Everything You Wanted To Know About Danku (But Were Afraid To Try)
I had a couple of stupid titles ready and waiting for my post about Danku, the new Dutch/Indonesian fast food place on 57th btw. 5+6th. I narrowed it down to “Danku But No Danku” and “Danku Shame”, but sadly it looks like I won’t get to use them. Is Danku good? No. But it’s also not so bad that I feel the need to publicly humiliate them on the site. How good or bad it is will also depend on who you ask, and what you order. After my first visit to Danku, on their opening day, yielded pretty terrible results, I decided to step back and give them some breathing room. Let them work out the kinks before returning to give them their full +/-.
Well, 6 weeks is plenty of time and last week I returned with a serious group of Midtown Lunchers, waiting to pass judgement on this new fast food chain: Danny from Food in Mouth, Blondie and Brownie (from the blog of the same name) and Bartender Extraordinaire Don Lee. I was actually surprised Don was willing to come, since he accompanied me on the first trip to Danku- and was less than thrilled with his decision.
We were able to try most of the menu, but with eaters like this Danku would have to bring their A game… and I’m not sure they were up to the challenge.
Unlike my four dining companions, who were pretty ruthless in their judgements, I am a little more forgiving when it comes to new concepts that I want to be good. After almost 3 years of Midtown Lunch’ing you realize that very few lunch options in Midtown are beyond criticism, so it’s not about being super critical- it’s about deciding whether or not this is a worthy lunchtime option… especially when compared to Chipotle or Metro Cafe.
Now, I love Indonesian food… but I wasn’t delusional enough to expect great, authentic Indonesian food. I was just hoping it would be the Indonesian equivalent of, say, Panda Express. Tasty and cheap, with a hint of Indonesian flavor tossed in. Mostly I was hoping that their fried noodles would be to mie goreng, what Panda Express’ lo mein is to a good sauteed noodle dish at a nice Chinese restaurant. First visit was a huge disappointment. The super mushy consistency was terrible, and it had absolutely no flavor. But on the second visit, I noticed that they had switched noodle type and added a little fried garnish (an authentic Indonesian flourish.) Notice the change for yourself:
New chicken satay with noodles. (Photo by Blondie and Brownie)
Notice a few things here… Not only did they changed the noodles to a thicker cut (clearly they realized the original noodles were garbage), but they also changed the chicken satay (which we kind of knew was in the works). The original chicken was about as dry as could be, and pretty flavorless as well. The new chicken, while also a little bit dry, was a huge improvement. The final touch, and possibly the best of all, was the new addition of shrimp crackers- a standard accompaniment for all Indonesian food. They were the best part of the whole plate. (The noodles are still pretty terrible. Slightly better consistency, but they just don’t taste good.)
Photo by Blondie and Brownie
The sweet soy beef went through a bit of a transformation as well. In the original visit, the sauce had a really weird, gloppy consistency. It’s a little better now (but still not great.) The meat was tender, and the taste was decent but nothing to get super excited about (think food court quality.) The green curry chicken was about the same, although a little bit more dry (because it was chicken.) I could definitely detect the flavor of lemongrass, which is a positive. Again… the shrimp crackers and edamame were a welcomed addition.
Now onto the krokets:
Of all the comments the original Danku post got, the favorable ones all centered around the krokets- which are essentially fried pockets of goop. How can that be bad, right? Well- I’ll tell you how that could be bad… if you’re expecting solid food matter to be in your fried stick of goodness. In other words, krokets are fried goop. If the thought of eating fried goop is not exciting to you (like it is to some of us) then you will probably not like the krokets at Danku. It’s just the way it is.
Each of the krokets comes with its own dipping sauce (fun!) and we pretty much tried every single one. They are the one thing that appeared unchanged from the original visit, and I think the consensus was that the chicken curry kroket was the least offensive.
That’s the mac and cheese in the middle. Photo by Blondie and Brownie.
