By Tara Kyle
HELL'S KITCHEN — One time Masa chef Hooni Kim debuted his solo venture Thursday night, offering a mix of traditional and modern Korean flavors at new restaurant Danji.
The eatery, located at 346 W. 52nd St., between Eighth and Ninth avenues, seeks to take the best from authentic Korean food outposts in Flushing, Queens, and make them accessible to non-Korean speaking diners.
"We try to do it as upscale as possible," Kim, who is also a veteran of French restaurant Daniel, said Friday while slicing a raw fish. "But our setting is young and casual."
Dishes are served tapas-style. While Koreans tend to prefer big, family-sized plates, Kim said, the format is intended to appeal to contemporary New York preferences.
In particular, Kim recommends the $12 bulgogi beef sliders, which feature a traditional thinly-sliced Korean beef topped with spicy mayo, scallion salsa and cucumber kimchi.
On the drinks side, bartender Vincent Howell suggests the Asian Pear cocktail as well as Su jung kwa, which combines rye whiskey, Korean cinnamon juice, lemon peel and angostura bitters.
The opening represents something of a homecoming for Kim, who lived nearby in Hell's Kitchen for five years before moving to Williamsburg.
He said he's happy to be back.
"You're in the heart of everything," Kim said of Hell's Kitchen, "but you've got that small neighborhood feel."
Danji is open Mondays through Thursday from 6 p.m. to midnight, and Fridays and Saturdays until 2 a.m. The kitchen closes one hour earlier.