by Michael Tucker
Print Email

danjiext1mike tucker glasses1I had an experience the other night that was right out of Larry David’s universe or Seinfeld’s. A classic. I’ll try to describe it for you.

It was around 9:45 and I was at Danji, the wonderful Korean fusion restaurant on West 52nd Street, waiting for Jill after her show. Our friends Florence and Richard Fabricant were seeing the show that night and we were all going to have dinner. I know that mentioning Florence Fabricant is name- dropping – I apologize — but her position as a famous food writer for the NY Times is part of the story.

So, I’m sitting at the bar, sipping a nice white with a Japanese name from Alsace. Yeah, a Japanese wine from Alsace – or an Alsatian wine with a Japanese owner – whatever – it’s very good.

I get the manager’s eye and he comes over.

“I’m with the Fabricant party. I’m the first to arrive,” I say.

He looks into his book, shakes his head and says, “You know, we don’t normally take reservations.”

Okay, I thought. When Florence gets here she’ll straighten it out. Danji had been her suggestion; she had written something about it in the Times and she told us that it has fabulous food. Which it does, by the way. Florence knows of whence she speaks.

danji-300x185Just then a group of Asian girls arrive and wave to the manager. He said, “Ah, yes, the reservation for … whatever the name was – right this way.” And they all go to their reserved table.

So I’m sitting there like Larry David. The guy just told me – to my face – that they don’t take reservations, and a minute later – less than a minute – he’s seating these girls, honoring their reservation. I downed my wine and ordered another.

Finally the happy warriors arrive. The Fabricants loved the play and Jill was all lit up. The manager greets Florence and tells her the table will be ready in a moment. I decide to say nothing. And we proceed to have a lovely evening, tasting almost everything Danji has to offer. Small plates are the order of the day, so we tried everything. Again, the food is fantastic.

But I keep noticing that the manager is looking my way, like he knows that he stiffed me earlier and now I’m sitting with the NY Times. There’s a little line of concern on his forehead.

Cut to the end of dinner. We pay the check and I head to the rest room – my mother always told me — don’t pass up an opportunity; you never know. Jill and the Fabricants are waiting in the front near the bar and when I get there, Jill points to a beautiful plate of fried calamari that’s sitting on the bar. I nod as if to say, “Yeah, nice calamari.” And she points again – insistently. So I pick up a piece of the squid with my fingers, swirl it around in the wasabi mayo that’s next to the plate and pop it in my mouth. Delicious, by the way. Then I become aware that everybody’s staring at me like I had just farted or something.

sliders“What?” I say this with great innocence.

“You just ate his dinner, honey,” says Jill and points to the manager, who has a look on his face like I just ate his dinner. I’m waiting for the theme song to play.

Okay – to set the record straight: Danji takes reservations for parties of six or more. If I had been sober I would have realized that.

The manager’s name is Andrew and he and I have become friends. He’s been telling this story all over town, as well. We’ve been back to Danji three times already.

Highlights: The green pea and edamame soup; the tofu with ginger scallion dressing is one of the best things I’ve put into my mouth in a long time – and I’m not usually much of a tofu eater; the spicy thai chicken wings; the spicy whelk salad with buckwheat noodles; the pork belly sliders; and, of course, Andrew’s delectable calamari.

DANJI: 346 West 52nd Street (bet 8th & 9th Ave), New York, New York 10019

Michael Tucker is an actor and author whose recent novel is "After Annie."  He writes about his love of food on his blog Notes from a Culinary Wasteland.


#1 Kitty 2012-11-05 08:35
Now this is funny. I know just how you feel.

You have no rights to post comments


restaurant news

R+D Kitchen and M Cafe
Los Angeles
by David Latt

newcafes.jpgYabu, Il Fornaio and Musha are my favorite restaurants. They have great food and they're comfortable and affordable. I'd go to them every week if I could. Having said that, without realizing it,...

Redrum Burger
San Francisco
by Scott R. Kline

redrumsign.jpgRedrum Burger in Davis, CA sits catty-corner to an In-N-Out Burger just off the freeway. Redrum was there long before In-N-Out and judging from the line at lunch time on a recent Thursday, they...

Now Everybody do the ZaZa
by Libby Segal

ImageWhen I first heard the phrase “ZaZa,” I thought it might have referred to some strange dance move created decades ago, possibly performed by the Tracy Turnblad character, played by Ricki Lake, in...

San Francisco
by Scott R. Kline

ImageSpork in San Francisco is my new favorite restaurant. Pat and I went there for dinner after a lovely day in the Mission, checking out all the vintage stores and eating Dymano Donuts. Spork is a...