Roll back the clock to 1997. It was the year that DVD players became commercially available for a mere $1000, Celine Dion won album of the year, and SOHO opened its doors in the Vinings Jubilee complex as a neighborhood gathering spot, a place to go for a great meal and a good time. Today, DVD players have changed to a Blu-Ray format, Mumford & Sons won this years album of the year, and SOHO has remained true to form for the past 16 years as the “Cheers of Vinings” where the staff and patrons are on first name basis basking in the moment. Named after the artsy SoHo District in New York City, owners Frank and Susan Smith have brought that New York-like classy, hip flair to their highly popular restaurant where newcomers are quickly treated as regulars. The cornerstone of SOHO is its outstanding Pan Asian-Nouveau American menu that is managed by the multi-talented Executive Chef Joe Ahn. As an equal to the food is the instant gratification from SOHO’s welcoming hospitality, and if I didn’t know better I would have thought its name was derived from Southern Hospitality.
One of the noticeable features at SOHO is its display of high quality local art that’s scattered throughout the restaurant, as well as its outstanding wine program. Each week an offering is assembled highlighting three distinctive wines from various vinicultural regions or varietals creating a theme to explore as a flight or individually with savory tapas designed to complement their unique characteristics. What a way to expand ones knowledge and appreciation of wines that might otherwise be overlooked. In addition to the wines of the weeks, the Smith’s have put together a “spot on” wine list where value meets quality head-on. If something other than wine is needed to soften the day’s edge, there’s an assortment of titillating libations to choose from. The one cocktail that I found that can easily transport the mind to some sunny beach is the Bahama Holiday- Malibu Banana Rum, Canton Ginger liqueur, fresh coconut juice, lime and a pinch of cardamom- this is a destination get-away in a glass.
When a dish is listed on the menu for 16 years, I guess you consider it a house favorite. One of these “don’t you dare remove it from the menu” is the Chicken Tortilla Soup; yes a soup. No matter if you feel a bit sluggish from a cold or simply want something warm and comforting, Chef Ahn’s recipe is packed full of vigor and umami with chucks of shredded chicken in a rich homemade chicken stock that’s loaded with crisp tortilla chips, sweet corn, spicy chili peppers, zesty cilantro and tangy limes. If this doesn’t liven up the palate then the General Joey’s Calamari surely will. This is a throwback to the days when Chef Ahn worked in his family’s eatery, Fuji-Ya in Gettysburg, PA. Tender morsels of squid are flash fired then tossed is an exhilarating ginger- soy glaze with diced Serrano pepper, garlic, and scallions - yum. Equally as savory as the calamari is the Wagyu Beef Carpaccio. The paper thin slices of eye of the round are drizzled with a housemade creamy Dijon sauce that adds an enticing tingle to this ultra tender melt in the mouth meat. It’s topped with field greens, shaved asiago cheese, shallots and capers that are fried, and a wedge of toasted Parmesan bread. This is a meat lover’s dream come true.
As with the starters, there are several time-honored entrees that should not to be missed at least in this lifetime. One of these masterfully prepared dishes is the Chilean Sea Bass that has been seared to perfection that has a slight crisp coating that opens to pure lushness with its moist buttery texture. The lemongrass beurre blanc, ginger, and shallots gives this fish a thrilling taste and is served over a mound of forbidden rice with a side of sautéed baby bok choy. If your carnivore instincts need satisfying then either the Beef Short Ribs or the Elk Tenderloin will do the trick. The boneless Painted Hills short ribs are slow-cooked for 6 hours in a burgundy based braising and served with horseradish mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. Whereas, the grilled New Zealand Elk Tenderloin is an explosion of rich exotic flavors without any gaminess and is dressed with a raspberry and Dijon marinade with a side of sweet potato gratin and haricot verts. These offerings re-define comfort, as they are absolutely stunning.
Leave a touch of space in the appetite to complete the culinary tour of Chef Joey’s kitchen for the warm decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding that’s drizzled with a duo of rich caramel sauces and scoop of old-fashioned vanilla ice cream – it’s an instant ticket to sweet dreams. For over 16 years, SOHO has served creative foods and lively libations, and is still the place to go when in Vinings for a good time with friends or soon to be friends and who knows you just might meet your next BFF there. Enjoy!!!
LGTG FRIENDLY ****
AMBIENCE *****DRINKS ****
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