Oiji by Chef Sehong Brian Kim and Chef Tae Kyung Ku

Oiji by Chef Sehong Brian Kim and Chef Tae Kyung Ku

Oiji :: After visiting and experiencing many Authentic Korean Restaurants in NYC, I felt there was much to be desired.
By no means am I saying that Authentic Korean Cuisine is distasteful or overrated.
However, we cannot deny the fact that many Korean restaurants are wary of experimenting with culinary trends or new tastes.
With the ever-changing landscape of the culinary world and the ever-growing expectations of hungry customers, Korean restaurants must be ready to embrace and adapt to the world around us by introducing a “twist” to their food.

On my quest to find a new and exciting Korean Restaurant, I stumbled upon Oiji. Centered in a residential area within East Village, the restaurant gave a welcoming feeling. With the simple interior design comprised of wood and open bricks, the restaurant seemed very warm and, dare I say, comfortable.
This layout and design, which was developed by Chef Brian Kim and Chef Tae Kyung Ku, reflected their ideology in their culinary tastes and methods. Chef Brian Kim was only in and I got to have a pleasant conversation with him on early Monday evening.

After completing his marketing degree in New York, Chef Kim decided to return to Korea to support his family business, which was in the food & beverage industry.
It was during this time that Chef Kim opened his eyes to Korean gastronomy.
Having lived in both Korea and the US, he understood the reservations some people may have to a completely different type of cuisine. His understanding of both cultures allowed him to create an amalgamation of flavors that was appealing to different people of diverse backgrounds while preserving the fundamentals of Korean flavors.

After learning the techniques and fundamentals of the Korean cuisine, he came back to New York to join the iconic restaurant, Boulet.
While working there, he learned how to handle the stressful kitchen environment and day-to-day operations.
However, I believe his greatest achievement there was learning French culinary techniques and how to incorporate them.
These techniques coupled with his understanding of multiple cultures is what gives his dishes the modern edge that we are craving for.

His culinary ideologies are well represented in his dishes. While preserving the basics of Korean cuisine, he creates a version of traditional foods using his creativity and experience.

– Unlike traditional Korean rice cake, his rice cake was crispy and seared rather than chewy, which gave a clear, crisp texture to the dish

– Kimchi is a mainstay of Korean cuisine. However, Kimchi can be too acidic, spicy or bitter. Chef Kim created his own version of Cauliflower Kimchi with more approachable flavors while using the same fermentation techniques.


(Photo Credit: Chefs Society)

– The “Steak Tartar with Ramp Aioli” was seasoned with pickled mustard seeds and Asian pear. Compared to traditional Korean Steak Tartar, which focuses of the sweetness and nutty, it had more spiciness than sweetness due to the sauce used. Each bite was deliciously tender and tasty.

– The “Fried Chicken with spicy soy vinaigrette” was my favorite dish of the evening. It was very lightly fried and delicious. The Soy sauce was like a firework in the palate; Spicy in the beginning and more delicate at the end.


(Photo Credit: Chefs Society)

The “Chil-Jeol-Pan”–Seven flavors or my French version of “crepes.”

The crepes are traditionally used to wrap the variety of toppings inside with a bit of the dipping sauce. I loved the idea of making it in my own style, matching it to my own palette


(Photo Credit: Chefs Society)

The “Jang-Jo-rim” with buttered rice and soft boiled egg was an easy comfort food that could be enjoyed by anyone. Comparable to the mac ‘n cheese in America, Chef Kim noted that his mother used to make it when he was a child, especially for his school lunch.


(Photo Credit: Chefs Society)

The “Slow cooked oxtail with root vegetables,” a Korean version of the Pot O Feu, had a very strong and powerful sauce which was extremely well executed.


(Photo Credit: Chefs Society)

– For the dessert, I got the “cherry on the cake” and the “the “ice cream with crispy honey potato chips.” Even though I do not usually enjoy desserts, I finished it all. The honey chips are the best seller and you must try them! They were both delightful!

It is very surprising to see a Korean chef out of his comfort zone to try a completely new take on traditional food. I can only say that this experience was far beyond what I expected. The dishes were clearly Korean cuisine, and yet, Chef Kim was able to incorporate modern culinary trends into otherwise traditional and rooted dishes.
Korea should be proud of its new talents, and I hope that many more will be courageous enough to experiment with what can be the “New” Korean cuisine.

Edgar Vaudeville

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