Restaurant aims to improve ‘culinary landscape’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 19, 2012

At Sorabal, waitress Hyesook Amano, and Sonny the sushi chef are ready to make it a dining experience in Florala that one will not soon forget.


Behind the plate glass window with its modern lettering, one will find a cuisine experience never experienced in Florala and made of sushi and Korean barbecue.

Called Sorabal, restaurant owner Jennifer Kim said when she saw a void in the “culinary landscape” of the town, she knew she had found the perfect location for her expansion. Kim, who for the last 18 years has owned a restaurant by the same name in Crestview, Fla., said she turned to family and friends when she began thinking of opening a second restaurant.

“When I came to look at the area, I saw it was all American food,” she said. “There’s only one Chinese restaurant. I thought that I could bring a different food experience for people to try.”

“Different” is a good description, one might think. Typically, a Japanese restaurant serves only the typical selection of sushi, hibachi, fried rice and the like. At a Korean restaurant, one expects the menu to feature bulgogi, galbi (marinated short ribs) and mandu guk (dumpling soup with vegetables). On Kim’s menu, one will find a blended assortment of all the above and more. There is also a children’s menu.

But there are two things you won’t find, she said.

“No cans, and no MSG,” Kim said. “This is not like American cooking or open a can cooking. Everything is made to order and fresh. Many people are familiar with Japanese food, especially since everyone is eating healthy. That’s why Japanese is so popular.

“If you like stir-fry, then you will like Korean food,” she said. “Lots of noodles. There is steamed rice. Korean is a little spicy. It can be super spicy if you ask for it. There is lots of variety on the menu.”

There is even a nod to the restaurant’s new location with the Florala roll, a California roll battered and deep fried with spicy mayo and teriyaki sauce, and the Lake Jackson roll, which is filled with crab salad, bacon, cream cheese and avocado.

The restaurant is a family-run business, Kim said. It opened in Florala on April 10.

“Everyone is related,” she said with a laugh. Family friend Hyesook Amano, or “Amano” as she’s known to customers, works as the waitress. Her husband, a sushi chef at the San Destin Hilton, helps out in the kitchen when needed. Other members serve as chefs and wait staff, Kim said.

Kim said a love of cooking prompted her to enter the restaurant business.

“I love to see my customers eat all the good food I cook, too,” she said.

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. As of now, it is open from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. for Sunday lunch, “to try it out and see how it goes,” Kim said.

Take out is available, as is catering for special events. Reservations may be for a large party by calling 334-858-3300.