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Restaurants & Bars 11

Kaju Tofu House-- Harvard Square

eatinjeff | Jan 30, 201410:14 PM

I've been to the Harvard Sq branch of Kaju a few times recently for lunch, and I think it's the best thing to happen to the neighborhood since around 1636. I have a couple complaints (see below) but overall their tofu stews are my favorite lunch in the Square. I've tried three stews:

a) Their seafood tofu stew is my favorite, though some may find a little disconcerting the beady texture of the roe which clings to the small shrimp they use. This stew has the deepest flavor of the three I've tried. (See below for a searing indictment of their clams, though...)

b) The mushroom tofu stew is my second favorite so far, with plentiful sliced mushrooms lending a distinct earthiness to the broth.

c) My least favorite of the three was the clam tofu stew. I was disappointed that they chose to use the cheap, pre-cooked white-shell clams one finds in the Market Basket freezer aisle. How nice it would have been to find manila clams, or anything else that's fresh!

General comments:

1) Banchan: For me, their banchan have been a mixed bag. Their kimchi is a little too sauce-drenched for my tastes, and today it was much too sweet. The rice cakes they always bring are floating in a tomato sauce I find cloying and strangely grainy. Their cucumber kimchi is nice, though, and today they served marvelous & sweet kohlrabi (?) pickles the likes of which I hadn't seen before.

2) Broth: Their broth is creamy and complex, though some may lament that it lacks the smokiness sundubu broth often has. But even without the smoky notes, I found the broth well-balanced and robustly spiced. It reaches its full potential with the addition of the raw egg (which they leave at your discretion). Also, their stew has never yet been overly salty (too much salt being a common problem I find with lesser Korean spicy soups & stews, especially noticeable as they approach room-temperature).

When you first sit down, they bring you such a disarrayed pile of menus and leaflets that you may fear they've mistaken you for a receptionist (are we supposed to "file" all of these somewhere?). But I've presumed that the best approach is to simply ignore everything other than the soft tofu soup, so I have no idea what else is on offer (probably just the requisite college-town "Fusion" sushi monstrosities, with names like "The Flirty Dirty Chica Roll").

The place is crowded at lunch, so I'd recommend a late lunch; come around 2 and you'll have the place mostly to yourself. The atmosphere is bland and lacking in décor, but honestly: who cares? Wait ten minutes and you'll be staring at some very fine sundubu, which is plenty atmospheric for me when it's within reach.

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