Born and raised in South Korea, Chef Soogil Lim originally majored in biology, but his interest in the culinary world was sparked when he went into a restaurant and saw a sign that said “Make People Happy.” Upon graduation from the Culinary Institute of America, he began his training in French cuisine at Daniel.
Through his hard work, he was able to move up the ranks and become the first Korean Sous Chef in the restaurant’s history. After working under Chef Boulud for 7 years (3 of them as Sous Chef), Soogil became Executive Chef at Hanjan, where he ran the kitchen for 4 years. With his first restaurant, he will blend the two backgrounds he knows best: French and Korean.
Soogil’s small plates menu marries authentic Korean flavors with French technique and is split into three sections: Garden, Land and Sea. Concise descriptions belie the intricate cooking methods and flavors of Chef Soogil’s personal cooking style:
- For the Mung Bean Sprout Korean Pancake, he purees mung bean sprouts with pork fat then pan fries it and tops with a kimchi sprout salad.
- Spicy Soft Tofu builds on a housemade tofu flan with shrimp, squid and manila clams, with a spicy seafood brothmade with dried herring and kombu stock poured over the dish tableside.
- Spanish Mackerel is grilled and served atop swiss chard-wrapped rice seasoned with ssamjang, a condiment made with doenjang (fermented soy bean paste), gochujang, sesame oil, scallions and garlic.
- Sweet Potato Beignets come with a chilled white kimchi soup – white (non-spicy) kimchi is traditionally eaten by Koreans in the winter.
- Slices of succulent Pork Belly are accompanied by mini kimchi-radish rolls.
- Pieces of braised Chicken are served with root vegetables and spicy fermented shrimp sauce.
- Soy braised, fall off the bone Short Rib is served with winter vegetables such as kabocha squash, carrots, pearl onions and marble potatoes along with side dishes of rice and kimchi.
The restaurant occupies a cozy dining room with large French windows overlooking the East Village streets. Up front, a wood counter bar seats 7, while the dining room welcomes 32 with an alcove table for 6 – 8 perfect for small parties. Muted tones offer refinement, from the light grey color palette to white oak tables to the dark stained floor. Original works by artist Suzy Taekyung Kim adorn the walls; minimalist lighting fixtures and traditional Korean pottery dishes complete the intimate space.
Stop in to Soogil for dinner, Monday through Thursday from 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm, and 6:00 pm until midnight on Friday and Saturday, as well as 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm on Sunday nights.
Soogil is located at 108 E. 4th Street, NYC. Reservations can be made by calling 646-838-5524, or visit the restaurant’s website for more information.