119 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003
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Oiji is not a sushi-ya, it’s not even a Japanese eatery, but we’re running out of QUALITY sushi-yas to visit and write about, so why not a QUALITY Korean eatery with Japanese flair?  Why not!

Food at Oiji are incredibly rich in flavor, and many very, very spicy.  Hostess suggest 2-3 dishes per individual.  We ordered six dishes, plus one dessert.  Five of the six were thoroughly enjoyable, what I would be happy to re-order, but request for less spice, and one of the six was horrendous.  The dessert was kick-a*s!

The crowd at Oiji is a mish-mash of banker types, model-esq types, and some borderline-out of college-types.  The atmosphere is either cool and swanky, or irritating as sh*t, pending on who your neighboring patrons are.  Like most NYC eateries, the tables are spaced TIGHTLY together.

We were “lucky” enough to sit there for a solid 2.5 hours given the board of health paid them a 45 minute visit after our second dish.  Dude, if the first two dishes weren’t so good, we too would have high-tailed out of there.  A very interesting tid-bit…  I don’t know if we have the word “sucker” tattooed on our foreheads, BUT during this 45 min parlay, 3 other patrons directly near us departed.  During their wait, the wait staff offered them a variety of goodies, 1-2 dishes off taken their tab, free round or two of drinks, etc.  Us?  NOTHING.  We paid for each and every of our 7 dishes, and all of our 8 glasses of wine (4 each).  I wasn’t going to ask, but it really does make me wonder, why???

 

Our à la carte items tonight:

  1. Scallops “Hwe” (Snow crab, Jellyfish, Korean Mustartd Vinaigrette) $19

Not a thing I would change on this dish!  This was SPECTACULAR.  The jelly fish, the thinly sliced cucumber, and the lovely vinaigrette dressing made this dish so light, so refreshing.  The flavors all blended so wonderfully.  Again, spectacular!

  1. Abalone (Gochu-Garu Brown Butter, Blood Orange, Crème Fraiche) $23

I wouldn’t say we’re abalone connoisseurs, BUT we do indulge in abalone, maybe one-two times a week, so we definitely know a thing or two about this lovely single shell mollusk!  Oiji’s style is very different than the Japanese, who serves it either sushi/sashimi style, or the Chinese, who soaks then braises the dry version (sometimes for days), OR stir fries the canned version.  Oji’s version is leaves the abalone with a nice crunch, but still tender, a very nice “bite”.  The flavors are intense.  The Gochu-Garu, brown butter sauce is spicy but not overpowering, and combines very nicely with the crème fraiche foam.  The blood orange doesn’t blend as well, seems more of an afterthought, but still serves as a sweet bite to counter the spiciness of the sauce.  Very, very good.  And for 23 bucks, what a steal!

  1. Oiji Bowl (Sea Urchin, Sweet shrimp, Seaweed Rice) $29

The flavors were very good, a nice medley of sweet, sour, salt, and spice.  But holy moly the spice!  On a spice scale of 1-10, this is definitively a 10.  I tasted each of the raw shrimp and uni separately, and they were both very, very fresh.  The rice seems slightly undercooked to me, but still, very good bowl.  I would order this again, but would absolutely request for them to take down the spice by a few notches.  Very good especially for the price of $29.

  1. Baby Octopus (Chayote, Butter Gochujang) $25

Ok, the spice is starting to get irritating now.  The tentacles was cooked to a lovely tenderness, and then browght back to the grill for charring.  Very nice.  The spice was a bit much.  Same deal, would definitely order again, but request to be “medium” rather than “spicy”.  (Yes, I talk spice in buffalo wing terms)

  1. Handmade Dumplings (White Beef Broth) $17

Name of Oiji’s game?  Besides spicy?  RICH!  Everything at Oiji has been so rich in flavors, in a good way, and this dish was no different.  The broth was incredible.  I could happily lap this broth up!  The dumpling itself leaves more to be desired, BUT for the broth still makes this dish worthwhile.  $17 bucks is a bit steep for this dish though…

  1. Bone Marrow (Short Rib, Hon Shimeji, Crispy Rice Cracker) $37

The one and only disappointing dish.  That short rib was abysmal.  It was a like a tough ground meat.  Who knows if it was actually short rib, it was super dense, no juices, no flavor.  Terrible.  The bone marrow beneath?  Where is it???  Not sure if we just got a bad order, but the very little bone marrow there was, was not tasty.  It was barely cooked enough.  A properly cooked/roasted bone marrow should still be chunky, but also easy to spread.  This wasn’t that.  These days, every half decent steakhouse will offer roasted bone marrow on their menu, most will even have it as a pairing with their butcher block, their côte de boeuf, or even their tomahawk.  It’s so widely available, that standards on it is also higher.  Oiji’s bone marrow, does not cut the mustard.

  1. Honey Butter Chips with Vanilla Ice Cream $16

Oiji’s motto, spicy and rich reigns true with this deliciously decadent dessert.  Quite honestly, I’m not a crazy sweets person, so while I find $20 for a NODOGURO, or $30 for a good piece of CHUTORO/OTORO perfectly reasonable, $16 for chips and ice cream seems a bit much for me.  Hey – we all have our own scales for value!  Don’t judge!  That said, the chips were SO GOOD.  The sweet and spicy coating on every crispy chip, paired with the subtle vanilla ice cream, ahhh, heaven!  I was sniffling my entire time given the spices, but worth every sniffle!