Restaurant owner takes pride in Japanese/Korean menu
by Alysse Robin
In the heart of Ellenville’s downtown is a gem of a Korean/Japanese restaurant—Sook House. I had an opportunity to go there for a romantic dinner with my husband on a warm Tuesday evening. When we pulled up the sun was low, casting a pink hue across the rolling Shawangunk Mountain ridge. Sook House was framed by that beauty and offered a quaint exterior, with a flower basket cheering up the wide sidewalk next to Ellenville’s Farmers Market.
The atmosphere inside was modern with Asian accents and artwork throughout. The windows and lanterns were covered with delicately designed rice paper shades. There were robust potted plants sitting atop tree stumps throughout the restaurant. The cozy but sleek place had a total of seven large tables and a bar. Once we were seated and I saw the menu, we realized this place is also affordable. The service was also attentive and seemed genuinely happy that we came to dine here.
Then there is Sook, herself. She came over with a smile and welcomed us. We soon realized that it seems everyone falls in love with Sook. She is sweet, engaging, and one heck of a cook. The families we saw dining that evening all had a personal relationship with Sook, hugging and greeting; and by the time we left, we too felt we now know this woman and are looking forward to joining her in her kitchen again.
When Sook Yeo first came to Ellenville she said she, “had an organic grocery and take out sushi in the same location.” She converted it several years ago when she saw the opportunity to grow, and use the local vegetables being sold in markets and health food stores in Ellenville. She joined the wave of great healthy restaurants in Ellenville, like Gaby’s and Aroma Thyme Bistro, all serving local, delicious foods, but hers with Korean specials, such as Bibimbap.
Sook cooks from her native Korean roots and uses fresh and local ingredients like organic asparagus, and soft zucchini fresh from the manager’s garden. The wonderful sesame in the sesame sauce was from the garden she made in what used to be part of the parking lot.
Sook came to our table with a complimentary Pajun (Korean pancakes). They were amazing, filled with scallion, asparagus, potato, cauliflower, carrot, and onion. They were served with a bold spicy sauce. We also got some perfectly cooked edamame with coarse grain salt cracked on top. The miso soup was fantastic—manager Karrie Scott DiFazio said, “I think she has some kind of secret ingredient. Everyone loves her miso.” We also had Gyoza (fried vegetable dumplings) that came in the most beautifully thin and crisp dough. They were golden brown served with a spicy sesame sauce and fresh scallion.
The Teriyaki dish had broccoli, tofu, eggplant, sweet potato, and zucchini—all fried with a crispy light breading and drizzled with an amazing Teriyaki sauce. It was served sizzling hot on a traditional cast iron plate. The brown and white rice were mixed together and smelled so wonderful—I could actually eat this rice alone.
The rolls had a gorgeous presentation. The avocado roll looked like it was wearing avocado armor. The Charlie Roll was stuffed with cucumber and shrimp tempura and spicy tuna was poured over-top. Everything was absolutely delicious—a range of foods from light to savory, each satisfying a different culinary desire.
Sook put a lot into the building and designed it herself. She redid the floor, she and the manager worked together to create the bar, and they created a small garden next to the restaurant. Sook House offers karaoke any night, but encourages people to come on Thursday for a Karaoke Bar Night ($1 off beer, half price sake, $1 off house wines). So go and sing and drink.
With full bellies and satisfied palettes, my husband sighed and said, “I didn’t expect for this to become my new favorite Japanese restaurant.” Sook replied in her Korean accent, “Next time I want you to try Udon soup. A lot of people say it’s the best. So when a customer is not sure I say try my Udon.”
A family walked in and the kids were tugging on their mom’s sleeve and asking if they could order miso soup. We can’t wait to bring our kids next time to eat the pancakes and dumplings again, and of course the Udon—as long as Sook is cooking!