My partner and I wandered into the new "pan-asian" restaurant Soju on Atlantic last week. Eager to give the new place a try with dreams of the sweet Korean vodka (with cucumber)in my head. I learned shortly upon arrival that the liquor license was in the mail and had no set time of arrival. No matter. I don't need to be buzzed for a nice time out. Though, eating at Soju was like watching "The Never-Ending Story" without being high.
I knew this was going to be a casual eating experience when I met the hip, scruffy, attitude-free waitsaff sporting their band t-shirt collections and noting that my table setting was a paper napkin and cheap break-apart wooden chopsticks. Yet that was just the beginning of the...I'd like to say parsimony or thrift but let's skip the vocabulary and jump right to "cheapness". From the sticky plastic covers stuffed with home printed menus to the food served on plastic plates. Yes, plastic. Bowls, cups, little condiment dishes with off-center pink asian designs. It seemed as if the owners were seeking to cut costs in any way they could and they succeeded. But I was confident that the lion share of their money found its way into the food and that it would transcend the humorous (mildly offensive?) menu names. [See "ahcustahda" a custard dessert spelled out in broken engrish for our merriment.]
Whilst perusing the menu I made the mistake of listening to the music. I don't know who they were trying to appeal to. Maybe European ex-club going moms with a penchant for droning house-pap. I expected something a little hipper considering the Joya-like pretense. It was starting to make my fists itch so I commenced to ordering: General Tso's distant cousin and Hop hop Lucky Lettuce wraps (har, har).
Unfortunately, the food did nothing to liven an already stalled evening. The general's ckicken was black on the outside and bright pink (see plastic plates) on the inside with bokchoy on a soggy scallion pancake. The hop hop a couple of sheets of iceberg lettuce accompanied by little piles of meat and veg with rice on the side and a tiny plastic dish of reputedly special sauce. All served somewhat apologetically by the staff who tried to put a happy face on what looked and tasted like pure boredom. I did not order a pithy dessert.
I discovered that the restaurant is owned by the same people who run Neighborhood Kitchen the cooking school. Though, running a school for food apparently does not translate into restaurant know-how.
The verdict: avoid Soju for now. Maybe the restaurant is just going through growing pains and will blossom into what it wants to be, a hip, inexpensive Brooklyn hang-out. But for now the bad seriously outweighs the good. The food is filling but uninteresting and it is far from any place I would like to hang out. I understand cutting corners but I get the impression that this place isn't even trying. There are many other places in the neighborhood, even the same block that are tastier and have more style.