Woo Lae Oak is the latest restaurant to fall victim to lease renegotiation: After 12 years at 148 Mercer Street, the upscale Korean restaurant will close its doors at the end of May.
The restaurant has posted a letter on its website, informing its customers of the sad development:
After 12 memorable years in business Woo Lae Oak in Soho will be closing at the end of May. Sadly we were unable to renegotiate our lease further so our last day of business is scheduled for Sunday, May 29, 2011.
During this time we’ve had the great pleasure of introducing New Yorkers to “Creative Korean Cuisine” and would like to thank everyone for their continuing support and patronage throughout the many years. While we will no longer be operating in Soho, diners can still find their favorite dishes and Korean barbeque at our sister restaurant, Bann. It’s a small trek to Midtown West but we look forward to welcoming back familiar faces.
After Young Souk Choi opened Woo Lae Oak in 1999, the restaurant earned a loyal and enthusiastic following for its elegant, Westernized take on Korean food, making it fashionable to many people who would never set foot in Koreatown. It spawned offshoots in cities like Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
In the two-star review he gave Woo Lae Oak in 1999, William Grimes praised its “next-wave Korean” cuisine, “a smoothly concocted blend of traditional dishes, pan-Oriental crowd pleasers like tempura and fresh creations with Korean names and Korean ingredients but no known provenance.” He ended his review by noting that the restaurant “has slipped into SoHo with an assurance and a sense of style that already make it seem as though it’s been a neighborhood favorite for years.” Given the now-exorbitant rent on the place, it seems unlikely that whatever replaces it will be unable to make the same claim.
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