L.A. Korean fave Soban opens in Aurora

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AURORA | That the Aurora dining scene is an embarrassment of multicultural riches is no secret to anyone who has slurped ramen, devoured injera or gorged on papusas in any of the city’s endless swaths of rapidly changing suburban strip malls.

And despite the quality of the eats around A-Town, dishes and chefs often go overlooked in the national and sometimes even regional dining scene.

But at the beginning of last month, in one of the dozens of aforementioned hives of suburban commerce, Aurora welcomed one of its newest and most critically acclaimed restaurants to date.

Soban, a Korean eatery nestled beside a diffident hair salon, Cricket Wireless store and, of course, a vape shop at the corner of South Peoria Street and East Iliff Avenue, opened for business May 10, bringing a dab of national recognition to the city’s ballooning menu of global fares.

A term used to refer to a small, wooden dining table in Korean, Soban comes to Aurora by way of Los Angeles, where husband-and-wife chefs Si Woo Yoo and Jung Ja Yoo operated a restaurant under the same name in that city’s sprawling Koreatown neighborhood for nearly a decade, according to the couple’s son, Seong Yoon Ryu, who goes by Edward.

As first reported in Westword, Soban’s L.A. location skyrocketed in popularity in 2011 following a favorable review from L.A. Weekly turned L.A. Times food critic Jonathan Gold. Gold, who became the first food critic to win the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, praised the restaurant’s ganjang gaejang, a whole, soy-sauce marinated crab that is pickled in a brine of soy sauce, ginger and garlic. The dish costs about $35 at the new Aurora location. Gold also ranked Soban as one of the top 25 best restaurants in L.A. in his annual list of 101 must-visit eateries in the city released last year.

Despite developing such a favorable reputation in Los Angeles, Ryu said that his parents made the recent move to Colorado to be closer to him after he moved back to the state to pursue a job in hospitality.

“I was the one who moved first, they just followed,” he said with a chuckle.

The Yoos and Ryu previously lived in Aurora in the 1990s, when Ryu was a student at Overland High School. He now works at a Days Inn in Colorado Springs.

The Colorado outpost of Soban will largely mirror what was offered in Los Angeles, according to Ryu, who said that the restaurant’s spicy fish stews were always particularly popular. (As of Tuesday, the restaurant was still using menus from the Los Angeles location with a few amendments made using magic marker and masking tape.) Ryu said that his parents will resume cooking duties in the kitchen.

The restaurateurs behind Soban, which is located in the former K-Pub space at 12101 E. Iliff Ave., will also continue to offer their famous bevy of small banchan dishes, which come with most entrees and largely feature various pickled vegetables and tofu.

Natives of the city of Daegu in South Korea, Ryu said that the Yoos are hopeful that Aurora’s robust Korean population will embrace their seafood-rich menu of national dishes.

Koreans represent the highest national segment of Aurora’s Asian population with nearly 3,400 people, according to the American Community Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census. The ACS reported that Aurora’s second-highest Asian demographic hails from Vietnam, followed by the Phillipines and China, sequentially.