Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

First Look: Soju in Garfield

Simon Chough’s Korean restaurant is six years in the making.

photos by Hal b. klein


Simon Chough bought a building on Penn Ave in Garfield six years ago with the intention of opening a restaurant serving Hawaiian cuisine. 

Chough’s culinary career began in the kitchen of Chef Mavro, a well-known Honolulu restaurant that marries the influence and technique of Executive Chef George Mavrothalassitis’ native Provence with the cuisine and ingredients of Hawaii.

The experience was so inspiring for Chough that he enrolled in the professional training program at prestigious Culinary Institute of America. He spent a few years after graduation working in New York area restaurants such as Gigi Trattoria in the Hudson Valley, but all along he says, “It was always my intention to come back to Pittsburgh, take some of what I know about food and bring it back to the city I grew up in.


While he was rehabilitating the building, a former bar which now seats about 40 people in the comfortable dining area, he decided to switch his focus to something a bit more personal and call his restaurant Soju.

Chough is of Korean descent, and, instead of drawing from a cuisine he enjoyed and was influenced by, but didn’t have a deeply rooted connection to, he would explore something closer to his heritage. "This is my grandmother's food. These are her recipes. It rings true to me,” he says. 

Much of Chough’s menu will be familiar to fans of Korean barbecue restaurants — think kalbi, bulgogi and dwaejibulgogi — minus the DIY tableside grills. Instead, Chough sears those items to a pleasurable balance of sweet, smoke and char on a red-hot grill in the restaurant’s kitchen.  


Other items on the nicely curated menu include his grandmother’s chicken katsu curry, a hybrid dish reflective of the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945, mandu (homemade dumplings stuffed with kimchi or pork) and bibimbap, as well as poke, a holdover from the original Hawaiian concept. Chough says that more offerings, including increased vegetarian and vegan options, are on the way. 

My dinner companions and I all thoroughly enjoyed our meal last weekend — the grilled meats and katsu curry were hits. Soju has a solid bar program with a promising cocktail menu, which features an easy-to-drink selection of vividly colored soju-based cocktails and an excellent beer list. I appreciate Chough’s attention-to-detail in preparing rice, too. What too often is a second thought is given as much consideration as the rest of the dishes. “It's the basis for everything. The rice is the first thing. If you don't have the rice right, then the whole thing is off,” he says.

I’m looking forward to watching this restaurant evolve.

4923 Penn Ave., Garfield; 412/956-7699, facebook.com/sojupgh

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Steelers' GM Kevin Colbert Clears the Air on Big Ben

As a franchise QB with Hall-of-Fame credentials and as the only player in the locker room that’s actually won a Super Bowl in a Steelers’ uniform, Roethlisberger is perfectly positioned, Colbert insists, to run the show.

Impossible Burger 2.0 Comes to Pittsburgh

The plant-based meat alternative from Impossible Foods is a significant improvement on its initial offering.

Our Full 2019 Oscar Predictions

Somewhere beneath all the headlines and controversies, there are actual awards to hand out.

The 400-Word Review: Fighting With my Family

The rags-to-riches tale is an easy winner, when it's not a straight-up ad for WWE.

Pittsburgh's New Airport Design: What It Means for Travelers

A key goal of the new terminal at Pittsburgh International is to get passengers to their planes faster.

Defy Winter: 7 Great Ways to Get Moving in March

With spring (hopefully) right around the corner, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy gears up for a month of nature-centered activities.

Now Open Downtown: Magic Done Right

Liberty Magic, the new venue in the Cultural District, is all about perfect presentation.

The 400-Word Review: Paddleton

The Ray Romano/Mark Duplass dramedy is heartbreaking, but absolutely worth watching.

Perspectives: ‘He Wants to Talk to Ms. Betty’

An encounter at a healing garden in Larimer leads the writer to reflect on his own connection to others.

Astroid Brings Dialed-In Coffee to the South Side

Manager Emerson Graham's detailed approach to crafting a beverage makes for a tasty experience.

Watch: The First Episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

The landmark childrens television series was first broadcast 51 years ago this week.

Sweet Designs: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner and Runners-Up

These Pittsburgh couples certainly know how to bring the cookie table tradition to life.

Skip the Gift at this Wedding at the Carnegie Museum of Art

In a romantic twist on its Third Thursday events, the Carnegie Museum of Art is throwing a wedding this week, and everyone in Pittsburgh is invited.

See What Piece of Pittsburgh is Going to the Moon

Of all of the items proposed, this one earned the most votes.

The 5 Best Seats at PPG Paints Arena

From ultra-premium experiences to bargains with great views, here are five perfect places to watch the Pens.