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  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out Asian Hell's Kitchen Cheap Eats Off the Charts

Chef Hooni Kim may not be a household name. Given the food he's cooking at Danji, however, it's just a matter of time. In my estimation, he's the next Dave Chang. Here's why.

Like Chang, he's a classically trained fine-dining chef (he cooked at Daniel and Masa) who has turned his eye to serving his own food in a humbler setting. In this case, he's taken his native Korean cuisine--a genre that's been served to death in the fried chicken and kim-chi drenched shops that line the streets in the shadow Madison Square Garden, and more recently (and less successfully) in a sterile setting in the former Chanterelle space called Jung Sik--and turned it into a thrilling new model, a small plate bonanza packaged in the shape of a rowdy Spanish tapas bar crossed with a sleek Japanese Izakaya.

Kim's sake-friendly menu is divided in two sections: modern and traditional, and each offers generous amounts of pleasure. All dishes, appetizer sized and meant for sharing, range in price from $6 for a trio of palate pleasing kim chi (it's made by Kim's mother-in-law), to $20 for a generous portion of bossam: silken cabbage leaves are offered up for swaddling nuggets of luscious braised pork belly and spicy threads of dehydrated daikon.

Counting the bossam, Susie and I shared about a half-dozen dishes and a bottle of Junmai sake, the right amount for two people with healthy appetites for food and drink. The bossam was a favorite, that is until we got to the spicy yellowtail sashimi ($13), a dish from the modern side of the menu. A domino-sized slice of yellowtail is used like a wrapper for a bundle of julienned jalapeno, daikon, and cucumber, then painted with a red sauce that started out sweet and turned beautifully warm and spicy in its finish, like a long lazy sunset. The scallion pancake, a traditional favorite, should be ordered too. Crispy and virtually greaseless, it's served sizzling in a cast iron pan and could happily feed a table of friends. Pass it down.

One of the more magical dishes on the menu is Kim's tofu ($7). He's revolutionizing the pale white stuff, doing to tofu what Robert Pattinson has done for vampires. Rectangular cubes like oversized marshmallows are rolled in potato ... [more, click below]

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Other restaurants in Hell's Kitchen :
+ Nizza   + 5 Napkin Burger   + Danji   

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