It’s a good time to eat Korean in Sydney. Baskets of fried chicken and big-ass beers at Arisun have been popular for years. At the other end of the scale there’s beautifully elegant mod-Korean at Moon Park. Maybe it’ll be soju and Korean tacos at Surry Hills’ Ko & Co or a bo ssam at Kim, where one member of the Kakawa crew has gone beyond handmade chocolates. But today we’re all about Danjee.
There’s a lot to get excited about here, but cool your jets. The restaurant is split across two adjoining spaces: one dedicated to Korean barbecue complete with hotplates are built into the tables, and the other to the likes of bo ssam, salads, noodles and rice dishes. Across the board, it’s definitely stuff that works better with a larger group.
If you go straight barbecue, do not pass go without ordering the soy-marinated beef intercostals. You’ll get your hotplate, half an onion and a big pair of scissors for snipping the musky, rich meat. Maybe you'll go for a serve of glutinous, stretchy deep-fried rice cakes on the side. This’d be the time to order a round of OB beers or a glass of Le Temps de Cerises Fou du Roi – a soft and juicy mix of grenache cinsault, carignan and cabernet sauvignon.
And here's where things get interesting. This is a wine list that really has us sitting up a little straighter. It’s a forward-thinking list of idiosyncratic drops like Patrick Sullivan’s breakfast wine – a dry, funky Yarra Valley sauvignon blanc with plenty of time on skin. Super-delicious with a tangled nest of sticky, moreish potato starch noodles woven with thinly sliced beef. It also stands up to the bo ssam – the traditional Korean party dish is served here as slices of pork belly and a spicy pickled radish and pear relish topped with oysters, all wrapped in a thin slice of lightly pickled white radish. It’s a rich and fermented mouth party made to eat with your paws.
Nothing but nothing, however, can take on the raw power and terrifying heat of Fire Chicken. We try, though, with a pinot blanc from Pyramid Hill. Even its sweet and fragrant oiliness can’t compete with the red-hot mix of chicken thigh pieces and long rice cake tubes captured in a cayenne-rich sauce, all covered in melted mozzarella cheese. In all honesty, you’re probably better off drinking a beer, or stuffing your mouth with rice and waiting for the pain to be over.
Cool off with the Korean-style tartare which translates to something akin to a meat popsicle: frozen strips of beef come to the table elaborately dressed with matchsticks of nashi pear and cucumber, a raw egg yolk nests in the middle of the beef, wearing a deft scattering of raw pine nuts and a dressing of soy sauce and sesame oil.
It’s not all slam-dunk heat and ferment-stink on the menu. You can eat pretty fresh at Danjee, too, by ordering the special of diced raw salmon with wild rice, finely chopped perilla and chrysanthemum leaves, green chillies and a little bowl of mild chilli sauce. Mix and match to taste, or dump everything into the bowl and hope for the best like we do. The result is a highly perfumed bowl of hot rice punctuated by cool, fatty fish. It’s good. And there’s always a swirl or two of green melon froghurt for dessert.
Weird wine, sticky noodles and chicken that'll make you see through time: how can you lose?