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First Impressions: Soyo Korean Barstaurant

I don’t know why people listen to restaurant critics.  Most things I read or hear from bona fide restaurant critics, I think they literally must have had their head up their ass just moments before tasting anything they wrote about.  And yes, while not bona fide, I certainly include myself in this group.  I guess we all have our personal tastes and personal buttons that are pressed in personal ways, and I guess that we quickly discover with who our preferences line up most and build trust that way.   However, one group of people that I instantly trust with food recommendations are chefs.  I trust chefs because they always have what is most important at the forefront of their recommendations; the food.   This is how I was first hipped to Soyo Korean Barstaurant.

Soyo Korean Barstaurant

Soyo Korean Barstaurant

Chefs don’t care about how the glasses are laid out on the table, how comfortable the seats are, how much their ass is kissed and balls are fondled by the staff as they enter the room; they care about the food. The integrity of the food, the quality of the food and the execution of the food.  It was Executive Chef of First Food and Bar, Chef Sam DeMarco (yes, Soyo is the Korean restaurant referenced in my ‘Medium Raw’ contest entry that you should all be voting for everyday!) that brought The Wife and I to Soyo.  With him being the chef he is and his lovely wife being of Korean descent, this was about as strong of a recommendation as you can come across.  And what a recommendation it was…

I guess technically this first impression is based off of two impressions.  Since the first one was partially powered by soju and Hite, I figured a more sober return visit was in order.  I’m pleased to report that whether you are shitfaced or stone cold, Soyo delivers an extraordinary food experience.  Overall, the flavors have a sort of simple complexity to them, if that makes any sense.  Korean food overall has a relatively narrow range of flavors, but the bold flavors presented at Soyo are expertly developed and impeccably balanced.

Korean Soft Hot Custard from Soyo

Korean Soft Hot Custard from Soyo

Take the Korean Soft Hot Custard ($5) for example.  This isn’t something that is going to “satisfy” you in the American sense, but it is an experience in food that I could only hope that everyone will have at least once in their life.  One of the lightest textures I’ve had in food, it’s also one of the lightest flavors as well. This is what eating a cloud is.  An egg custard with just a bit of green onion and carrot and possibly a touch of fish sauce, this dish is a work of art in terms of subtlety.

Kimchi and Pork in a Spicy Soup from Soyo

Kimchi and Pork in a Spicy Soup from Soyo

On the opposite side of the flavor spectrum is the Kimchi and Pork in  Spicy Soup ($8).  The Kimchi Soup comes to the table at a rolling boil, just a glimpse into the bold flavor that you’re about to experience.  I think most people are frightened away from Korean food because of two things; the mysterious spoiled aroma of kimchi and the (hopefully) misguided stereotype that you may be eating Morris.  While I can assure you that nothing was playing with a scratching post before being served at Soyo, there’s nothing I can do about the nasty funk of good kimchi.  In my experience, at least with good kimchi, it doesn’t taste nearly as heinous as it smells, and in fact can be a very desireable taste when properly used as the condiment it is intended to be.

The Best Kimchi Fried Rice in Town

The Best Kimchi Fried Rice in Town

Whether you are new to kimchi and slightly afraid, or whether you would bathe with kimchi because you love it so much, the Kimchi Fried Rice ($7) is perfect for you.  This is the best Kimchi Fried Rice I have ever had by a mile.  Just the right amount of kimchi to let you know it is there and provide an endorphin-releasing funk in a slightly gummy, sticky rice that I find appealing, I can’t get enough of it.  A fried egg on top adds a perfectly lush richness to the dish, bringing an admirable balance once again.

Sizzling Sweet and Spicy Pig. Nom.

Sizzling Sweet and Spicy Pig. Nom.

Not on the regular menu, but apparently a top seller on the take out menu is the Sweet and Spicy Marinated Pork ($10).  Coming to the table on a sizzle plate, this instantly replaced the aforementioned Kimchi Fried Rice as my favorite dish.  You have to wonder why there is a need to hire PR folk when you can call something Sweet and Spicy Marinated Pork.  If someone put an ad in the paper, and all it said was Sweet and Spicy Marinated Pork, I would immediately be in my car, driving to their establishment.  When a place makes a Sweet and Spicy Marinated Pork at the level that Soyo puts out, it’s a multiple foodgasm event.   Shaved pieces of pork, remarkably tender and moaning-out-loud flavorful with the added delight of a sizzle plate, this made me happy. Very happy. I love pigs.

A $13 Pitcher of Morimoto Soba Ale. Love.

A $13 Pitcher of Morimoto Soba Ale. Love.

Keep in mind that Soyo calls itself a “barstaurant,” so boozing is a good thing to do here.  What their bar lacks in size, it has in quality as all I can see is quality booze up and down.  Soju ($10 au natural, $12 as a cocktail) by the bottle is a sneaky bastard.  Not my cup of tea as I’m more of a beer guy, The Wife can tell you that it will ruin your next day if you happen to overindulge.  Beware the Soju!  You can either get the obligatory Hite (Korean for Budweiser) for beer or choose from a number of decent draft beers.  We got a pitcher (and it’s a big one) of Morimoto Soba Ale for $13.  Let me say that one more time.  We got a pitcher of Morimoto Soba Ale for $13.  Holy shit.  I hope they don’t figure out anytime soon that they’re supposed to make the bulk of their bread by gouging at the bar.  That’s cheap. And remember, we at Tasting Las Vegas always encourage you to abuse your livers responsibly, and economically.

