Chef Brian Kim’s Oiji Mi Restaurant Opens in New York’s Flatiron District
Chief Brian Kim | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Chief Brian Kim | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
After operating his first restaurant in New York for seven years, Chef Brian Kim is excited about all the new components he is able to offer with the launch of his second restaurant.
Whether it’s the sufficient square footage of the facilities that allows for a large kitchen team and extensive R&D on creative techniques; elevated hospitality that includes elements such as wine pairings; or a special new machine solely dedicated to producing bingsu (a popular Korean dessert made of finely crushed ice), OIJI MI, Kim’s new restaurant in the Flatiron District which opened last month, is a deeply personal business that has spanned three years – and ultimately, a culinary experience aimed at showcasing Korean culture through storytelling both in and out of the kitchen.
Born in Los Angeles but raised in Seoul and other cities around the world, after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and working in local kitchens like Bouley, Kim first made her mark in the culinary world of New York with the opening in 2015 of its first restaurant, Oiji. From its inception, the East Village spot was a hit, and Kim was well-regarded for her modern Korean cuisine. His Honey Butter Chips, a dessert inspired by a viral flavor of Korean potato chips, sparked an industry-wide craze and became one of the most talked about dishes that year. And until he temporarily closed Oiji in April to focus on launching OIJI MI, he remained one of the best restaurants in his neighborhood and in New York.
While the first half of OIJI MI’s name derives from Kim’s Oiji Hospitality Group, it is the latter that symbolizes the chef’s culinary evolution. Translating to “beauty” or “flavor” in Korean, these two elements are what Kim strives for with careful attention to detail in every aspect of her new venture.
“A good restaurant isn’t just about the food,” says Kim. “It has to provide the best overall experience when it comes to ambiance, music, service and everything else. This is what hides behind the name and the concept.
Guided by the Korean term “jeong” (a word without a direct English translation but meaning affection, care, or companionship), OIJI MI is a contemporary restaurant offering upscale, modern New York cuisine rooted in a Korean essence. It offers all the familiar superlative qualities of a Kim-led operation – stellar service, inventive dishes, a chic environment – but here, on a grander scale, that sets the restaurateur’s compelling next chapter.
Designed by the award-winning experts at AvroKO, the beautiful space is inspired by old-school Korean homes called “hanoks” and features interpretations of classic design elements such as wooden ceiling beams and ornate parquet patterns. , plus touches like rich leather, velor and large bench seats. The 30 seats in the bar & lounge area are dedicated to walk-ins and à la carte orders, while the main dining room and its 70 seats are reserved for the fixed price 5-course menu.
As for the food philosophy, “we create something unique,” Kim says, while emphasizing “original and authentic Korean flavors.”
The first course on the seasonal fixed-price menu currently includes dishes like beef tartare crisp, foie gras and oysters, which are inspired by the common practice of marinating kimchi with oysters. For the second course, diners can choose between cereal salad, striped Jack Hwe or Bo Ssam made with Iberian pork belly. The third course of cold dishes includes the Oiji Bowl and the Chili Lobster Ramyun – two fan favorites from Kim’s first restaurant – and the group is rounded out by the Cashew Kong-Guksu, a play on a creamy Korean noodle dish. generally enjoyed in the summer. For the fourth course of entrees, offerings include Black Bass, Wagyu Galbi, or dry-aged duck with Korean dates incorporated in its red wine jus.
For desserts, selections include Chapssal donuts with ice cream, Misugaru chocolate mousse with passion fruit sorbet or the unmissable Ooyoo Bingsu, a milk shaved ice option with strawberries.
In addition to wine, the beverage program offers custom cocktails as imaginative as the food menu. Choose from drinks like the Juju Vieux (bourbon, date-infused soju, lotus leaf) served with orange flavored tapioca pearls for a palate cleanse, and the fantastic Summer Milk Punch (rum, Harry’s Berries, Earl Grey, gooseberry).
As owner and chief executive of OIJI MI, Kim has teamed up again with Maximilian Soh, an original member of Oiji’s opening team, who now takes on the roles of COO and Managing Partner. .
“When it comes to restaurants, Brian is a visionary,” says Soh. “He really puts a lot of energy into the restaurant as a whole, whether it’s operations, marketing or branding. Few leaders have the ability to see it through to the end.
The OIJI MI team also includes Managing Director, Ahra Ko; Executive Chef, Sechul Yang (Union Square Hospitality Group); executive pastry chef, Adriana Adorno Davila (Ritz-Calrton San Juan, Jean-Georges); and Beverage Director, Chris Clark (Aquavit, Advanced Sommelier).
As for the future of Oiji Hospitality Group, “we want to have a broad brand portfolio,” says Kim, whether it’s going into fine dining, fast casual, a dessert shop or lines of products. “There are so many things we could do with Korean culture that haven’t been done yet.”
OIJI MI is open Tuesday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. The bar and lounge are dedicated to walk-in customers and à la carte orders, and the main dining room is reserved for the 5-course prix fixe menu priced at $125 ($135 from June 27) . Reservations are available through Resy. Call (212) 256-1259 for more information.
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