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Thursday, 9 February 2012

Soju - Restaurant Review

Call it laziness or the fact that I am a creature of habit (for the most part anyway). Once I come across a good restaurant, I find it really tough to let go and explore other options. Unless of course it comes with a personal recommendation from a friend or colleague, in which case I will happily take the plunge given that there is someone to pin the blame on for a bad meal! So when it comes to Thai food in London, I look no further than Busaba, for Chinese food, I swear by Royal China and I have a veritable list of good Indian restaurants if one is pondering Indian options in the city. If you had asked me about Korean food in London though, until a few months ago, I would have gulped and admitted my utter lack of specialist knowledge. I still can’t stake a claim to being an expert on Korean food, but do know of a couple of nice restaurants which are definitely worth a visit.

The first of these – Soju – forms the subject of this post. Soju is a tiny (has under ten tables, I think) but charming Korean restaurant tucked away in one of the many bylanes in Soho. I was introduced to Soju by S, a good friend from my Uni days. We go back a long way – nine years to be exact, which makes me feel like an elderly matron.

On my first visit to Soju, each of us went for the bibimbap. Soju serves a delicious chilli sauce with their bibimbap. I scooped several teaspoonfuls into my bowl with excellent results. We also went for a number of vegetarian sides. Unfortunately, this first visit was several months ago and my recollection of it is somewhat hazy in parts. And I have no pictures of the food to refresh my memory. Since then, I have been to Soju a couple of times. Once, we walked in just for their plum wine, which comes in a pretty green bottle with a couple of plums thrown in, which I fell in love with on my first visit.

Plum wine

On my latest visit to Soju, I decided not to repeat old mistakes. Armed with my blackberry, I made sure that I clicked a few photos of the food. As you can see, the quality is pretty dismal, thanks to a combination of a poor blackberry camera, bad lighting, and to top it all, terrible photography skills.

As on previous visits, the bibimbap and the delicious chilli sauce that comes with it, were top notch. The miso soup that comes with the dish was of an equally high standard. For the uninitated, bibimbap is a popular Korean dish that comes in a hot stone pot. It consists of rice, assorted veggies with meat/a fried egg thrown in depending on individual preference. I understand that it can be served hot or cold. Having grown up in India, where meals tend to be served hot, given a choice, I always favour the hot option over the cold one. And so, I have never ventured to try bibimbap served cold. I can however, safely say that bibimbap served hot makes for a fine meal. The rice,veggies and meat are all stirred together with chill paste and a little miso soup (to make the mix a little moist) once the pot hits the table.

Bibimbap

Miso soup

For dessert, we decided to be adventurous and went for the black sesame icecream. It had tiny bits of black sesame seeds thrown into what looked like vanilla icecream. It was certainly an unusual dessert but not one that I would repeat. It had a slightly bitter undertone. Never a good idea in dessert, I think.


Black sesame icecream
Black sesame icecream aside, Soju has a warm and cosy vibe. The staff is polite and attentive (oh, and I must add, very pretty too!) and the food is of course, very good. Strongly recommend that you try, especially if you happen to be new to Korean food.

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