Soul Dining was meant to open in Walsh Bay, but due to some last minute plan changes (or “destiny” as co-owner Illa called it) Soul has ended up on Devonshire Street. 

IllaDaero and Kim met decades ago back in South Korea. Illa’s background is in design, marketing and PR, Daero has worked as a chef for fifteen years (previously as head chef at Criniti’s) and Kim is a hospitality industry veteran.  

While their shared heritage would suggest otherwise, Soul is their first Korean restaurant venture – and even now, the team shies away from any definitive cuisine label. 

Illa, Daero and Kim. Image by Walter Maurice

Daero has worked hard to produce a menu that in no way reflects what Australians typically know to be Korean cuisine (you won’t find Korean barbecue or fried chicken – at least not conventionally, anyway.) Soul is instead inspired by a culmination of countries and ways of eating.  

“In Korean food, every element in each dish has a philosophy and tradition,” said Kim. “Everything involves that time element.” 

Traditional fermentation methods and ageing techniques are used for the house-made kimchi and soybean paste. Applied to a range of dishes from gnocchi to short rib, tartare to toasted sandwiches, Soul offers rare exploration into contemporary Australian cuisine from the Korean perspective.  

Wagyu tartare with singo pear, egg yolk, chilli, watermelon radish, seaweed crackling. Credit: Kai Godeck.

Illa is behind the restaurant’s interior that, like the fare, is not what you might first expect. The walls are painted charcoal revealing patches of exposed brick and a sleek circular light installation rounds the ceiling.  

The dark tables and seating are rounded by a deep blue velvet lounge, elements which give the feel of a small bar – especially when paired with the well-crafted wine list. 

Tradition has been reworked for the contemporary plate at Soul, a welcome addition to the Devonshire strip.