The mac and cheese kroket (which we were all very excited for) was fine, unless you were expecting to find actual mac and cheese in the kroket. It may have started off as mac and cheese (which I doubt) but if it did, it went through a blender before being breaded and fried.
L to R: Chili con carne, spinach & artichoke, chicken curry. Photo by Blondie and Brownie
Universally hated was the salmon and dill (fish is not the most appealing thing to eat after it has been pureed) and the beef kroket kind of tasted like nothing. Both the tomato and mozzarella and chili con carne version were just weird (slightly spicy beans was the dominant flavor in the chile con carne one, I think?)
The salad that you get in the combo (2 krokets and salad for $7.50) provides a nice foil for the fried pockets of goop, and is a pretty good size- especially considering the price of salads in Midtown.
But it wasn’t all completely mediocre…
Photo by Blondie and Brownie
The Indonesian meatballs w/ french fries!!! Both of these were added to the menu since our first visit, and may just be the best option of all. I don’t know what makes the meatballs Indonesian, but if the thought of Ikea quality meatballs, covered in a sweet Asian style sauce sounds appealing to you- you should be all over this. The french fries are slightly better than average fast food fries, and are hands down the best side dish option. You can (and should) get them instead of the fried rice or fried noodles, no matter what you order.
Photo by Blondie and Brownie
Finally, we had to try the poffertjes- a traditional Dutch pancake dessert treat (Blondie and Brownie were with us, after all.) I’ve never tried real Dutch poffertjes, but I’m guessing if you have ever had the real thing, these will be a huge disappointment. I’m not one to scoff at mini pancakes, smothered in syrup- and these certainly fit the bill- but if you are expecting something better than the pancake batter that you poured out of a carton when you were a kid, these will be disappointing. It tasted good (of course) but nothing special.
So there you have it. Everything you could possibly want to know about Danku, without having to try a single bite of it yourself. If I had to guess, Danny, Don, Blondie and Brownie probably wish they had read this post before agreeing to go with me. None of them will be returning. I, on the other hand, don’t consider it a total loss. For the price, there are a few things on the menu I could see myself eating again. For example, if I was going to eat a salad- I would want it to be accompanied by 2 fried sticks of goop. And I wouldn’t turn my nose up at those meatballs. But the most important thing you should take away from this, above all is this: If there is something that looks appealing to you… something you think you might like to try… get it with the french fries. The amount of alcohol you have to drink to make the korkets appetizing, is not nearly enough to save the fried rice or the fried noodles.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- They’ve made some improvements since opening, and that should be commended (in other words, at least they’re trying!)
- I love to eat at food courts, and the sweet soy beef and chicken curry are just as good as any food court options
- I love shrimp crackers!
- I love Dutch fast food krokets! (aka “I love fried goop!”)
- Each of the krokets come with their own dipping sauce, which is pretty cool
- The salad is great for the price… (and the krokets are just a bonus!)
- A kroket lover in particular: “Oh my god, I’m so drunk and the only place I can think of is Danku.”
- The french fries are pretty good
- I love Ikea meatballs and I love sweet Asian sauce
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Hi, my name is Don, Danny, Blondie or Brownie.
- The fried rice and fried noodles are terrible. Seriously… they have no redeeming qualities. Order the plain white or brown rice… or just go with the french fries!
- I was hoping the krokets would have something in them that resembled some sort of real food product. (They don’t. They’re just fried goop.)
- Mac and cheese kroket was really disappointing, if you were expecting fried macaroni and cheese
- Nothing on the Indonesian half of the menu bears any resemblance to actual Indonesian food (or any authentic Asian food for that matter). And the poffertjes bear more resemblance to pancake mix out of a carton, than authentic Dutch poffertjes.
- Pureed fish makes me want to throw up in my own mouth
- It’s not as good as Panda Express. (Super fail)
Danku, 47 West 57th St. (btw. 5+6th), 212-888-3777