Honey butter chips? What are they, and how can I get more? While honey butter chips are the buzzy hitmaker for this quaint East Village Korean restaurant, the rest of the menu gleefully stands up to the precedent set by these sticky, salty, slivers of potato sent from heaven.

The simple, clean décor of Oiji evokes a sentimentality that makes you feel like you’re sitting on the back porch of a countryside cottage. Dried flowers and herbs accent deep wooden tables, and the smells emanating from the kitchen compliment and enhance the space’s earthy, elegant vibe.

This meal was incredible, start to finish. At its core is the unstoppable co-chef, co-owner duo Brian Kim and Tae Kyung Ku, who have crafted a truly unique menu accentuating traditional flavors and dishes of Korean cuisine.

Here’s what we ate:

oiji fried chicken.JPG

Fried Chicken in a light tempura batter so delicate it’s like eating puffed air.  This is the real sleeper on this menu, and you would be remiss not to order something in such opposition to tradition that still works exceptionally well.

oiji steak tartare

Steak Tartare topped with a sou vide egg?  An odd choice, but one that doesn’t distract from the integrity of the dish.  Julienned pear give it crunch and sweetness, tiny droplets of pickled mustard seeds give it a bit of spice, green capers give it salinity, and little purple flowers dress up an already beautiful dish.  If you’re a sucker for beautifully marbled, raw beef, this is a must.

oiji morel salad

A morel salad attempts to pay homage to spring winds up being confusing.  Dry aged mushrooms that resemble shriveled figs peek out behind tiny purple flowers, the apparent through-line on this menu. Watermelon radishes are laid to rest on beds of romaine lettuce. Golden raisins and pine nuts dance in a sesame and pine nut dressing that is just a bit overzealous in its aim to be innovative. It’s interesting enough that you won’t abandon your chopsticks, but not enough to warrant a second order.

oiji buckwheat noodles

Cold buckwheat noodles with spring ramps and black and white sesame seeds are light and airy, a wonderful surprise for something that appears to be a substantial noodle dish in broth.  The six minute egg is,as always, a welcome addition to an already umami packed bowl.

oiji octopus

Octopus is seared and served perfectly balanced, sweet from the squash, spicy and briny from the meaty octopus flesh that barely conceals small spits of black rice that round it out to give each bite a crunchy texture.

oiji honey butter chips

The grand finale is the aforementioned honey butter chips, which are everything you want them to be and more. If licking your fingers in public was socially acceptable, it would have happened after this course.

Every aspect of this menu has been fastidiously considered, from flavor to presentation, and its wonderful to watch each artful plate land on the table.  I can’t wait to see what this kitchen turns out next.

119 First Avenue

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