Thanksgiving is probably the only day out of the year I eat turkey in bird form. We don’t make it on Christmas, and aside from ground turkey, I never buy turkey breast. So it’s funny that after eating it only one-two times in November, I get pretty sick of it and need to move on to something else. Some people live for leftovers, but after a day or two, I’m ready to get out of my short-lived turkey coma!
So if you’re like me, this means finding something on the other side of the food spectrum–and I have just the place! Oiji, in New York City’s East Village. You won’t find Korean barbecue here though, or the vast assortment of little sides. Don’t worry–the traditional dishes abound, but with a modern touch.
Oiji is like many restaurants in the EV—intimate and dark. We sat at a table against the window and ordered some drinks—beer for Kevin, but for me a “Smoke House.” I like gin cocktails, and I like mezcal cocktails—so combined, why not? Lapsang Souchong infused gin, mezcal, along with blended scotch, green chartreuse and cynar made for a smokier version of a Manhattan.
The menu is mainly small plates, some simpler sounding than others. Ogling the dishes of other diners around us, we attempted to get a variety.
The first item to arrive was beef tartare. Very tasty, not-too-huge-chunks of beef, with a perfectly runny egg for dipping.
The next was one you may not think to get at first: homemade tofu with soy scallion vinaigrette. Who gets tofu among the pork belly, oxtail, etc.? If you are at an Asian restaurant, tofu done the right way can be a really amazing dish, as this one was. It was porridge-style, and was a perfect side to our other plates.
Then came jang-jo-rim with buttered rice and soft-boiled egg. Jang-jo-rim is a braised beef dish made with soy sauce. The taste reminded us of a very similar Chinese dish that Kevin’s mom makes. It was very good, especially when eaten with our tofu.
We also got the slow-cooked pork belly and kimchi, which may have been our favorite thing. In between bites of succulent pork we scooped up the tofu and the kimchi juices with the big wooden spoon. In short: get the tofu.
We also decided to try Oiji’s honey chips–their only dessert option.
The dishes at Oiji mix the traditional–like the jang jo rim and tofu–with the more modern–like the beef tartare. The result is amazing, elevated Korean food.
Oiji is located at 119 1st Avenue between 7th St. and St. Marks in the East Village. You’ll need a reservation, which you can make on their website.