish at home and both my husband and I agreed that we like mine better. The only "dessert" option offered is the Oiji's version of honey butter chips, the highly popular snack that was all the rage in Korea last year. Of course we had to try them and they were like sweet and sticky potato chips. They were okay but I found them too sweet and not crunchy enough. That said, savory and sweet taste combinations are not my thing. Our service was pleasant and the overall experience was good. I would return and try some other menu options like the chil jeol pan and pine leaves smoked mackerel but the honey butter chips would get a pass.
Are you a fan of Korean cuisine? And how do you feel about dark restaurants?
119 First Avenue
New York City
Fried Chicken with Spicy Soy Vinaigrette
Homemade Tofu with Scallion Soy Vinaigrette
Jang Jo Rim with Buttered Rice and Soft Boiled Egg
Slow Cooked Oxtail with Root Vegetables
Honey Butter Chips