Sujeo, chef Tory Miller’s 4-year-old pan-Asian restaurant with Deja Food Group, will become a fast casual concept as of Sept. 24, the group announced today.
Sujeo’s last night in its current iteration will be Friday. The closure allows for modifications to the dining room and kitchen, including the partial removal of a dividing wall, TV screens to show the menu and a new mural by Samie Scott.
The relaunch at 10 N. Livingston St. coincides with the Sept. 27 opening of The Sylvee, a 2,500-seat venue from Frank Productions just across East Washington from Sujeo at 25 S. Livingston St.
“We want to catch people coming into the neighborhood,” Miller said. “Whenever Breese Stevens has a show we get crushed. We realized we were going to be overwhelmed if we continue doing things the same way with table service and the expectation of what that brings.”
The new menu will be about 15 items long and retain some favorites, like dan dan noodles, brussels sprouts and One Big Eggroll (O.B.E.). Miller said they will bringing back Korean fried chicken but as a dinner with Americanized Asian sides, like kimchi mac and cheese and braised collard greens.
With hours from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. or midnight Tuesday through Sunday, late night will continue at the reinvented Sujeo with “some nuggets thrown in” here and there as specials. The new menu is a way to expand the kind of late night specials Miller and executive sous chef Jamie Hoang love doing every week — more Asian American than strictly Asian.
“When I first opened I was like, we’re going to make the most authentic bowl of khao soi, the most authentic bowl of ramen, the most authentic bibimbap,” Miller said. “Somewhere in there we started shunning fusion and the fun nature of making food how we want to eat it.
“Especially since Jamie came on board, we both started bringing out more of the fun, exciting, fusion flavors we want to do.”
Sujeo opened in 2014 to largely rave reviews. The menu changes with the seasons and prioritizes the same locally sourced, sustainable ingredients Miller is known for at L'Etoile, its casual neighbor Graze and the Spanish-influenced Estrellón.
Pressure on staffing (a persistent issue in city restaurants) will go down with a counter-service Sujeo, but prices may not substantially change.
The major difference is that a trip to Sujeo should go quicker. An hour and a half in and out is “not good enough” for pre-concert diners, Miller said. Sujeo will continue to have full bar service, and when it reopens, carryout will resume but there will be no delivery “for the foreseeable future.”
For Miller, a more casual Sujeo can better embrace both his Koreanness and his southern Wisconsin upbringing at diners in Racine.
“I want to make this authentic to me and to chef Jamie,” he said. “We are Asian American and what speaks to us is all of our background. ... I grew up eating cheeseburgers and fries every day so that’s part of who I am as a chef too.”