Chef Tory Miller's pan-Asian restaurant Sujeo has announced that it will close on Aug. 24.
"While I am heartbroken to say goodbye of course, I am not going to focus on negatives," read a message on the restaurant's Facebook page this morning, quoting Miller. "I have never been happier to have had this experience."
Sujeo opened in the Constellation building at East Washington Avenue and North Livingston Street in summer 2014. Critics praised Miller's interpretations of bibimbap, Korean fried chicken, ramen, ssam and curry, made with produce and meat from Wisconsin farms. Executive sous chef Jamie Hoang soon joined the team and began shaping the main menu as well as late-night specials, which she and Miller created weekly.
"Our creativity together was always sparked by our mutual true love of the cuisine and the culture, and letting out our personalities," Miller said via text on Thursday morning. "That was always the funnest part. I hope in some way we were able to inspire people to try new things ... and other chefs in town to feel more comfortable sprinkling in a little Asian flavor in their menus."
Those creative specials partly inspired the retooling Sujeo underwent last fall, a move to a more fast casual format to better serve pre-concert and game day crowds at The Sylvee and nearby Breese Stevens Field.
That shift was a culinary success, but seems not to have been a financial one. After nearly a year, Sujeo hasn't seen any uptick in guests. Miller said that even after five years, people would come in and say it was their first time.
"The neighborhood is becoming more vibrant and exciting, it just wasn't a great one for Sooj," he said. "This was strictly a business decision."
Miller has been open about the restaurant's struggle to keep staff, a citywide issue, as well as his belief that the size of Madison's restaurant scene has outstripped the current number of available diners. Miller is part of the Deja Food Group that owns Graze, Estrellón and L'Etoile Restaurant.
Until Aug. 24, hours at Sujeo starting today will be Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday from 4:30-9 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, it will add on late night dining until 1:30 a.m.
Miller said he and Hoang are "focused on kicking ass for the next few weeks." He's not sure if Sujeo will find new life in a different form in the future, aside from some pop-ups or a takeover at Estrellon. It's too soon to think about that, he said this morning.
He hopes the building will become a LEGO store or "some other retail" that would be "dope for the neighborhood." His public message on Facebook was one of gratitude.
"I’ve made some incredible friends and learned more than I could have thought possible, about myself as a person, as a chef, and as a business owner," Miller wrote. "Peace love and noodles forever."