Complimentary Iced Barley Tea for the table.

Complimentary Iced Barley Tea for the table.

If boozing isn’t your thing or if you have the unfortunate duty of DD on this particular night, the Iced Barley Tea with personal doggie dish they bring to the table is exceptionally refreshing and pairs well with all of the food there. And yes, the metal bowls they bring to the table are meant for the tea and meant to be drank out of, FYI.

The Bar of the Soyo Korean Barstaurant

The Bar of the Soyo Korean Barstaurant

The overall vibe of the place lends itself to imbibing with good friends as well.  At 31, I was the oldest guy in the room until The Wife pointed out a couple of old farts tucked away in the corner, thus completely fucking up the point I’m trying to make.  My point is, is that Soyo is a young, hip space with the club music up loud and booze offerings scrawled across a a wall-sized chalkboard.  As far as I can tell, all of the staff is from the old country, with only a few speaking English to the point where you could communicate and ask questions.  In case you’re wondering, that’s a good sign.  But, also keep in mind to be prepared to not have many questions answered should you have them about a relatively unfamiliar cuisine.  My suggestion would be to simply point at the menu, eat and drink.  Good times will be had and trust that the kitchen is going to put good food in your mouth.

Fried Chicken Wings with Special Sauce from Soyo

Fried Chicken Wings with Special Sauce from Soyo

One of The Wife’s favorites at Soyo and a perfect compliment to imbibing at a place of any nationality are the Fried Chicken Wings with Special Sauce ($9).  The super thick sauce is a fabulously concentrated BBQ sauce that would make even the staunchest Texan say that it is “purty good.”  I don’t know what the hell the Special Sauce is, what I tasted was a super reduced and concentrated tomato flavor possibly sweetened with cane syrup to the point where it’s almost molasses-y.  Accented with a little red pepper and possibly some fish sauce and this is one hell of a chicken wing.  For exotic chicken wings (and ALL chicken wings with something on them other than Frank’s and Butter are exotic) this was one of my favorites that I’ve had. Anywhere.  I also dug the accompanying mouth-cooling pickled daikon quite a bit. A refreshing change from bleu cheese and celery.

Spread Eagle for Your Enjoyment!

Spread Eagle for Your Enjoyment!

Speaking of chicken, another great dish showing off brilliant execution and a greatly welcomed simplicity is the Fried Whole Chicken ($10).  The smallish size of the chicken showed to me that it was young and not totally bloated with less-than-humane feeding processes or hormone injections.  The perfect crisp to the skin and juicy meat throughout made me once again stand in amazement on how good Mother Nature tastes when we don’t fuck it up.

Soyo is one of those restaurants that you know within the first bite that you’re in for something special.  It’s one of those places that you instantly know that it is legit beyond legit, whether you’ve stepped a foot into Seoul or not. The young, vibrant atmosphere only adds to the experience and is a prime place for a proper late night gorge with hours of being open till the wee hours everyday except Tuesday, their day off.  Bring your friends, this is food that’s meant to be enjoyed and shared.

Fantastic Korean food at the corner of Rainbow and Robindale.  Who knew?  Chef Sammy D did, and I thank him for letting us in on the secret.  Soyo Korean Barstaurant will go down as one of the most important additions to our bursting local’s restaurant scene.  Go forth, leave your inhibitions at the door and eat lots.  It’s good.

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Soyo Korean Barstaurant
7775 S. Rainbow Blvd., #1105
Las Vegas, NV 89139

(702) 897-7696

No Website or Twitter Found….what?!?

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife.

Follow Mike and Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

Remember, you can vote EVERYDAY from now through 09/30/10! Thanks for your support!

Remember, you can vote EVERYDAY from now through 09/30/10! Thanks for your support!

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6 comments to First Impressions: Soyo Korean Barstaurant

  • Donna Wilburn

    I just like that it’s called Barstaurant..hilarious.. and yes, I LOVE kimchi!

  • Sounds good. I’ll put it on the to-do list.

    I also liked Min Sok Chon. I tried to drag my Korean friend over there, whose mother-in-law is a rather prominent Korean chef in Houston, for the “Korean Stamp of Approval” only to find out the place is not open for dinner.

  • jillian

    Thank for the recommendation. It sounds awesome!

  • ChristineA

    Like the place – Love the Spicy Kimchi soup… but they have odd hours and days when they’re open.

  • Really? Last I was there their day off was Tuesdays, and they were open every other day until 3am, except I think Sunday when they close at 1am or so. Doesn’t sound to bad to me….have they changed it again since I was there last?

  • Adrian

    They are opened Monday-Thursday: 11:30am to 3:00am / Friday and Saturday: 11:30am to 4:00am / Sunday: 12:00pm to 2:00am.
    They are closed on Tuesdays but they will re-open that day starting the week of Oct. 10th.

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