Monday, October 27, 2014

Restaurant Review: Sujeo

Sujeo is Tori Miller's newest enterprise after the success of L'Etoile and Graze. He is letting his Asian pride fly in his newest venture.  Graze has long had some Korean flavor throughout the locally sourced menu: Bibimbap, a Korean stone bowl cooked rice dish, and Kimchi gracing its Ruben for a garlic-y spice kick.

Sujeo is a complete departure into Pan-Asian flavors. All created with local fresh and extremely high quality ingredients. Chef Miller is straying into some seriously deep Asian waters for the Cuisine at Sujeo.

With a single visit to Sujeo with a few dining companions we visited China, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Sri Lanka. Chef Miller has cherry picked some of the best dishes from the wide Asian World and made them his own. Each dish is well prepared, using the highest quality ingredients from around Wisconsin and the US. Each dish has been refined to the point of culinary masturbation. Can great food be so rich and flavorful that it makes you feel dirty?

Imperial roll

The imperial rolls were ground pork and shrimp. Shrimp and pork are commonly mixed together in Vietnamese and Cantonese cooking to make the most flavorful and interesting fillings for dumplings. This is a rice paper wrapped spring roll which has been deep fried.

Salt and Pepper Squid

This is an interesting take on Salt and pepper seafood Chinese dishes. Generally a whole shell on shrimp or crab is lightly breaded with five spice and black pepper. The R&G lounge in San Francisco is famous for their Salt and pepper Crab. It's a strange dish in that the breading is stuck to inedible shells, but in the process of cracking and extracting the meat you get bits of crunchy peppery goodness in every bite. Madison's new Asian Sweet Bakery on Park St. makes a Salt and Pepper Shrimp tasty enough to eat shell and all.

Obviously Squid does not have a shell but the light and peppery breading is similar to other salt and pepper Chinese dishes.

Chili Crab is a dish I've only seen in Singapore. It's one of the specialties of that region. In Singapore and Malaysia a chili sauce thickened with eggs is liberally doused over a screamingly fresh crab from Sri Lanka. The mythology surrounding these Sri Lanka crabs is that they grow big and fat in the Bay of Bengal feasting on the outpouring from the Ganges river, a holy river in India which is used as a cremation and burial ground. They say it is this which makes Sri Lanka crabs the best in the world.

Nom Nom Nom

Chef Tori has decided instead of using the "one-step from cannibalism" (delicious BTW) crab to using West Coast Dungeness crab. This was a very tasty and more local substitute. The Chili sauce it came with was honestly better then some of the best places in Singapore. Sweet, salty, spicy, this dish really hits on all cylinders.  

Spicy Red Curry with long beans, pickled ginger and crispy shallots. I was expecting a Thai style curry. But boy was I wrong. This was much less balanced then a Thai Curry light on spiciness and heavy on sweetness. The closest thing I have had to a curry like this is an Indonesian pork curry often served in a rijstaffel meal. Pork Rendang is one of my favorite dishes around the world and one which is nearly impossible to find outside of either Southeast Asia or The Netherlands. The only thing lacking in this dish was the spicy :(

This ramen was absolutely killer. The first few bites were overwhelmingly ginger flavored but that quickly mellowed out with the strong deep flavor of the sea. To me it tasted very strongly of crab roe, ginger, and pork fat. It was absolutely a unique (in my experience) and amazing bowl of ramen. It was so complex it was almost confusing, but in the end was addictively good.

The KBC chicken served with a bevy of Banchan (little picked sides in Korean cuisine) is at once a very American dish and a very Asian one. Steaks, hamburgers, apple pie, Asian people know what these dishes are and might have had them before, but the ubiquity of KFC in Asia is of epic proportions. Fried chicken has become an Asian staple. They even have knock-off KFC's in a lot of the Asian world!

Yes that's Obama Fried Chicken... lets not look too deeply into that one.

One of my dining companions called the curry "Dusky", and it's a perfect description for that dish. The flavors are deep, sweet, salty, and they taste of the depths of dark soy umami, the perfect blend of sweet soy and caramelized protein.  That characterizes all of the food at Sujeo; deeply flavorful, joyously seasoned and only perfectly describable in terms that have nothing to do with food.


Rating: ***** (Five Stars)

Cost: $$$

Sujeo Madison

10 N Livingston St. Madison, WI 53703

Lunch: Mon, Wed-Fri 11AM to 2PM
Noodle Bar: Mon, Wed-Fri 11AM to 10PM
Dinner: Mon, Wed-Sun 4:30PM to 10PM

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