As of May 13, 2021, Team Minnevangelist is officially vaccinated. Wahoo!
To celebrate, we booked our first dine-in experience in 430 days. The honor went to Ann Kim’s Sooki & Mimi, an Uptown restaurant we’ve been excited to try since the moment it bowed earlier this spring. Though we’ve been doing takeout throughout the pandemic, and dined outdoors a couple of times, we’ve been too cautious to eat inside anywhere. When Sooki & Mimi first opened, it did not offer takeout or patio dining. But let us tell you, folks — this was worth the wait.
Sooki & Mimi is Kim’s fourth restaurant and the James Beard Award-winning chef’s first foray into Mexican cuisine; the rest of her stable includes Young Joni and Pizzeria Lola in Minneapolis, and Hello Pizza in Edina. It was after a visit to the Valle de Guadalupe and a spin through Mexico’s under-the-radar wine region that Kim found herself deeply enchanted by the cuisine — corn tortillas, specifically. Her obsession blossomed as she learned more about nixtamalized corn, which is soaked in an alkaline solution for a mouth-walloping flavor. What came next was deep research, digging into the regional varieties of corn available throughout Mexico.
“Somewhere along the way of sampling all that heirloom corn, she realized something: Mexican and Korean meals speak a similar language,” wrote Minnevangelist’s Andrew Parks in a feature about Kim for Food & Wine. “It’s a delicate, ecstatic dance between funky, salty, sweet, and spicy flavors that switches its steps with every bite, whether you’re tearing through tacos and several different salsas or switching between ssam wraps and banchan plates.”
After no fewer than six R&D trips to Mexico, Kim was finally ready to open Sooki & Mimi. The first month, she focused on a multi-course prix fixe vegetarian dinner. By the time we showed up, diners could choose between meat/seafood and vegetarian courses when dining indoors, or order a la carte on the newly opened patio. We sat inside and ordered one vegetarian menu and one meat/seafood.
The spicy Thai basil and mint broth in the aguachile verde was drinkably good. Fresh English peas stole the show in a beautiful sope made with requeson, horseradish, and preserved lemon. The walleye tacos with Serrano chilies and an herb tartar sauce were full-stop ridiculous. The kimchi mandu with masa, chrysanthemum, and chayote in a shiitake dashi was some kind of black magic.
Ashlea Halpern ordered the zero-proof beverage pairing and was totally smitten with the booze-free rose from Tres Leches. It had this wild chocolate-y finish — you’ll want to glug the whole bottle. (Decorum dictates that you don’t. But if you did… no hangover!) The experience was dynamite from start to finish: the food, the service, even the plants from Mother.
Kim says the restaurant will eventually switch to a fully a la carte menu. Also in the works: a basement bar, which’ll be a hit with anyone who appreciates the Back Bar at Young Joni. To learn more about her vision for Sooki & Mimi, read Andrew Parks’ feature in Food & Wine: One of the Midwest’s Best Chefs Is Back with Her Boldest Restaurant Yet.
Sooki & Mimi
1432 W. 31st St., Minneapolis, MN; 612-540-2554.