With His Sophomore Restaurant, Chef Brian Kim Begins a Compelling New Chapter

OIJI MI in the Flatiron District showcases Korean culture through storytelling both in and out of the kitchen.

Chef Brian Kim
Chef Brian Kim | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist
Chef Brian Kim | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

After operating his first New York City restaurant for seven years, chef Brian Kim is excited by all of the new components he’s able to deliver with the debut of his sophomore eatery.

Whether it’s the ample square footage of facilities that allows for a large kitchen team and extensive R&D on creative techniques; elevated hospitality that includes elements like wine pairings; or a special new machine solely dedicated to churning out bingsu (a popular Korean dessert made of finely shaved ice), OIJI MI, Kim’s new restaurant in the Flatiron District that opened last month, is a deeply personal undertaking that’s been three years in the making—and ultimately, a dining experience aimed to showcase Korean culture through storytelling both in and out of the kitchen.

Born in Los Angeles but raised in Seoul and other global cities, after graduating from The Culinary Institute of America and working in local kitchens like Bouley, Kim initially made his mark in the NYC culinary world with the 2015 opening of his first restaurant, Oiji. From its start, the East Village spot was a hit, and Kim won much acclaim for his modern Korean cuisine. Its Honey Butter Chips, a dessert item inspired by a viral Korean potato chip flavor, sparked an industry-wide craze and became one of the most talked-about dishes that year. And until he temporarily closed Oiji this April to prioritize his focus on the launch of OIJI MI, it remained one of the best restaurants both in its neighborhood and across NYC.

First course at OIJI MI | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

While the first half of OIJI MI’s name derives from Kim’s Oiji Hospitality Group, it’s the latter which symbolizes the chef’s culinary evolution. Translating to “beauty” or “flavor” in Korean, these two elements are what Kim strives for with a laser-focus attention to detail in all aspects of his new endeavor.

“A great restaurant isn’t only about the food,” says Kim. “It has to offer the best experience overall when it comes to the ambience, music, service, and everything else. That's what’s behind the name and concept.”

OIJI MI | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

Guided by the Korean term “jeong,” (a word with no direct English translation but means affection, care, or camaraderie), OIJI MI is a contemporary restaurant showcasing high-end, modern-day dining in NYC rooted in a Korean essence. It offers all of the familiar superlative qualities customary from an operation run by Kim—remarkable service, inventive dishes, a chic environment—but here, on a grander scale that establishes the restaurateur’s compelling next chapter.

Designed by the award-winning experts of AvroKO, the gorgeous space is inspired by old-school Korean homes called “hanoks” and features interpretations of classic design elements such as wood ceiling beams and ornate wood-flooring patterns, in addition to touches like rich leather, velvet fabrics, and large banquettes. The 30 seats in the bar & lounge area are dedicated to walk-ins and a la carte ordering, while the main dining room and its 70 seats are reserved for the 5-course prix-fixe menu.

When it comes to the philosophy of the food, “we’re creating something unique,” says Kim, while highlighting “original, authentic Korean flavors.”

Dry-Aged Duck at OIJI MI | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

The seasonal prix-fixe menu’s first course currently includes items like Beef Tartare Croustade, Foie Gras, and Oysters, which is inspired by the common practice of marinating kimchi with oysters. For the second course, diners can choose from the Grain Salad, Striped Jack Hwe, or Bo Ssam made with Ibérico pork belly. The third course of chilled dishes includes the Oiji Bowl and Chili Lobster Ramyun—two fan favorites from Kim’s first restaurant—and rounding out the group is the Cashew Kong-Guksu, a play off a creamy Korean noodle dish typically enjoyed in the summertime. For the fourth course of entrees, offerings include the Black Bass, Wagyu Galbi, or Dry-Aged Duck with Korean dates incorporated into its red wine jus.

For desserts, selections include Chapssal Donuts with creme fraiche ice cream, Chocolate Misugaru Mousse with passionfruit sorbet, or the must-try Ooyoo Bingsu, a milky-shaved ice option with strawberries.

Along with 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 a side of orange scented tapioca pearls for a palate cleanser, and the fantastic Summer Milk Punch (rum, Harry’s Berries strawberries, earl grey, gooseberry).

As OIJI MI’s owner and executive chef, Kim has once again teamed up with Maximilian Soh, an original member of the opening crew of Oiji, who now takes on the roles of director of operations and managing partner.

Ooyoo Bingsu at OIJI MI | Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

“In terms of restaurants, Brian is a visionary,” says Soh. “He really puts a lot of energy into the restaurant as a whole, whether it’s the operations, marketing, or branding. Not many chefs have the capability of seeing all that through.”

OIJI MI’s team also includes general manager, Ahra Ko; chef de cuisine, 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 big portfolio of brands,” says Kim, whether venturing into fine dining, fast casual, a dessert shop, or product lines. “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 pm-11 pm. The bar & lounge area is dedicated to walk-ins and a la carte ordering, and the main dining room is reserved for the 5-course prix-fixe menu costing $125 ($135 starting June 27). Reservations are available via Resy. Call (212) 256-1259 for more info.

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Tae Yoon was born and raised in Queens, and is the Editor of Thrillist New York.