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For The Most Tender Kalbi Chim, Head North of Koreatown

Comment | February 4, 2011 | By

And for those cable-free souls who don’t watch NY1, we present a link to our latest installment of Let’s Eat. It’s on Hooni Kim, the incredibly smart chef/owner of the six-week old Danji restaurant in Midtown. (He went to Med School, okay?) It’s a truly modern Korean restaurant–one of a very small handful in the city, and likely the only of its caliber. As you’ll see in the piece, Kim, who grew up in a Korean household in New York City, trained at the French Culinary Institute, Daniel and Masa, and wanted to apply modern restaurant principles — French culinary techniques, small plates to share, a modern beverage list with beer and wine and sake, intelligent service, cool and casual decor — to traditional Korean dishes and flavors.

“So my menu is divided into modern and traditional,” Kim told us while we were there shooting this week. “For me it was important to prove to everybody that I could cook traditional Korean foods, that I wasn’t just reinventing the Korean cuisine with fusion flavors. So I wanted to prove to myself and to everybody that, you know, real traditional Korean dishes, I can do them well. And the modern side — well, nothing is really fusion, because all of the flavors are very, very Korean, but it’s sort of my reinterpretation, I am modernizing the way its presented.”

In the piece, Kim shows us how he takes kalbi chim, a classic Korean dish of braised short ribs, and applies what he knows about sourcing ingredients, presentation and process: For example, in the French manner the meat is seared, and braised for a longer period with aromatics and vegetables, to create perfectly cooked meat that’s more tender than the Korean version, but not mushy. (Korean beef dishes are traditionally a little chewier than French or American dishes, says Kim.) It’s also rested overnight and brought back up to temperature very slowly, at a very low temperature. But the flavoring agents are exactly what would be used in Manhattan’s Koreatown.

“The technique itself is all French,” said Kim. “If I was doing this at Daniel, it wouldn’t be soy sauce. It would be red wine instead of sake. There wouldn’t be as much garlic and ginger. And jujubes [Asian dried dates], shittakes, those all wouldn’t be there. Mirin, sake. But the techniques would be exactly the same.”

And even though it’s served as a small plate, it’s also about twice the size of the Korean version, where many don’t have much money to spend on more expensive proteins: “Meat, or beef in general, is very expensive in Korea, so this wouldn’t be one portion,” said Kim, “this would probably be about two portions.”

Want to see him make the dish? Watch the piece right here. And if you’re interested in the finer points of beef, stay tuned for our upcoming issue of Edible Manhattan — due on the streets March 1, it’ll be all about meat.

About Rachel Wharton

Rachel Wharton is a deputy editor of Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn magazines with a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, where she focused her research on sustainable agriculture and food culture (with a minor in tacos). She has 15 years of experience as a writer, starting her career with fisheries, water issues, coastal life (and fried oysters) in North Carolina, where she grew up. Before joining the Edibles, she spent four-and-half years working as a features food reporter at the New York Daily News. She also won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award for stories in Edible Brooklyn, while her profile of Russ & Daughters in this magazine will be included in the book 2010 Best Food Writing. P.S., she will eat street meat with abandon, no matter its sustainability.

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