By Dane Feldman
Photos by Dane Feldman.
Few places exceed my expectations in the way that Seoulite’s does. This traditional Korean spot is a relatively new neighborhood favorite located on Springfield Ave in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, and as soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to go.
Seoulite’s caters to an array of Asian-inspired desires in that its menu contains Japanese food like sushi and teriyaki (but with either chicken or salmon), and a solid selection of salads and appetizers.
But the main reason to go to Seoulite’s is for its “all time favorites,” which includes bibimbap and bul go ki, and tofu soups. After a long deliberation, I settled on the pork and kimchi tofu soup, which I ordered “regular.”
The soups can be ordered plain, mild, regular, spicy, or dangerous. I told the waitress that I like my food spicy, so I knew mild wouldn’t be hot enough. She said regular wasn’t spicy for her, but would be for me.
While my two friends and I waited for our main dishes (three different tofu soups), our table was given several small tasting plates: steamed broccoli, kimchi, fish cakes, sprouts, pickled cucumber, tofu, and potatoes. At this early point in the dining experience, I was already blown away by the authenticity.
When she brought out the sizzling soups (a mild vegetable for one friend, a mild oyster, clam, and shrimp for another, and the regular pork and kimchi for me), she then proceeded to crack a raw egg into each pot. The egg cooks right in the soup and can then be mixed in with the broth.
And boy was the waitress right about the spiciness. This soup was amongst the hottest dishes I have eaten in my life, but it was unbelievable. Despite its hotness, the flavors managed to still be right there at the forefront of each bite: salty, with a dry heat, vinegary from the kimchi, and even a little bit of sweetness from the pork.
Seoulite’s offers hot tea and soft drinks and is a BYOB establishment.
The restaurant itself is mostly functional, with a few traditional Korean decorative pieces.
Dining here isn’t about the ambience, but the overall experience. The food is fantastic and the service is out of this world. In all of my first trips to restaurants, Seoulite’s was easily the most personal and made me feel pampered in ways an expensive dinner at a renowned restaurant simply cannot.
It’s likely our waitress is also the owner and she made us feel at home here, especially my friend who is a vegetarian. When she ordered her tofu vegetable soup, the waitress immediately asked if she was a vegetarian and proceeded to be extremely accommodating for the remainder of the evening. The tofu she brought out with the tasting plates was specifically for this reason. This entire evening was an experience I look forward to having again and again because Seoulite’s is absolutely going to become part of my regular rotation.