Soh Grill, Pasadena = so-so

Sorry for the obvious, corny joke but seriously, Soh Grill = mediocre. I was deeply misled by Eater L.A.'s recent review of it which made it seem like it’d be on par with what you’d find in KTown. NOPE.

Ambiance: The space is modernist in a “we’re trying to be modernist/minimalist” way. I don’t mind it from a design p.o.v., even if it did feel like you were eating inside an Apple Store. But two major problems with their design choices.

  1. The acoustics are terrible. The surfaces, the architecture, etc. amplify sound which makes having a basic conversation across the table quite challenging. This is not a place that should as noisy as it is given the number of people in it; the internal dynamics of the space just make everything worse.

  2. The tables are at least a foot wider than they need to be. By wide, I mean how far you are from someone across the table. It’s not like they hit you with such a vast array of banchan or other dishes that you need to have all that space across from someone. It’s noticeably wider than most tables you see at other Korean BBQs and it just didn’t make sense. Do they purposefully NOT want people to talk to one another? Is this a restaurant just for repressed Asians? :wink:

Note: I’m ok with loud restaurants. But a loud restaurant with unnecessarily wide tables makes dining with friends an even bigger hassle.

Service: This was…really good. Attentive, at the very least, though I did find that when they stopped by to “help” us cook our meat, they often overcooked everything. Unless their quality of meat is suspect, you don’t need to cook everything to beyond well-done, especially the pork. But in general, if we needed something, there’d be someone nearby.

The Food: To quote the review I linked above: “all of Soh Grill House’s meats are top-notch”

Well…I mean, I guess the quality of meat (FDA grade and what not) is good. But that doesn’t explain why everything was so incredibly bland. Here’s what we got:

Pork belly: bland. Pork belly, by itself, really needs something to enhance it; a simple dry salt rub, some soy sauce, anything.

Beef brisket: bland. No distinct beefy-ness to it.

Spicy pork jowl: ok, since it was effectively marinated in some kind of sauce (note: not remotely spicy) but really only better by comparison to the previous two.

Marinated boneless short rib: ok. Even with the marinade, this felt underseasoned.

Everyone at the table agreed the whole thing was underwhelming and nowhere near on the level of a conventional KTown spot like Park’s.

This perhaps reveals my bias but I’m just convinced that Pasadena has a hard time attracting/sustaining restaurants that would ever rise above “decent…I guess.” I think there’s plenty of good Korean in the SGV, it’s just that Pasadena, least of all Old Town, seems to cater to a particular kind of eater who wants to feel like they’re out somewhere “nice” but are totally happy to settle for middle of the road (or worse) so long as the decor is sufficiently bourgie. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Thanks for the review.

Well, it IS in the SGV…

Is Park’s a conventional K-town spot? I assume it gets accolades b/c it’s much better than average…

That could be the most important part. It’s been yrs since I’ve lived in the Pasadena area, but I don’t associate good ethnic food (even ethnic food) w/ Old Town, even though I think a good upscale ethnic place would probably work well there.

Conventional meaning - “the style of BBQ being served.”

Kuala Lumpur on Green Street served legit Malaysian food - until they closed up. I guess this both dispells and confirms your observations.


Yes. :wink: and :frowning: Wasn’t there also a good Nepali place there, too? They also once had a decent Greek restaurant (IMHO; I didn’t know as much about food back then). ::sigh::

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You’re singing to the choir - and it’s a huge choir. As for the other places, I wouldn’t know. This Westsider sought out Kuala Lumpur back in the mid-90s after missing the food from Singapore/Malaysia and reading about this place in the LA Weekly - Jonathan Gold did the write-up.

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unless you were fortunate/astute enough to have some sort of grandfather clause that keeps your rent low in relation to what the market will bear, it seems to me that any restaurant in old town needs to emphasize selling alcohol (among other things) to generate sufficient revenue to offset that higher fixed cost, and offering legit ethnic culture/cuisine isn’t one of those other things (unless the culture embraces conspicuous consumption - or alcoholism).


Thanks @owang, for a thoughtful, detailed review. Good to know, and sad to hear.

The thing is: I forgot to add that the overall price seemed pretty reasonable. We had four plates of meat plus kimchi fried rice and that was enough for six people (4 adults, 2 kids) and I think it was less than $90 (before tax) for everyone.

So value-wise, it’s not bad. But it just wasn’t very memorable (and again, I found the interior design choices to be questionable)

I enjoyed their beef tongue and the braised short ribs.

Desserts were good as well, coconut sorbet in particular.

I used to really enjoy that place! your mention of it brings back some nice memories.

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The Pasadena tax strikes again. It really confounds me why places that would otherwise be good in their “home neighborhoods” end up being mediocre when opening in Pasadena. It’s like these places are trying to offer watered down versions of delicious food.


  • Boiling point in Old Town is not as good as the one on Valley in San Gabriel WHY??
  • That Chinese dumpling/noodle place on the northern end of old town that I can’t remember the name of used to be the same as the one on Main in Alhambra and it’s definitely not as good. (Soggy dumplings and noodles last time)

If you haven’t been around in a while, Old Town is filling up with ethnic joints:

  • Little Sheep
  • 85 Degrees
  • Green Zone
  • Boiling Point
  • Ramen Tatsunoya
  • Shandong Dumplings
  • Bone Kettle
  • Osawa
  • Sushi Enya

There’s more.

Overall, my impression over three visits to Soh are the same. My beef tongue was not as good as ipse’s. It makes me suspect of the author’s objectivity in the review.

Shangdong. You’re right. Not as good, but not so bad either.

QQ Kopitiam (Indo/Singaporean) serves up legit Nasi Goreng, Mee Goreng, Char Kway Teow, and Laksa. Popcorn chicken is pretty good too and popular. Closes at 7pm and closed on weekends.

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Thanks for the rec! Closed on the weekends??!! That’s when I have a chance to check out new places that are across town.

Their Nasi Goreng is more than legit. And the Milo Dinosaur is a must-get.

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Yup. They really want quality of life. We gave them a pretty large catering opportunity and they declined. But the food is great and Beng and his wife are very sweet.

BTW, they make their own Belacan Sambal which they give out judiciously. The Yelpers complain they’re being skimpy, but that’s just unawareness.

Yes, the Milo Dinosaur is amazing!