Here’s another elevated Korean restaurant to add to your list–Soogil in East Village, opened by Soogil Kim, who used to be sous chef at some very fancy kitchens, including Daniel and Hanjan. If you’re a fan of the refined and modern Korean cooking at places like Oiji or Cote, then you’ll probably like Soogil’s food.
Like these other new age Korean restaurants, Soogil looks more like a stylish bistro, and the menu doesn’t obviously read Korean, aside from a few dishes. While Korean is the predominant style, there are clear French influences with the inclusion of items like sweet potato beignets and foie gras. These hybrid dishes, however, were the least successful. While I enjoyed the beignets on their own, I wasn’t quite sure if cutting the fat with some water kimchi was that effective or even necessary. There are so many iterations of foie gras out there, and Soogil’s doesn’t quite stand out. The one major exception was the brussels sprouts, which were so good that we ordered another one for the table. It’s a misleading name because it’s really the wonderfully pan-seared tofu that shines, while the shaved sprouts act more as support.
I loved the short rib, which tasted the most traditional and had the trademark sweet and thick soy marinade that generously coated the chunky and tender meat, just like the way my mom made them. Anything that tasted like home was a big win for me, and included in that group were the japchae glass noodles, which you can and should order with an extra side of bulgogi. The pork belly, which was prepared in the manner of traditional ssam, also received high marks from everyone, and I was very enamored with the crisp sear that had formed on the skin. I remembered very little about the chicken, and the little I can recall probably says a lot about whether it’s worth getting again.
The Sea section of the menu probably needs the most work. I’m not quite sure if the roll of swiss-chard wrapped rice was needed for the spanish mackerel, and even the mackerel itself was devoid of its normally strong and unctuous qualities. The soondooboo inspired spicy soft tofu was a little too tepid in its heat. And like the chicken, I don’t really remember the cod all that well.
The desserts were pretty phenomenal. The korean-style rice sticks, which reminded me of mochi-flour mini churros dusted in a nutty powder resembling barley, may be my new favorite dessert. The passion fruit tart, reflecting more of Kim’s French training, was precise in its execution, enveloping the fruit flavors in a rich cream. Koreans are known for their BBQ, less so for their desserts, so it was nice to see them shine at Soogil.
108 E 4th St (between 2nd and 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10009