I bet you've walked past Danjee hundred of times and never even known it. Just like it's sister restaurant Madang, Danjee is hidden down an alleyway off a busy pedestrian thoroughfare in the city. You know that narrow alley between George Street cinemas and the Albion Hotel? That's where you'll find Danjee, serving up a slightly fancier version of the Korean fare so loved at Madang.
We're not talking white linen tablecloths and crystal stemware, but the dining room is a lot quieter compared to the often rowdy crowds at Madang. There's room between the tables, air-conditioning is a welcome bonus, and the barbecue grills are all relegated to outdoor tables so there's no risk of eau de Korean bbq impregnating your clothes by the time you exit.
If you still want Korean barbecue while dining indoors, they'll served it cooked at your table with lettuce wraps and condiments on the side. That means noone gets lumped with cooking duties for everyone. Win.
Yuk hwae $20
Raw beef, cucumber, nashi and soy dressing
The seven page menu (with occasional photos) has more options than you can poke a metal chopstick at, but ordering yuk hwae is a unanimous decision. This Korean version of beef tartare involves a nest of frozen beef sliced into matchsticks, gathered around a glistening raw egg yolk.
Smash the yolk and jumble everything on the plate together. It doesn't take long for the raw beef to soften, its silky softness contrasting against the spears of crunchy cucumber and sweet nashi pear. The rich egg yolk gets into every nook and cranny, sharpened by the sweet soy dressing and dotted with sesame seeds, pine nuts and finely chopped shallots.
There's a modest range of wines and beers on the menu, but we get stuck into the makgeolli, a fizzy alcoholic rice drink made with nuruk, a Korean fermentation starter.
Complimentary banchan side dishes
It always feels a little like Christmas when the free banchan side dishes hit the table. We swoop on the small plates of kimchi, pickled daikon, cold and slippery slices of mung bean jelly and a scoop of sweet potato mash that could proves more addictive than we expect.
Kimchi nokdu jeon $13
Pan fried kimchi, mung bean, pork and vegetables
Jeon means pan-fried battered food. Our kimchi and nokdu mung bean version is fried together in a snack-sized pancake, only mildly spicy with hidden pockets of pork.
Modeum jeon $30
Pan fried platter of 21 pieces
If you want to try a little bit of everything, the modeum or combination platter is what you're after. It's a party on a plate with prawns, scallops, fish cakes, capsicum and more dipped in batter until golden brown. It's not really about the crunch, but more about appreciating the nutty sweetness from deep-frying, and soaking up as much vinegar soy dipping sauce as you can.
Du bu seon $9
Tofu, enoki mushrooms, garlic chives and green chilli
The deep-fried tofu looks sophisticated enough to serve at any hatted restaurant. Two pillows of tofu are sandwiched around a filling of enoki mushrooms and garlic chives. There's a terrific contrast of textures as your start with crunch, hit the tremble of tofu and then meet the gentle squeak of mushrooms in the middle.
Boiled pork belly with radish and oyster kimchi served with ssam lettuce wraps
Bossam is a perennial favourite. Is there a greater way of celebrating soft and fatty slices of slow-cooked pork belly?
Radish and oyster kimchi served with the bossam
Grab a lettuce leaf, add some fatty pork and load up your hand-held parcel with a fiery radish kimchi dotted with land mines of raw oyster. That briny burst of raw oyster against the chilli and pork fat is a flavour bomb you won't be able to resist.
Things get a little fancy here too, with a special tea light candle lit to gently warm your pork. You'll also find thin slices of pickled daikon on the side and two menacing green chillies if you really want to crank up the heat.
Twigim dduksari $8
Deep fried rice cakes
There are two carb options to choose from: mixed grain rice or deep fried rice cakes. You know where we went. The ddeok rice cakes might look like styrofoam packing peanuts but don't let that deter you. Deep frying them gives their shell a tacky crunch, not dissimilar to those football-shaped ham soi gok dumplings at yum cha. Dunk them in some sauce and then appreciate its chewy and satisfying starch-fest.
Galbi jjim $38
Slow cooked beef ribs, chestnut, gingko nuts, dried dates and soy stock
We move into heartier fare with the galbi jjim, a heartwarming stew of slow cooked beef ribs. The sweet soy stock might waver into cloying territory for some, but I can't stop slurping the stuff, fossicking for gingko nut and chestnut treasures as I go. The beef ribs are super tender, slipping off the bone with ease.
The charcoal spicy pork hocks ($38), or mae un jokbal sut bulgui is a winner too. It's two dishes in one: slices of meaty pork trotter on one side and hefty slabs of pork skin and tendon on the other. The chunks of pork skin are marinated and then cooked on a barbecue until tantalisingly smoky and lightly charred.
Do ga ni tang $15
Ox shank and tendon soup
It's amazing how much beef flavour is packed into the ox shank and tendon soup too. There's a bovine intensity to every spoonful that will strike a chord with every carnivore. Plunge its murky depths to uncover all kinds of meaty rewards.
Danjee chicken $35
Deep fried chicken with soy and chilli dipping sauce
The Danjee chicken is the last to arrive, a vision of golden batter that sets all our hearts aflutter.
Deep fried chicken batter
Knobbly and rubbled batter is a guarantee of crunch and Danjee delivers this with conversation-stopping ferocity. Even better, there's a tastiness embedded within the juicy marinated chicken that elevates this chicken to a hard-hitting player in Sydney's Korean fried chicken leader board.
A new contender for Sydney's best fried chicken? I'm heading back to make sure.
1/7 Albion Place, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8084 9041
Open daily 11.30am-3pm and 5pm-11pm
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1/18/2015 12:41:00 am