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Soju: Disappointing

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Soju: Disappointing

John Francis | Jun 20, 2005 09:19 AM

Saturday night I went to dinner at the newly opened Soju pan-Asian restaurant on Atlantic Ave.

First disappointment: they were not offering their full menu, only a prix fixe at $25. From the waiter I gather this is how it is on Saturday evenings. The choice was between two appetizers, two entrées, white or red wine, and a "chef's surprise" dessert.

The dim lighting and the spidery, stylized type on the menu inside a reflective plastic sleeve made it hard to read, and when I read it, I didn't really grasp what the dishes were going to be like. So I chose the first appetizer and the first entrée, more or less at random, with white wine.

Second disappointment: The appetizer, "Monsoon Special." Two large wraps further wrapped in lettuce, two tiny dishes of different red sauces. Clumsy to eat with the lettuce, so I unwrapped that. Still clumsy to eat. The wrap and everything inside it was white and the taste was "white" too, so bland as to be all but flavorless without the sauces. And there wasn't really enough of the sauces for the wraps.

Third disappointment: The entrée, I'm not sure of the name but believe it was something "Dragon's Breath." A large bowl with a pile of gooey glop in the middle--reminded me of grits, but you could probably mend furniture with it--surrounded by a ring of string beans with some chicken strips, said to be stir-fried in sesame oil. A "spicy vinegar sauce" was provided, but it didn't appeal to me so I skipped it. Again, the food had hardly any flavor until I reached the bit of oil at the bottom of the bowl and the beans sitting in it.

The white wine tasted generic, something like the jug wines we used to buy in the '70s. The dessert was a slab of something chocolaty--some flavor at last!--but as glutinous as the grits, and not easy to eat with the stainless steel soup spoon provided.

I arrived at 9:00, which is not so late on Saturday night. There was one party of four there, in the "garden" at the back, who left ca. 9:30. I finished ca. 10:00 and was promptly asked if I wanted my bill, while the staff was putting the chairs up on the tables.

For this I paid $31 including tax and tip. That makes it my highest-priced meal on Atlantic Avenue in memory. The price isn't strictly comparable since I almost never have dessert elsewhere, but even if I'd skipped Soju's "surprise" dessert, the prix would have doubtless remained fixed.

I'll give them one more try, at lunch time when I can order from their full menu and there will be daylight so I can read it. But for me, Soju's debut has been a total flop.

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